In my adult years, I have come to notice what is sometimes regarded as a gap in my experiences and my familiarity with things that many or most people might consider commonplace. I blame my Catholic school upbringing for this flaw in my personality. There are a lot of things I blame on my Catholic school upbringing and this is probably a ways down the list in terms of how critical it is, but it’s not trivial or insignificant.
It’s a subject on which most high school students know more than I, although they’re not supposed to. I’m willing to bet that 98%+ of all college students know far, far more than I do, but despite my years in college, I learned almost nothing. My kids appear to have not missed these nuggets of information.
I am not totally ignorant on the subject matter at hand. I will say that my second college stint, when I got my MBA a few years ago, helped to show me the existence of this knowledge gap. And my classmates there also helped to get me on the road to lessening my ignorance. But it’s a long road and I often feel that I’m not making much progress – not that it’s a real priority.
I am, of course, speaking of alcohol. Liquor. Booze.
Most adults, at least in our society, have some passing knowledge of what drinks they like, what they don’t, what effects they have, how they taste, and so on. My knowledge regarding drinking is decidedly limited.
I will occasionally (once or twice a year) drink wine, although I’m usually not a huge fan of it and will rarely have more than a glass. I’m totally clueless about if red wine goes with meat or fish or is it white wine with poultry or vice versa and who gives a rat’s ass?
I will occasionally (once or twice a year) have a margarita, and I even know how to make them. (More or less.)
I have rarely (if ever) had beer since I found its taste to be bitter, but following my introduction to European beer during my MBA program (we visited the InBev brewery in Leuven, Belgium) I have taken to having a beer here or there. I even had one with my kids when we went to a ballgame this year!
But I only drink in social situations where it’s somewhat expected, never when it’s just me, and never, EVER when I might be driving in the next many, many hours. (Driving under the influence is a huge hot-button topic for me.)
In our society, there’s also a certain stigma attached to being an adult in my position. EVERYBODY drinks, or is 100% alcohol-free for one reason or the other, with not a lot of room in the middle. If people know that you really don’t have a clue about alcohol, you can be a bit of a pariah. So, like someone who can’t read and is embarrassed to admit it, I’ve found ways to fake it.
With all that having been said, there are social situations when I would like to be able to order something other than “whatever wine you’re having,” or a beer by picking the oddest sounding one and choking it down, or something with a little umbrella and fruit in it while at a business function.
But where does an adult go to learn that? Where could I try different drinks, different brands, different cocktails, and so on? Where does one go to “become literate” in this subject? My teenage and college years were spent being so goody-two-shoes that I’m amazed I didn’t get beaten up more, so now I’m on the outside looking in.
I guess one way would be to just go start hanging out in bars, but there’s that whole “no drinking and driving” thing that complicates it, as well as the fact that I’m not trying to get drunk, I’m trying to learn what different drinks taste like. In this case I see a problem with portion control. And I doubt if everyone else in the bar will let me take a sip of theirs.
The brute strength method would be to go get a fifth of this and that and every other thing to create a well-stocked bar, then get a textbook or “mixology for dummies” and start trying things. Not exactly the learning experience that I had in mind – sort of like massive amounts of masturbation in an attempt to learn about sex. It might be close, but that only counts in hand grenades and atomic weapons.
It has long been my thought that someone should really have a “Remedial Drinking Course For Recovering Catholics.” Something like a community college course for teetotalers where you meet once a week, led by an experience bartender, where one week you could do scotch, one week bourbon, one week tequila, one week white wine, and so forth. Everyone has a designated driver, but you’re not there for the buzz, but for the information and experience.
It wouldn’t be just the basics of what tastes like what, but also how to mix a range of simple cocktails. That whole which wine with which entree thing. The pros and cons of whiskey stones versus ice. That sort of thing.
A few years back when The Long-Suffering Wife and I were in Las Vegas and killing time at an empty bar, I suggested this to the bartender when he asked what I wanted and I didn’t have a clue what to ask for. He was polite, but gave me that “oh, you poor, pathetic old dude” look and just fixed something with a bunch of fruit juice and an umbrella. Not what I had in mind.
The closest I’ve come to a solution is a cruise. On the one cruise we’ve gone on there was a “Drink Of The Day” and you got to keep the fancy glass. The Long-Suffering Wife and I took the challenge and had one of each day’s drinks, come rain or shine, no matter what color it was or how it smelled. We came home with over a dozen of those fru-fru glasses, but I never did find anything that really knocked my socks off.
The other time that I felt I was getting close to finding what I’m looking for was when I visited New Orleans. I remember they have a thing called a “hurricane” and I only remember saying, “Oh, that sounds good, let me try one of those.” Thanks to a non-imbibing friend who babysat us all through the evening I ended up in my room, but the rest of the night is hazy.
So if anyone knows of a class I could take or a “Dummies” book that I could buy, let me know. In the meantime, maybe a hybrid approach will work. Since one of the goals is to be able to order something “manly” in a social or business setting, maybe I’ll get just a few supplies and try making a “scotch on the rocks” or a “seven and seven.” Or a hurricane.
If successful, next year I’ll try for a “slow comfortable screw on the beach.”