I was a sophomore in high school the first time I was introduced to the recreational effects of alcohol. A friend brought a bottle of whiskey he lifted from his parents’ liquor cabinet to a sleepover. It was called Vat 69 and we mixed it with Coke, and I’ll never forget the sense of warm fuzziness that swept over me as the booze took effect. I suppose I have never lost an affinity for that sensation.
Fast forward a few years, I’m 18 years old, and some older coworkers are taking me out with an ID that one of them had confiscated from a minor at the restaurant where we worked. Fortunately for me, the doorman at a popular local bar was not paying close attention. My coworker ordered a Cape Cod with Skyy vodka and I followed his lead. It took me years to figure out that there was more to drinking than vodka and cranberry juice. I’d learn that there was not much of a difference, mixologically speaking, between that whiskey & Coke that I’d enjoyed so long ago, under the cover of darkness in my childhood bedroom, and the vodka drinks that my coworkers were drinking during a night on the town.
The problem is, most drinkers never advance beyond an undergraduate level. To better understand this, let’s look at drinks through the lens of a culinary metaphor. When a kid orders a burger with nothing on it except meat and bun, or steadfastly refuses to eat anything green or that once swam, a certain measure of forgiveness is extended due to the youngster’s immaturity. However if you were dining out with a group of adults and encountered such an unadventurous eater, you might think, “What is wrong with this guy?” But for the most part, the boring drinker gets a pass.
Consider the case of a friend who I shall call Rich. A man who is well educated, well-off, and has generally good taste. He lives in a beautiful home and eats at nice restaurants. However, he drinks vodka when he drinks spirits, and Bud Light when he drinks beer. He is a 50-year-old man caught in a 21-year-old’s cocktail. It just doesn’t match up. He graduated from law school and had a successful career; but his libational taste stopped maturing somewhere in his early twenties.
There’s nothing indecent or immoral about vodka or light beer, it’s just boring. If a guy you like is coming to your house for dinner, you make him a steak, not a Hot Pocket. I feel the same way about drinking Miller Lite out in public, where people can see you-if you wouldn’t wear Payless shoes to the prom, why drink cheap beer when you’re out on the town? And regarding the vodka & soda, its popularity not with standing, I really find it hard to believe that people actually like this drink, as in LIKE like it. They drink it because it is cheap or easy to order, or because it is inoffensive, or they perceive it to be “better” for them, or it won’t stain their teeth, but not because people really believe that vodka and soda tastes good. A Margarita tastes good. Vodka & Soda tastes like…alcohol water.
We are a community that changed the course of history when a pissed-off drag queen launched her shoe at a New York City policeman; we can certainly change the way we drink. I encourage all persons of sound mind and body (and of legal drinking age) to explore the world of spirits with a sense of discovery. Try something new. Find drinks that suit your tastes, not those of the group you’re out with. Drink something that isn’t advertised on billboards. You have a voice and face and brain that are uniquely your own. What you do and who you know are part of you who you are. You are what you eat and what you read and what you believe. You are what you drink – don’t be a bore.