When I was learning to drink alcohol –- and in my opinion –- yes, drinking alcohol is an acquired skill; I lived among folk who took their drinking seriously.
By that I mean, they didn’t approach it as a frivolous activity.
They might have a drink or two at the end of a hard day at work.
They regularly took a bottle down from the shelf when friends came over. They tucked a flask in their jacket when they went to a football or hockey game to stay warm.
They had more than a couple on a Friday or Saturday night when somebody was throwing a party, getting married, celebrating something special.
Sometimes they drank and drove. Sometimes they drank and got into fights.
But through high school, college and the rest of my youth, I never lost a friend to anything related to drinking. I never saw anybody drink enough to seriously harm themselves, their career or somebody else.
I didn’t know anybody who knew a bartender by their first name, or proclaimed the merits of one brand name over another (besides avoiding American beer at all costs).
Mostly, I never knew people who were “regulars” in a certain watering hole or made it a point of letting me know how much of whatever they were putting away.
Rehab was for a sports injury.
Maybe the people who taught me to drink just weren’t very sophisticated. Or maybe I’m just not that sophisticated myself.
But things seem a lot different now. And I’m not gonna go all “kids today…” because I don’t think the way alcohol is consumed these days has much to do with anybody but the folks who sell it.
My drug of choice is Vodka. And when I was starting out there was one kind. Lots of different labels but pretty much the same thing inside.
Then they started adding a touch of orange or pepper or juniper. And I began noticing that while one of those flavors would make a great Screwdriver, it had a negative effect on a Caesar or a Dirty Martini. And instead of having one bottle in the cabinet, I now needed three or four. Well played, Marketing executives.
Then I noticed I’d be in bars and the “Jager-Girls” would sidle over, or some cutie from Grey Goose would hint that pouring from that bottle would exemplify my refined taste. Branding could publically define me –- and my lifestyle.
The other night, I was in a liquor store and came upon a bottle I’d never seen before, purporting to contain “Cookie Dough Vodka”. Actually, a closer examination revealed it contained “imitation” chocolate and other flavors, which, in combination, would taste just like cookie dough.
I asked the clerk, who stopped picking at his new tattoo long enough to shrug and say, “Teenage girls seem to like it.”
Filing that away for the next time I might need to seduce a teenager and recalling all the Singapore Slings I’d put away during my early adulthood; I wondered if some of the problems we have related to alcohol and younger drinkers are because the people selling it are only too happy to warp their product to fit palates nearer to the enjoyment of candy and ice cream and cookie dough than something more mature.
An acquired taste implies the time and experience required to acquire it. Maybe not the best thing for a profit margin. But maybe a better thing for society as a whole.
Enjoy Your Sunday.