I learnt to love mocktails after attending a wild soiree promoting a brand of French liqueur.
Seriously, I haven’t even had so much as a gin and tonic or an Irish coffee since. Let me paint the picture for you - it was a Bastille Day gathering on one of the most freezing nights of the year. Naturally, we drank more to get warm, but that’s just one of my excuses.
The party was held at a secret destination. A fleet of limousines delivered us to an industrial estate on the outskirts of the city where we were met by an event crew. Ushered one-by-one through a hatch covered in red sparkles, the next thing we knew we were careering crazily down a giant slide, screaming in terror.
This was the Cointreau In Hell party and every one of the guests couldn’t help but make an entrance as they landed at the feet of the glittering throng, who had recovered from their own rides to watch the fun. Among the elaborately dressed crowd were soapie stars, socialites, models and pop stars - and they were laughing at every new arrival.
My hair was almost standing on end and my draped red evening gown with the tasteful split skirt was showing much more than I had ever planned. Some more handlers helped us inelegantly to our feet and I immediately grabbed one of the many cocktails being offered by a battalion of waiters.
There was Cointreau with orange, Cointreau mixed with lime, Cointreau on ice... Cointreau every which way. I frankly didn’t care what was in the glass just as long as it took the edge off my nerves. The early part of the evening is frankly still a bit of a blur, but I remember eventually being seated at a long table for dinner next to a man I had never met before.
Thanks to my excessive alcohol intake, I was sure that I was scintillating and he was having the time of his life. I can’t remember what we dined on, only that we had barely started on the Cointreau-laced dessert before we scrambled to our feet to sing "La Marseillaise".
Then, the party games began. There were giant blocks of ice for people to sit on and race each other on the slippery dip, and then some curtains were drawn back to reveal lots of shiny dodgem cars. We fell upon them screaming and laughing, bumping into each other.
Returning woozily to the table at the end of the proceedings, my new friend and I realised we had lots of friends in common, so it seemed like a great idea to keep the party going by calling in on them. Never mind that it was a school night and most of them would have already hit the sack before we had clambered into the limo again.
When we couldn’t raise our pals, we went back to his place to drink a little bit more. Well, the next thing I knew, the light was streaming in through his bedroom window, I had become separated from my evening gown and he had brought me in a cup of coffee.
I had such a throbbing headache that when I looked in the mirror, I expected to see a crack on my forehead as though two tectonic plates had shifted. Then, my friend told me I had somehow fallen over on his best crystal in his sitting room and smashed it. I had no cuts. Was he kidding? To this day, I’m still not sure.
I borrowed a pair of his jeans - at least five sizes too big - and a sloppy sweater with my evening gown ignobly squished into a supermarket bag. Several days later, after the hangover subsided, I returned them neatly laundered. My life as I knew it resumed once again, only with a couple of new rules to live by - I would drink only wine going forward and the only thing I would mix it with would be water.
The Cointreau Ball came around again the following July and I dutifully attended in the course of my work as a social columnist and also the ones that came after that. But no matter how outrageous the proceedings, I never had another alcoholic cocktail and I never did another walk of shame.
This is the tale of just one party legend. For more stories of wild nights out, check out Party Legends every Thursday at 10:20pm on SBS VICELAND.