Monday, December 11, 2006

Full of boozy goodness

High on life.

I like to drink. Rarely to excess, but frequently. Often to be social, but more often alone or at least keeping my own counsel. I love the warm smell of whiskey, the sharpness of a really cold martini (gin, very dry, two olives with all the brine shaken off them first), the drying bitter tannin of red wine, the sharp but sweetish bubbles of champagne. A cold craft beer on a hot evening, or with a veggie burger and a load of fries. Mulled wine on the stove all New Year's Day. Egg nog with spiced rum and sprinkled nutmeg, in a crystal glass clinking with ice cubes. Tequila shot with a friend, for the ritual of salt-shot-lemon, and for the warmth and aftertaste of the drink itself, its sense of devil-may-care. Whiskey sour when I'm feeling Dorothy Parker-ish. Tom Collins when I'm feeling J. D. Salinger-ish. Seagram's Wildberry cooler when I'm (extremely rarely) feeling highschool-ish. A Dubonnet Manhattan (two cherries) after Miss Baby goes to bed and Pynchon has lit a fire and we're setting up the Scrabble board.

As I say, I like to drink.

This was an acquired habit. I had to learn how to drink. My birth father was an alcoholic for years and years before dying suddenly of a heart attack at 57: it was like he committed suicide in slow motion. My stepfather, still in his twenties when he took up with my ten-years-older mother, was for much of my childhood a weekend drunk who was sometimes found on the kitchen floor in his underpants on Sunday mornings. On the very fringes of the incrowd in highschool, alcohol seemed to me to make people into vomiting morons who spent vast sums on illicit booze only to end up passed out in the shrubbery, or driven home by the cops, or, in one memorable instance, sent to the hospital for a stomach-pumping. I was an avowed teetotaller; not hard to imagine how I remained on the far fringes of highschool society. In university, too, booze did not seem to bring out the best in my acquaintances, and Toronto was expensive enough without buying drinks with money I could instead spend on black lipstick or an asymmetrical haircut at House of Lords.

For me, to learn to drink socially or even at all was a real mark of maturity: it meant regretting my father and stepfather while not so forcefully rejecting them, and it meant not judging my friends by the standards of these problem drinkers. I was learning to live and let live, and that other people's indulgences were their escape. I also had to learn to abandon a little bit of the high moral ground the teetotaller can believe herself to occupy, and to learn to give up a little bit of my precious control--maybe I might get silly and fall asleep with my makeup on. That might be okay. I learned to drink wine with dinner, to enjoy a gin-and-tonic when out on the town. When I started my PhD, I even learned to like beer, because a bar diet of gin-and-tonics can quickly bankrupt a girl.

The summer that I studied for my candidacy exams (three, three-hour written exams on the topic of "What Really Smart People Should Know, So You'd Better Study Your Arse Off For Five Months, Imposter") I joked to my friends that if I was going to drink alone, at least I would do it in style. I bought a cocktail shaker and a bartender's guide. Every payday, I bought a new kind of alcohol: gin, vermouth, triple-sec, whiskey, Dubonnet, bitters, rum. I tried new cocktails: margaritas, sours, collinses, mint juleps, manhattans, cosmopolitans. It was great fun. I had one drink probably three nights a week. It was great. I learned a lot about spirits and mixology and the history of the cocktail. I tried to match my drink to whatever novel I was reading. I bought cocktail glasses, old-fashioned glasses, highball glasses. I came into fancy beer steins and pint glasses. I received gifts of thrift-store crystal tumblers, of the tin cups for mint juleps. I came to adore the rituals, the smells, the tactile pleasure of mixing a drink, seeing it in the perfect glass, and enjoying its taste. The buzz, of course.

I like to drink. So this week, I bring you, a week of alcohol: one drink per night, with photo and recipe where appropriate, and a story about booze.

Tonight the drink is red wine--'le petit sommelier', or 'wine in a tetra-pak', bought because Pynchon doesn't drink red wine, and I can't finish a bottle before it turns to vinegar. It is served in a massive wine glass, our 'wedding crystal' that came free as part of our Carribbean wedding package. Enjoy!

Do not put wine on your computer. Notice the gazillion year old Dell in the background.

Glass shown 1/10th actual size. If you fill it, you will fall over.


cinnamon gurl said...

mmm... veggie burger, fries and draft beer. All I need now is a warm patio!

Alpha Dogma said...

I could not buy a tetra pak of wine. I'm not some sort of wine snob! It is just that my system of wine purchasing revolves around the concept of pretty label = good wine. And I'm half asleep when I pour the boys their breakfast glasses of juice and I can see confusing tetra-paked wine for their lesser potent grape juice.