A Lump of Coal for These Christmas Spirits

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.

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