While this time of year is hectic enough to prevent much writing from going on, there has been a brief lull this afternoon, allowing for some words to come forth. I believe it is merely the calm before the storm, as this evening signals not just the end of the year, but the end of the decade. During this decade, I have reached adulthood and matured in ways that I didn’t think possible during my teenage years, not least of which is my appreciation for fine beer and cocktails.
Allow me, dear reader, to be a bit reflective for a moment. My first taste of beer was Busch Light, in a non-ceremonial manner that left a bit to be desired. The body was watery, there was no complexity, and the taste was curious. I thought I liked it, but wasn’t sure. It reminded me a bit of seltzer water, in a way, and I didn’t have another drink until quite some time later, when a friend brought over a 40oz bottle of King Cobra. Without being too degrading and venomous towards the… classic malt beverage, it should suffice to say that the experience turned me off of beer for quite some time.
Reach forward a couple of social circles of friends later, and I had my first cocktail. Smirnoff Red mixed with Sprite. A simple concoction, for sure, but not without merit. It served it’s purpose, and it was a memorable evening with mostly forgettable faces. It wasn’t until some time later that I began experimenting myself with cocktails, just simple ideas that were spawned in my own mind, without even thinking to look for recipes. The first success was what I now know to be a makeshift Vodka Sour, which was followed a little while later by my first experience with truly exquisite liquor; A gift from an employer for a job well done was a cardboard tube with yellowed paper and cracked letters, that when opened revealed a bottle of 30 year old Balvenie Single Malt Scotch. Though I wasn’t aware at the time of what exactly was in my hands, I still knew it had to have been a prize. My ignorance of spirits at the time is truly appalling today, but it is what it is. Or should I say, it was what it was?
Today, receiving a bottle of high quality 30 year scotch would result in it being placed under lock and key in a case on the top shelf of my liquor cabinet, only coming out for rare occasions with special guests. That bottle received all those years ago was empty within two hours, between myself and a few friends. The only thing that was done right with it, was that we drank it neat. No ice, no mixers, and no chasers. We did truly enjoy it, but the haste of youth prevented us from enjoying it for longer than one evening.
It was during this same time period that my taste for beer was still completely off, as I didn’t feel that I could stomach anything that was dark enough to cost more than $0.60 a can. But through the intrepid efforts of my brother from another mother, I began acclimating to better and better beers, first with Killian’s Irish Red (still a mainstay in my kitchen today), and then with Yuengling Black and Tan, on to Guinness, and after several months of what felt like boot camp training sessions, my taste buds finally matured and I began my current love affair with good beer.
It took a little bit longer still for my cocktail tastes to mature beyond Sours, and that is where Micah Hanks began making his influence on me; Martinis, Old Fashioned’s, Singapore Slings, Tequila Sunrises, and an ample selection of high quality spirits and knowledge of how to use them.
Eventually, all of this led to this year, when my blossoming knowledge and passion for cocktail culture allowed me to meet and speak with professionals in the field without sounding like an idioto, and through that, I have been granted even more opportunities to advance my knowledge and understanding of this beautiful and sometimes exotic field.
Now that we have finally come to the end of this year (as I write this in the waning hours of 2009), I can look back at the past 12 months, and smile. These holidays were bittersweet, as I was only able to spend it with part of my family; My mother is out of state with my grandmother, and my oldest brother was not able to break off from work long enough to come home from the coast, but regardless of that, it has been a good month and a good Holiday season, as Christmas was a merry affair, my following birthday was spent with great friends, Old Fashioned’s and Avatar 3D.
Now there is only New Year’s Eve to come, so here is a toast to an ensuing new year, a new decade, and a new period of excellence and sophistication. When you are celebrating tonight, please exercise caution. There is no need to end 2009 or bring in 2010 with an accident. Now excuse me while I go and stock up on Champagne.