Drink up!

my current cocktail of choice - with rye, though I will accept bourbon if I must

Last night I was out with some lady friends celebrating and propping up someone overwhelmed by real estate transactions and what they will mean for her short- and long-term futures. When the waitress came, others were still trying to decide what they wanted, and I readily ordered (having already gone over my eternal whiskey or gin question in my head) a dry Bombay Sapphire martini up with extra olives -- which is odd, because I have in recent times been learning the virtues of the martini on the rocks as a more sociable drink, but old habits die hard. A while later, one friend commented that she'd like to learn more about drinking, that she'd like to be Toni. While I feel slightly bashful about this, I have to admit I am proud to have "knowledgeable (and perhaps prodigious?) drinker" as an identified character trait. I have cultivated myself as a drinker from a scandalous age (and I have friendships dating back at least a quarter of a century that are practically built around mutual appreciation for good booze -- and black clothing.)  It is nice to have my accomplishments recognized!

Why am I bashful? Because we are still a puritanical and prohibitionist culture, despite how much everyone drinks? Because I know personally that alcoholism can be a real, devastating problem? Some of each.

But I love drinking well. I am a bit of a snob (I pretty much disdain vodka on principle) but not a fetishist. I don't need the haute brand just because it is exclusive. I like tradition, but I also like to experiment. In my childhood, for cocktail hour, while the CBS news proclaimed the doom and gloom of the 1970s, my grandfather would mix whisky drinks for the grown ups (though sometimes my grandmother would just have a tumbler of dry vermouth on the rocks) and a Hawaiian Punch in an old fashioned glass, garnished with orange and cherry, for me. It was my job to pass the nibblies -- crudites, olives, nuts, maybe some cheese. This is, obviously, a foundational memory for me. Last summer, I invented a mead and stone fruit sangria.

I have gone through phases in my drinking habits. My drinking friend of 25+ years and I became acquainted over Johnny Walker Red (Scotch was my preferred whisky as a young woman. Because it was tough.) and we truly bonded over a summer of freshly made margaritas. These days, I'm mostly into rye, which makes me right on trend (the snob in me recoils, but what can you do?). Rye was hard to come by for a long time -- out of fashion and little produced -- the resurgence of cocktail culture has meant more rye produced and more rye to try.

I think that part of what I like about cocktail (and wine) culture is that it is something built purely for pleasure.   There is no utility here. It is really art for art's sake. Good food still at its root is about nourishment. Good drink is about enjoyment.

In thinking about how to approach this post, I came across this most excellent blog: Drinking Diaries, about women and drink (women who are mothers, professionals, artists, daughters of alcoholics, etc., etc. and what role drinking has in their lives). I've not really even begun to explore it yet,  but the current post is an interview about drinking with a woman who wrote a book about American women and shoes in the 20th Century - if you know me at all, you know this is irresistable to me.

Reading: Not a lot.

Writing: Setting up the sandbox for my two weeks of play (see yesterday's post for explanation). Have I mentioned how much I love Scrivener?

Dinner: pasta with creamy, garlicky mushroom (white mushrooms and a melange of dried) sauce and side of sauteed mustard greens with garlic and lemon juice.

Soundtrack: Remember when I wrote approvingly of a new CLE radio station? Yeah, like all non-college/community radio stations everywhere ever that I have started out liking and feeling as though they were programmed just for me, this station too has turned against me. I never hear cheeky punk rock or fanciful new wave when I pass over that spot on the dial anymore. Now it is all overly self-serious 90s dude rock. So, I ended up listening to one of the local classic rock stations (not sure which) on the drive home from work -- end of the day Friday is a sacred time in Cleveland radio (maybe radio everywhere), and I if I do say so, the string of "Party Tonight," "It's Only Rock and Roll," and "Stayin' Alive" did indeed make me feel all the more ready for the weekend.

Random thing: Poem of the Day (for April Poetry Month): A two-fer! 2 poems by women that mention drink!

1. Petition
What god will catch me
when I’m down, when I’ve taken
sufficient drink to reveal
myself, when my words are little
more than a blurring
of consonant and vowel?

I’m drunk on spring:
branches of waxy leaves that
greet me at my driveway,
a family clutching
trays of sweets.
How can I sing of this?

If I cannot sing, then
make me mute. Or lend me
words, send me
the taste of another’s prayer,
cool as a coin
newly minted on the tongue.

2. Bar Napkin Sonnet #11
Things happen when you drink too much mescal.
One night, with not enough food in my belly,
he kept on buying. I’m a girl who’ll fall
damn near in love with gratitude and, well, he
was hot and generous and so the least
that I could do was let him kiss me, hard
and soft and any way you want it, beast
and beauty, lime and salt—sweet Bacchus’ pards—
and when his friend showed up I felt so warm
and generous I let him kiss me too.
His buddy asked me if it was the worm
inside that makes me do the things I do.
I wasn’t sure which worm he meant, the one
I ate? The one that eats at me alone?

PS This post vastly exceeded the 20-minute rule, for anyone keeping score.


  1. 87.7 FM "Cleveland Sound" was ripped a new one right when it started.



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