A couple of months ago, a memory from my childhood shot back into my brain like a bullet. I can’t tell you how or why it happened, but I got a sudden reminder of a specific thing that only existed at the local bistro at the golf club: cocktail animals.

If the name alone isn’t opening up some little vault in the back of your brain, maybe this will help.

THESE GUYS. Remember these guys? Tiny little plastic characters that would come on the side of your glass at the pub, when your parents let you go hog-wild on the raspberry lemonades and order a whole bowl of chippies for dinner.

Getting cocktail animals on your drink was like a kids’ lottery or a country bistro version of a Kinder Surprise. You had no control over what you were going to get, and there would always be an argument at the table about who got what on their drink.

If you’re anything like I was, you’d plead with your parents for “just one more fire engine” to roll the dice and hopefully score the illustrious mermaid trinket.

Plastic middy or pot glasses across the country were likely crammed with these little bastards, and I’m more than sure that plenty of adults found them swimming in their washing machine for days or weeks after a trip out for family dinner. I’m sure that somewhere out there in one of the houses I grew up in there’s cocktail animals embedded in the garden like a fossil of years gone by.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to work behind a country pub’s bar during the time these little plastic things were at peak popularity — we’d knock them into each others’ drinks, dip them in candles, line them all up on the table and let them go flying with an expertly-flicked Keno pencil.

So to the specific friend who has since pranked me with a delivery of a bag of these little animals (and later accidentally send me a box of 100 of them), thank you — you’ve flung me back to a very special place where I’ll absolutely knock back too many fizzy drinks and then have to sleep with the family spew bucket by my bed for the night.

Image: Courtney Fry