This is the first in what will be an occasional series documenting the numerous ways in which you people suck at drinking. I want you to be better, for your own benefit. I want to help, honestly I do.
You people are depressing the hell out of me. Seriously folks, your drinking habits are deplorable and it’s time for a frigging intervention. No, not one of those silly “we think you need to drink less” things, but a “I think you need to drink better” kind of thing. Let me take a moment and regale you with the tale of things I experienced while doing some booze shopping this past weekend:
1. Some asshole disparaging the name of some of the more decent rums (like Flor de Cana 4 yr and Goslings Black Seal) to his girlfriend as he walked past while carrying a 12 of OLD MILWAUKEE. Die in a fire, jackass.
2. Asking an employee where the bitters were, and after being directed there finding only Angostura aromatic bitters, which I already have plenty of (And I love. Hey, they’re from Trinidad, where my grandfather is from!). I went back to the counter to purchase my Old Overholt rye whiskey and the guy said “Didn’t find ‘em?” to which I responded “No, I was looking for orange bitters”. He then says “Oh…uhh maybe you can find them at the grocery store”. Huh? Just because they’re “orange” doesn’t mean they’re produce, chief. And on what planet should I expect the grocery store to have a wider selection of bitters than a pretty damn big liquor store (keep in mind that in this state, they only carry beer and wine in grocery stores)? Bonus anger: I went to two more liquor stores and encountered the same thing there: only Angostura aromatic.
3. This is the one that really got me, and essentially pushed me to the point of writing this. I’m standing in the rum aisle, shortly after incident #1, and I see a guy, mid-30s, looking at the selections and chatting with two employees. What I gather from their conversation is that last weekend he brought a handle of Absolut tailgating with friends, they mixed it with cranberry juice and killed the bottle, and he’s looking for something else this weekend. Something that’s not over $30 per handle, like the Absolut was. He’s pondering the Bacardi Light, which…whatever, is about as interesting a choice as the Absolut was, but he seems like he wants to expand his horizons. I mean, he’s in this mega-store with all these choices, right? At this point I am kind of envying the liquor store employees, as this is really a chance to use their “expertise” (or at least minor embroidered-shirt-wearing powers) to really put this guy on to some cool booze that he’ll probably like and look cool to his friends for having the confidence and know-how to buy something a little different than what they expect. This store is HUGE, so there’s plenty of opportunity around.
Oh, so THAT’S what you’ve been drinking!
Needless to say, these employees effing BLOW IT. They’re kind of standing there shrugging their shoulders and lazily staring the rum shelves up and down until one of them points down at the bottom shelf and says “I’ve seen people buying this one, and they say it’s pretty smooth”. What is he pointing at? Well, I won’t disparage their name on this blog, but needless to say it’s on the bottom shelf in every rum section EVER , and goes for about $12 a 1.75L, because it’s horrible, rotgut, hangover-inducing swill. Anyway, this guy may not know much, but he’s not a mouth-breathing retard, so he passes on the Puerto Rican Piss crap rum and says he’s going to keep looking. The employees wander off muttering about carrying around minis of Crown Royal to pour in Sprite (I shit you not). This is my opening. Now is my chance.
So I pretend to be looking at the St. James Royal Ambre and Clement Creole Shrub like I might know what the hell I’m talking about. He’s still looking at things near me, mumbling to himself, so I say “Are you looking for a gift for somebody?” (knowing full damn well what his situation was) and he lays his situation out for me. He emphasizes that paying $30 for a handle is his main beef, and I sympathize with him (and truly, I do). I start looking around and give him a few options. I especially push the Cruzan Light, telling him how I used it bartending a friend’s birthday party recently and how it went over great and was smooth in the Pina Coladas, not to mention it’s literally half the price of the Absolut. I told him how it was easily mixable with both fruit juices AND Coke, it’d be hard for his friends NOT to like it no matter what they drank. He’s liking what he hears, but he’s not sold. He says he wants to make sure and go look at the vodkas, I say “Ok, let’s go!”
I hadn’t been to this section of the store yet, so I wasn’t entirely familiar with what they had. I quickly scan the 10 or so full shelving units of vodka (this is a seriously HUGE store) and spot Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Perfect! I show him it’s $10 cheaper than the Absolut, tell him how it’s handmade in Texas, show him the awards it’s won printed on the label and yadda yadda yadda. Tell him the story of how I brought it on a weekend wedding trip a while back where a group of us rented a lake house and partied all weekend, and everybody dug it. “It give you all hangovers?” he asked. “Oh hell no…” I say, “this was pretty much a 3-day bender, we couldn’t afford to have hangovers”. He nods, understanding. And then…
…all of the sudden…some how, some way I lose him. “Ehhh…you know what, I think I’m going to just get the Bacardi and be done with it.” WHAT!?! I’ve only just BEGUN to show you the light, my friend, and you run back into the familiar, the same, the status quo? Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with Absolut or Bacardi at all, but when you’re in a store that has approximately 10 shelving units of vodka and around 8 of rum, the most adventurous you can be is to pick those? WHY DID YOU COME HERE AT ALL!?! You could have gone to the tiny shop down the street and they’d carry both of those, no question. You asked two different employees what they recommended (even though they blew it big time) and kept talking to me about what I’d recommend, and you still don’t have the balls to try something new (and notably less expensive)? He mumbles some lame justification about people liking it, even asking me “I mean, people like Bacardi, right?” “Yeah, I guess…” I say, hiding my heartbreak.
THIS is what’s wrong with drinkers today. This guy wasn’t a beginner. He told me how he and his friends killed the handle he bought last week, not to mention what everyone else brought to the tailgate. He was a regular, active drinker hanging out with regular, active drinkers and yet he didn’t know enough (or care to know enough) to branch out from the most giant of brand names he’d probably known since before he was old enough to drink. Or maybe he was just scared, didn’t have the balls to buy something seemingly “off-brand” to present to his friends. Either way, he’s an EPIC. FRIGGING. FAILURE.
THIS is (part of) what’s wrong with drinking today. DRINKING: Something most people engage in on at least a weekly (if not daily) basis, but they don’t take the time to get to know anything about it. Maybe it’s the stigma associated with booze. If you care or know that much about it, you must be an alcoholic. Oh, unless it’s wine or cognac, then you’re a “connoisseur”. But that’s another discussion for another day…
Let me put it in perspective. Let’s say you like reading. You like it so much that you usually put aside time every day to do it. It brings you calm, peace, pleasure and a break from your ordinary life to indulge in this interest. It’s something you do to unwind each day, take the edge off, whathaveyou. So, as a reader, do you think you’d only ever buy books from the NY Times bestseller list, nothing but James Patterson and John Grisham and Harry Potter every day? Would that be fulfilling to you? Or would you take the time to get to know new and exciting authors, people doing different and interesting things inside of a medium you hold close to your heart? Would you branch out within your beloved genres to those pushing the envelope, challenging and broadening the scope of what you thought possible, or just be satisfied with the same old thing you’ve been experiencing since day one? In short: Do your tastes evolve, or grow stagnant?
Herein lies the problem. People don’t take the time to explore and educate themselves even a little bit about alcohol because showing interest in it might label you as someone with a drinking problem. Think about other things in your life. Do you ever watch new TV shows? Learn about the actors on it and who’s writing it? Ever buy a different spice or marinade for your chicken? Try on a different brand of jeans because they might fit you better? You take the time and effort to be a better consumer about other things, why not alcohol? How do you know that Hendrick’s isn’t the gin you’ve been waiting for? How do you know you don’t like stout beers if you’ve never had one because they look “thick”?
EXPLORE, people! No matter what your drink of choice is, there are so many options out there for you to try out that you could take a long long time and never get to all of them. Even in drinks you think you don’t like. Don’t think you like rum? Try Cruzan Blackstrap or Goslings Black Seal in a Dark and Stormy. Don’t think you like gin? Try Bulldog or New Amsterdam. Turned off of tequila after getting sick off it back in college? Try Don Julio or Cazadores. Try drinking things in different drinks, in new ways, with new mixers. There are SO MANY options out there, and even if you only drink on the weekends, you owe it to yourself to try new things and find those liquors that meet you where you’re at.
If I do anything with this blog, I hope it’s that I expand the horizons of drinkers out there, that people realize that yes, the big players in the game got there for a reason, but there are lots of other things out there that may be the thing they’ve been waiting for. I’ve just received samples of two new boozes: Sobieski vodka and Tabasco tequila (reviews forthcoming). In their own ways, each is trying to do something new in spaces that have been around for a long time. That’s exciting! To think that these types of alcohol that have been around for hundreds of years still have something new to offer us drinkers is great news! It means that we as drinkers have evolving and changing tastes, and that the producers of these drinks recognize that and want to do new and creative things to keep us as consumers, and are willing to work for it. What you like matters, and if you’d only take a little time and refine your tastes the marketplace will be more than happy to provide you with numerous tasty alternatives to your current favorite.
So the next time you head out to your local liquor store, take a moment and consider the many alternatives available to you. Instead of buying a 1.75L of your old tried-and-true brand, buy 2 1-liters of 2 new brands, try something new. Who knows…your new favorite drink could be just one bottle away.