‘It’s not a game. It’s not something you play.’ - George Clooney as Jack Foley in Out of Sight
Beer pong. Quarters. Flip cup.
Amateur hour. Totally gauche. Dude, seriously?
Do you know what my favorite drinking game is, kids?
Of all the aphorisms we could apply - and we live in a world of easy slogans and ready aphorisms and jaunty rhymes - beer before liquor, liquor before beer. One in the pink. Two in the stink. Cooking is an art, baking a science. Spielberg’s WW2 film is prose, Malick’s poetry. Truth is stranger than friction. At night all cats are fifty shades of gray - and so forth and et cetera.
Of all of them, the answer to the riddle that is ‘what is drinking?’ - by which, it must be noted, we refer to proper cocktail culture. Artisan alcoholism. Learned lushness - the answer to that riddle. my friends, is simple.
Drinking is alchemy. A cocktail worthy of being dubbed, as Don Draper once put it, simple but significant? It’s fucking alchemy. (And any worthy cocktail should first and foremost meet those two qualities before any others.)
The transformation of earth into gold. Fire into air. As the strict dictionary definition puts it, a psuedoscience. But it still has the word ‘science’ in it and, despite what a large portion of the country would have you believe, the word ‘science’ means it FUCKING WORKS. Even if some of the finer details remain a mystery, it’s still fucking science, Mr. White, and therefore can be intelligently designed.
Let’s go with one of the most classic of classic cocktails, the Little Black Dress of things served stiffly and up - a Manhattan.
Now, every bartender, every bar, every region, every state will have its variations. But there is still a fundamental original recipe we must refer to. As Julie Andrews once put it, let’s start at the beginning, for it is, a very good place to start.
In the beginning, man created whiskey. And it was good. And from whiskey’s rib was borne forth bourbon. And it was good. Some would even say better.
The bourbon is the base. The pillar.
And, lo, from a land shaped like a boot came to us vermouth. Varied. The variety in this case is sweet.
Those two basic ingredients. Strong. Sweet. Less of the latter than the former. Then a bit of bitters. Ice. Stir, strain. A cherry. That’s it.
So simple. Becoming something so significant.
I can explain it. Give ounces. Brands. Numbers. Labels. Exact stirring times - a minute at minimum to maximize the magic - but because this is alchemy, a pseudoscience, there is still something mysterious and divine and unknown as to how those pithy parts creating something so much greater than their sum.
Go ahead. Play your quarters. I’ll be over here practicing alchemy.
And, kids, when you want to experience one of the true pleasures in life - and, like any true pleasure - eating, fucking, verbally jousting - the most important thing is to do it with passion and with abandon because it will all be over in an instant, not an Instagram - have a sip of her - of my Manhattan. On me.
As someone smarter than me once put it, ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever.’
And as those shills at Stella put it to sell you, ‘she is a thing of beauty.’