West Country Perry, Somerset
The pear version of cider is enjoying something of a revival nowadays, cider itself having led the way in various premium incarnations (thanks in no small measure to some very clever advertising). Humankind will make an alcoholic drink out of whatever comes to hand – witness very dangerous wood alcohol – though it is obviously advantageous if the resulting tipple tastes good, as is certainly the case with perry.
Many counties in the West of England have a history of perry making: Herefordshire , Worcestershire , Somerset , Devon and Gloucestershire principal among them. Though the technique is similar to cider-making, perry is said to be more difficult to process. Still versions existed for a long time, but more popular were home-made sparkling types given a secondary fermentation in the bottle, like what we used to be able to call Elderflower Champagne. Out of that tradition came the great post- WWII brand name Babycham, which according to one legend was originally nicknamed Baby Champion after winning medals at various agricultural shows for its Somerset makers (the Showering family from Shepton Mallet ), the name contracting to the eventual brand name. Given that the marketing of the product (the first alcoholic drink to feature in TV ads in the UK) named it ‘genuine champagne perry’ it seems just as likely that the ‘cham’ in the name referred to its supposed champagne-like quality.
It is a pity that Babycham has gone out of fashion: the very 1970s drink brandy and Babycham was a poor-man’s (or far more often woman’s) champagne cocktail, and very pleasant too. Now that new perry brands are appearing, maybe that mixture will be revived by contemporary drinkers.
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