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    PRAISE FOR

    DRINKS

    BY ADAM MCDOWELL

    “A thoroughly useful and enjoyable compendium of drinking lore and knowledge, with an ample dose of much-needed cynicism, too often lacking in books of this type.”

    —PHILIP GREENE, cofounder of The Museum of the American Cocktail and author of To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion

    “There is, as yet, no perfect user’s guide for life. But for the many moments in our lifetimes when a decent drink is required—whether it’s a crisp pilsner on a summer afternoon, a glass of champagne on a special day, or a dry martini when the clock strikes five—Adam McDowell’s Drinks: A User’s Guide has you covered.”

    —PAUL CLARKE, executive editor of Imbibe magazine and author of The Cocktail Chronicles

    “If you don’t know how to drink, this book is for you. If you do know how to drink, this book is also for you, since everyone is sure to be charmed by Adam McDowell’s sage and friendly advice about what to order, in any setting. After years of tweaking his philosophy of drink, McDowell has finally shared his accumulated knowledge in this invaluable resource. Not since Kingsley Amis has reading about drinking been this much fun.”

    —CHRISTINE SISMONDO, author of America Walks into a Bar

    An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

    375 Hudson Street

    New York, New York 10014

    Copyright © 2016 by Adam McDowell

    Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

    Illustrations © Kagan McLeod

    Tarcher and Perigee are registered trademarks, and the colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

    Most TarcherPerigee books are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchase for sales promotions, premiums, fund-raising, and educational needs. Special books or book excerpts also can be created to fit specific needs. For details, write: [email protected]

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Names: Mcdowell, Adam.

    Title: Drinks : a user’s guide / Adam McDowell.

    Description: New York, New York : TarcherPerigee, 2016.

    Identifiers: LCCN 2016023526 (print) | LCCN 2016032155 (ebook) |

    ISBN 9780143111269 (hardback) | ISBN 9781101992760 (ebook)

    Subjects: LCSH: Alcoholic beverages. | Cocktails. | Beer. | BISAC: COOKING /

    Beverages / Wine & Spirits. | COOKING / Beverages / Bartending. | COOKING

    / Reference.

    Classification: LCC TX953.M33 2016 (print) | LCC TX953 (ebook) | DDC

    641.2/1—dc23

    The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The Publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The Publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.

    Cover design: Danielle Deschenes

    Version_1

    FOR EMILY

    CONTENTS

    PRAISE FOR DRINKS BY ADAM MCDOWELL

    TITLE PAGE

    COPYRIGHT

    DEDICATION

    PREFACE: BECOMING A COMPLETE DRINKER

    PART I: ORIENTATION

    SOME DOS AND DON’TS FOR THE SAVVY DRINKER

    PART II: HOW TO DRINK BEER, WINE, AND SAKE

    DRINK INTERESTING BEER (AND SHUT UP ABOUT IT)

    A BEER FOR ALL SEASONS

    WINES FOR EVERYDAY DRINKING

    HOW TO DRINK GREAT WINE ON A CHEAPSKATE’S BUDGET

    WINES FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS

    DRINK BUBBLY WHENEVER YOU FEEL LIKE IT

    SHERRY AND OTHER WINES YOU MAYBE DIDN’T REALIZE WERE WINE

    VERMOUTH IS NOT THE ENEMY

    HOW TO DRINK SAKE

    PART III: HOW TO CHOOSE, DRINK, AND SERVE COCKTAILS AND SPIRITS

    STOCKING YOUR HOME COCKTAIL BAR: THE GEAR, AND HOW TO USE IT

    STOCKING YOUR HOME COCKTAIL BAR: THE LIQUOR AND ASSORTED OTHER THINGS

    ESSENTIAL LIQUEURS (AND SOME NONESSENTIAL ONES)

    A SHORT AND SWEET BRIEFING ON BITTERS

    SOME ADVICE ON SERVING COCKTAILS

    GIN AND HOW TO DRINK IT

    HOW TO MAKE A MARTINI

    VODKA IS OVER

    KNOW YOUR WHISKEY

    HOW TO APPRECIATE SCOTCH (AND JAPANESE) WHISKY

    IRISH WHISKEY: ONE SMOOTH CUSTOMER

    BOURBON AND OTHER WHISKEYS OF NORTH AMERICA

    THE OLD FASHIONED, MANHATTAN, AND OTHER WHISKEY COCKTAILS

    RUM AND RUM COCKTAILS

    COGNAC AND OTHER AGED BRANDIES

    HOW TO DRINK TEQUILA

    HOW TO DRINK ABSINTHE

    PART IV: DRINKS BY OCCASION

    WHAT TO DRINK ON VARIOUS OCCASIONS, FROM SUNDAY BRUNCH TO NEW YEAR’S EVE

    APERITIFS, TO DRINK BEFORE DINNER

    DIGESTIFS, FOR AFTER DINNER

    AD-HOCTAILS, FOR THOSE TIMES WHEN YOU’RE TRULY DESPERATE

    FURTHER READING

    COCKTAIL SUPPLIERS

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    INDEX

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    PREFACE: BECOMING A COMPLETE DRINKER

    The art of rational drinking is an accomplishment as indispensable as dancing or bridge. . . . To know how to drink is as essential as to know how to swim, and one should be at home in both these closely related elements.

    —FRANK MEIER, BARTENDER AT THE PARIS RITZ, 1936

    HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED that characters in old novels and movies seem to know exactly what to drink and when? Many of us can only look back in envy at a time when people would simply know which brandy or champagne was the best to kick back with in the midst of some European adventure or could spontaneously fix up a tray of gin rickeys like Tom Buchanan does in The Great Gatsby or had some idea how to tell whether a martini was well made.

    We’re paying more attention to these details lately because we live in the dawn of a new golden age of drinking. Indeed, we can realistically hope it will turn out to be the golden age of booze. The general quality of wine is improving, product selection in virtually every category of beverage is increasing, craft distilleries flourish, old cocktail recipes are being rediscovered and new ones invented, cities that once featured two decent cocktail bars now have fifty jockeying for your attention, and the vogue for tasty craft beer rises like a froth with each passing year.

    Meanwhile, for most of the public, this is all a little terrifying: It means there are more choices to make than ever before, and it’s difficult to know how to cope with it all.

    I know this because I talk to people about drinks all the time. I’ve written about booze for a major Canadian newspaper called the National Post for more than a decade, and over the past few years I’ve been popping up on a daytime lifestyle program called The Social to chitchat about beverages and try not to spill things on live television. You might do a hundred different things with your life, but if you write and broadcast on the subject of drinks, it’s pretty much the only thing people will want to talk with you about at parties. And when people find out what I do, their first instinct is usually to apologize for what they’re drinking. They say they feel silly because they don’t know anything about wine. Or they mime a defensive gesture like turning their beer label around so I can’t see it, lest I judge their peasant ways. This tells me that people know they could probably be drinking something tastier or more exciting, but something’s stopping them from finding out what it could be.

    If we are to enjoy the golden age of glorious drinking that is upon us, we must shed these defensive gestures, because being shy about drinks relegates us to retreating to the same old foxholes, sticking to what’s familiar. Instead, we ought to be curious about the new world in front of us, ready to courageously advance into unknown territory.

    If you are holding this book, I hope it’s reasonable of me to assume that you thirst (as it were) for more knowledge. What you’ll find is that people who know a thing or two about drinks are usually only too happy to share. You’re at little risk of being ridiculed by those who truly know their stuff. At least in my experience, applicants to the fellowship of drinks geekery are welcomed with open arms and flowing bottles.

    Aim to learn enough about drinks to become what I think of as a “complete drinker,” someone who has a rough idea of what there is to drink, what these things taste like, and the right situations and means for serving them. To set yourself on that path, be willing to take an exploratory sip of (just about) anything. It sounds daunting but isn’t nearly as tough as some people—whose motives I will leave you to guess at—are keen to make it look. Just think of alcohol the way you think of food: a field to explore in search of what you personally find delicious.

    The trouble is people don’t know where to begin this journey, and until now I didn’t have the proper tools to help them. There are books about rum and gin and beer, books about bitters, many books about wine, and so on. (Websites, too, naturally.) Yet I’ve often wished I could point people toward a general handbook for everyday drinking. There wasn’t anything up-to-date that really fit the bill—the late Kingsley Amis’s Everyday Drinking was the closest thing, and something of a bible to me personally. But it’s rather British and published so long ago that it contains references to £6 bottles of champagne and such. To my great surprise there really wasn’t a more suitable, recent, and semicomprehensive book on the market for people who want to know what to drink during particular occasions, how to prepare and serve these things, and how to avoid feeling like an ass while doing so. So I decided to write one.

    Even if you don’t proceed through this volume in a straight line from cover to cover, you can treat it as a resource for the adventure I’ve just outlined. Each chapter ahead is a dunk in one of the many pools you’ll encounter in the drinker’s life, offered with the hope that they’ll give you enough encouragement to dive in and swim.

    I dwell longer on the topics that I feel deliver an especially rewarding experience as well as on the ones (such as whiskey) for which more information is necessary in order to help you feel you’re on solid footing. You may think I’ve given wine short shrift—I just figure it’s an easy subject on which to find advice—and I’ve avoided certain topics entirely (cider, punch, dessert wine) because I think you can get by without a lot of instruction at first. The idea wasn’t to cover absolutely every aspect of drinks, but to give you the best push that I could based on what I’ve figured out over the years.

    With cocktails, meanwhile, I’ve mainly stuck to vintage recipes, but contemporary ones are built on the same principles. If you follow the instructions herein, you ought to be able to attempt any recipe under the sun: They really aren’t as complicated to make as you may fear, and mastery of a few simple techniques is enough to make you reasonably competent.

    Note that the concepts of everyday drinking or being a complete drinker do not entail having something in your hand at all times. Far from it. If you care for moderation, it will care for you. And you may find that drinking better leaves you satisfied with drinking less.

    It’s also worth noting that the aim isn’t to turn you into a know-it-all or a snob, as I think people sometimes expect from a lover of booze. I promise you can keep being your old self. As the Zen master Wu Li counseled, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” In other words, if you’re truly enlightened, it’s enough that you know it yourself. You’ll have no desire to go around trying to prove your enlightenment to anyone else, and they shouldn’t notice a big change in you—other than that you choose better wine and throw better parties.

    Another lesson from the Buddhist scriptures, of all places: A guy gets hit with a poison-tipped arrow. He refuses to let anyone pull it out until he finishes asking a litany of questions. What’s the name of the man who shot it? What village does he come from? And so on. The injured fellow croaks before anyone has a chance to yank out the toxic shaft. When it comes to alcoholic beverages, knowledge can be a valuable thing, but focusing on trivia can be the poison arrow that sucks the life out of a party.

    DRINKING IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.

    It all distills down to this: Drinking is supposed to be fun. People always want me to share insider tips, little gems I’ve pocketed about drinks over the years. This realization is the most precious by far: In any conflict between enjoying the moment and obsessing about the drinks, the moment must win out. Pay attention to the people and conversations around you first. The drinks remain your distant second priority.

    A FEW HOUSEKEEPING NOTES

    Like an obnoxious barfly I admit I do repeat myself. While this book is a new project, certain turns of phrase and indeed whole sentences and recipes are lifted from my writing over the years, especially my columns in the National Post and a blog that is now long defunct. Sometimes you explain something as well as you’re ever going to on the first attempt.

    I’ve tried to make this book as universal as I could manage, but my own cultural experiences and dialect may soak through. It simply can’t be helped that I come from Canada, an obscure Commonwealth realm known for its exports of uranium and lamentable pop singers.

    Liquid measurements for cocktail recipes are in American units because cocktails are American, and even most of us raised in metric countries will usually think in ounces when mixing and stirring.

    The terminology for milk and cream at different fat percentages varies by country to a surprising degree. Certain sugars change names from country to country as well—for instance, powdered sugar, icing sugar, and confectioner’s sugar are all the same thing. I’ve done my best to help you navigate this kind of thing but I apologize for any lapses that send you madly a-Googling.

    PART I

    ORIENTATION

    SOME DOS AND DON’TS FOR THE SAVVY DRINKER

    The dipsomaniac and the abstainer are not only both mistaken, but they both make the same mistake. They both regard wine as a drug and not a drink.

    —G. K. CHESTERTON

    IT’S AN UNFORTUNATE FACT that mastering the art of boozemanship involves learning how to dodge rip-offs, rudeness, and nonsense. Most people are ignorant about drinks and therefore susceptible to misdirection. Others—the scoundrels!—see potential gain in exploiting that general ignorance. Knowledge and experience make the artful drinker impervious to bullshit and instill in her the confidence to insist on whatever beverage she actually wants and will enjoy in the moment. Here I provide some general guidance on avoiding the usual pitfalls of everyday drinking—advice for a world in which the art is halfway lost, but well on its way to being regained.

    DOS

    APPROACH DRINKING AS A CULINARY ENDEAVOR

    Having the right approach to drinking means you don’t set out to get drunk any more than you would dine with the intention of getting full to the point of vomiting. Puking is losing, either way. Nature may take its course when you have a few and you may find yourself a little wobbly and slurry, and life will probably go on (more or less) as it was. But deliberately setting out to get intoxicated is a foolish idea, and I don’t think I actually needed to tell you that anyway.

    DRINK MINDFULLY.

    Treating drinks the way you treat food means doing it for the company and for the flavor—the aromas, the texture of drinks. Drink mindfully. It may sound absurd, but try it, and I’m sure you’ll agree that concentrating on what you’re drinking and going slowly, with moderation, leads to better results than shots and chugging.

    The culinary drinking principle also means you should try new things all the time, just as you ought to do with cuisine. Don’t be afraid of novelty; explore the unfamiliar. If you don’t like something, no big deal. Don’t finish it. Try something else.

    To fear new drinks, as I know many people do, is to lock oneself into certain patterns and habits. This leads to absurdities like quaffing cold Mexican lager when it’s snowing outside or drinking warm red wine on a hot patio: in both instances, it’s far from the optimal drink for the occasion.

    You don’t just keep eating all the things you ate at twenty-two years old and only those things. By the same token, if you drink only your go-to pale lager or that same cheap Aussie wine every week, isn’t it kind of the same thing as eating only instant ramen noodles?

    To become a complete drinker, try different beverages in an attempt to suit the mood and the climate you find yourself in. Match the food you’re eating; that’s the really important one. You should aim to find yourself something to eat while you drink, and your refreshments should taste right with what you’re eating—each bite enhances the sip that follows, and vice versa, without clashing. There’s plenty of guidance on how to seamlessly match food, drink, and occasions in reputable books (including this one), magazines, and the behavior of the locals in Old World cultures.

    MIND YOUR MANNERS AT THE BAR

    Behave yourself. For example: You push up to the bar to wait your turn. Next to you is a fellow in a blue hat, already waiting. Bartender comes over and looks at you to get your order. What to do? Gesture at the man in the blue hat. “He was here first, then it’s me,” you say. This is basic bar etiquette.

    NEVER BE RUDE TO SERVERS AND BARTENDERS

    Politeness counts. Snapping your fingers, being gruff, not minding your pleases and thank-yous: None of these behaviors makes you look good to anyone worth caring about. In all realms of life, it’s the worst people who pick on those who are restricted in some way from standing up for themselves. You should judge severely, and, frankly, avoid, anyone who treats servers poorly.

    GRAB THE CORNER OF THE BAR ON A DATE

    If you can, snag the corner spot. If you and your potential paramour are sitting side by side, you won’t get a chance to look at each other—or touch knees, if things are going well.

    STOP DRINKING WHEN IT’S TIME

    The very instant you start to feel wobbly, push your glass/cup/beer bong aside. Same goes the moment you realize you’re just no longer having fun. There’s already more hooch in your system on its way, so it’s best to cut off the supply at once. When looking out for friends and others, loud speech is actually a worse sign than slurring, and repetition is worst of all: It’s a tipoff that the brain is positively swimming in alcohol . . . swimming in alcohol . . . swimming in alcohol. Get a repetitive drunk home by whatever safe and legal means you have available.

    USE FRESHLY SQUEEZED JUICE AND FRESH ICE IN COCKTAILS

    Always choose fresh. Pouring prebottled lemon or lime juice from the grocery store into a drink makes it unfit for human consumption. The chapter on bar gear tells you how to squeeze your own lemons, limes, and oranges. Putting old ice that stinks of fish sticks into a guest’s beverage is an exit application from civilized society altogether.

    EXERCISE SPECIAL CAUTION AROUND CARBONATED DRINKS

    Watch out for the bubbles. If something fizzes, it gets you drunk faster than a flat beverage of the same strength. (One exception: Beer doesn’t seem to hit too quickly.)

    ORDER FANCY COCKTAILS

    You may not be too

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