I’ll Be Home Soon, Dear – First I Must Stop in at the Library

April 5th, 2013

Naturally, the Designated Drinker has been seen, at various times, in all of these fine establishments. Let your own tour begin.

Sanchez on Professionalism

September 11th, 2012

“You’re an amateur drinker—you drink in public places. Noah is a professional. A professional, he drinks alone. He doesn’t need an audience.”

— Thomas Sanchez, American Tropic

Block on Fish and Poison

February 23rd, 2012

“You drink like a goddamn fish,” Charlie said.
“That’s nothing. I swim like an alcoholic.”

— Lawrence Block, writing as Sheldon Lord, 69 Barrow Street

“He got the hell away from Sondra’s place and the Gila Monster and found a bar, a nice ordinary bar where the customers were quiet, clean-shaven alcoholics and liquor was the only poison used on the premises.”

— Lawrence Block, writing as Ben Christopher, Strange Embrace

Ballard on Thirds

June 7th, 2011

“I finished my Scotch, already thinking not of the next drink, but of the one after that.”

— J. G. Ballard, Millennium People

Hastie on Literary Tastes

February 26th, 2011

“It tastes like licking a library book from 1964.”

— John Hastie, after drinking Jeppson’s Malört

Sours Are Sweet

February 2nd, 2011

…to appropriate the vernacular of today’s youth. To wit: the Pisco Sour. Being snowed in, these made quite the tonic for cabin fever. (Followed by fondue, if you must know.) Given a bartender who mixes these correctly, home would become but a distant memory.

1 1/2 oz. pisco
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. heavy simple syrup
1 egg white
several drops Angostura bitters

Shake vigorously, strain, etc.

Recipe from Dale DeGroff, via Auntie Iris. Seldom have I needed to tamper so little with a prescription. The bitters are a revelation!

An Object Lesson

January 17th, 2011

 . . . on the danger posed by Bailey’s Irish Cream. Puzzlingly, the offender was French.

Your Big Cocktail Is Nothing to Brag About

January 2nd, 2011

Catching up on some 2010 reading that I had heretofore missed–will my manservant ever catalog the periodicals correctly?–I find that Wayne Curtis shares my aversion to supersized cocktails.

Small cocktails were favored for a simple reason: they stay chilled from beginning to end. Few things are as unappealing as a Martini that’s warm when you hit bottom, with the possible exception of an Old-Fashioned on the rocks that’s both watery and warm at bottom.

My own feelings on the matter are, of course, well documented, and, having actually been alive to witness this horrible evolution firsthand (I do not know, but I suspect that Mr. Curtis is a mere pup of 50 or so), I can speak to the matter better than most. But Curtis’s words are well weighed, and he has the distinct advantage of being willing to report from locales (such as T.G.I. Friday’s and Margaritaville) where I fear to tread.

Willeford on Greed

December 7th, 2010

“I give you a beer, and now you want an egg in it, for Christ’s sake.”

— Charles Willeford, Sideswipe

A Lump of Coal for These Christmas Spirits

December 7th, 2010

At the worryingly named Eatocracy (phonetically closer to autocracy than democracy; I suspect they intend the latter whilst I prefer the former), it is suggested that guests may be adequately provided for with a slapdash, mix ‘n’ match drinks philosophy — although to call it a “philosophy” does it too much credit. In fact, the unnamed author (or authors) go so far as to compare the approach to something called “Garanimals.” Now, I do not know what a Garanimal is, was, or might be, but I do have a research assistant, and she was able to make the telephone inquiries that solved the matter: they are children’s pajamas.

Truly, a talent for improvisation is a gift when it comes to cocktail-making, and many great advances have been made by bartenders who added their own “twist” (excuse the pun) to a tried-and-true concoction. But this article — the likes of which I have seen more and more frequently of late — represents a new low, the sort of “anything goes” philosophy that could well mean the decline of drinks culture as we know it. I have stood by, if not silently, then tolerantly, as, over the past decade or two, society’s affluence has resulted in ever-increasing levels of dilettantism and specialization in the arenas of food and drink. Now, it doesn’t bother me a whit if someone has the time and money to try barrel-aging their cocktails or reverse-engineering a bottle of wine raised from a sunken galleon. As long as spirits have raised our spirits, there have been those who feel that, the more rarefied the drink, the higher our spirits will be raised. While I do believe that there are finite limits to the average drinker’s ability to discern microscopic improvements in taste and quality, perception is everything, and good for them.

But this is something else entirely: that is construction, and this is deconstruction. This is Cocktails for Dummies. Or, given the Garanimals, children. And, if you are a dummy or a child, then you may drink light beer. (Children’s beer should be diluted with lemonade.) If a learning a few drinks recipes — you needn’t even memorize them, for god’s sake — and shopping accordingly is beyond your ken, then you have no right entertaining holiday guests, period. If you don’t damage the palate of an accomplished drinker, you run the risk of convincing the cocktail neophyte that they had, after all, best stick to beer. And that, my friend, is like taking, not giving, at Christmas.