Some Things I've Learned From Booze


The world teaches. Everything instructs — cement, soap, songs, flowers, smells, glances, books, hobos, movies, golf clubs. Some things, like some teachers, resonate with you better, more thoroughly, more effectively. For 30 years, give or take, booze has been a great teacher and me, I’ve been its less than reluctant pupil (although I’ve not always been open to its pedagogy). Here are some things I’ve learned over the years:

1. Everything has its way.  Scotch, after all, is not tequila and neither are gin.This is, of course, obvious. But I still find it profound and this seemingly simple dictum has had enormous repercussions in how and what I think.

2. The ways of things intersect and overlap.  I love spicy, perhaps a bit mineraly, clean boozes that are a little hot, a little complex, and never sweet: St. George Terroir Gin, Fortaleza Blanco, Glenrothes single malt, Old Potrero Rye.

3. Things have internal borders that need not unify.  The aforementioned boozes each enjoys, on its own, this fantastic array of flavors, each distinct — sun, fir, honey, black pepper. They don’t have to become one.

4. Moods come and go. Over the course of one drink, you may traverse despair, elation, resignation, contemplation, each with an emphatic umph.

5. The now is historical, forwards and backwards.  Drinking lots now can feel good now — then feel very bad the next day.  Sometimes, this is ok; other times, it’s not. In any case, there is a distinct correlation between this now and another now.

6. Everything has its occasion. I like my booze. I have a drink or two most days. But I don’t always want a drink — a midday beer or morning shot can be great but more often than not makes me sluggish and dumb.  

7. Some things have diminishing returns. Just because some thing makes you feel great doesn’t mean you can enjoy it ceaselessly — some pleasurable things become less pleasurable when consumed in the wrong proportion or quantity.

8. Things can interact in surprising ways. Booze is one thing. Now add this or that — sex, hooch, medication, driving — and the way of booze can be synergistic, a catalyst both good and bad, to say the least.

9. What was once right is not always right.  Starting in my early teens, I drank Jim Beam. A lot of Jim Beam. Now, I can’t touch the stuff.  I drink much less in general and rarely imbibe bourbon.  My body has changed, wants different things, needs different things.

10. Categories offer infinite internal diversity. Bourbon is relatively well defined — 51% corn, from Kentucky, I don’t know what else.  But try Makers then Buffalo Trace then High West and you’ll have three different, even if intimately related, experiences. Now take gin: other than juniper, there are no demands. Infinite variations is not only available but encouraged by the category itself.

11. Pay attention.  One drink too much, or the wrong drink, can be disastrous.  Booze has taught me to pay attention to what’s happening, to how I interact with the world.

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