The Forgotten Code
One of the great difficulties of being a proper drunkard in this day and age is knowing what to drink and when. There was a time, or so my elders tell me, when such choices were strictly regulated and common knowledge to anyone who’d spent more than a week ensconced in the Society of Drinkers.
For example, it was once accepted by both the wino in the gutter and the millionaire in the country club that a man could not drink a gin and tonic during winter time. The combination was strictly a summer drink and it was at the peril of your perceived masculinity that you would pop into your local and ask for one in December. Regardless of how hot it was. The bar itself could be engulfed in flames and no man trapped inside would dare pair the words together.
It was also universally accepted that you either had to speak with a foreign accent or have served overseas, preferably in one of the larger, more prestigious wars, to indulge in a beer you couldn’t look through and see the bartender smiling at you from across the bar. If you couldn’t see him smiling, he was undoubtedly glaring because you were drinking a dark beer without benefit of accent or scar tissue. If you wanted to drink a Guinness without being shunned by your peers, you had to do it at home, hidden from even your family, haunted by the secret shame of being a traitor to your country and its magnificent breweries.
And you certainly couldn’t order a drink with an umbrella or any garnish gaudier than a lime unless you were standing within 50 feet of an ocean or tiki statue. And even then you felt slightly less than a man. And if you ordered a shot, it consisted of exactly one hard alcohol. One. If your shot came with more than one ingredient, it was your duty to upbraid the bartender for serving you what was obviously an iceless cocktail in a child’s glass.
Sadly, the Rules were at some point chucked aside in favor of a freewheeling brand of alcoholic anarchy that leaves many imbibers woefully confused. First the microbrew revolution made a shambles of the beer regs. Once every beer in America tasted and looked exactly the same and you couldn’t go wrong no matter what you ordered. Now, however, there are light beers, ice beers, fruit ales, Zima and other assaults on our collective masculinity.
Part of the blame also lays squarely upon the shoulders of certain types of bars. You know the ones I’m talking about: those neon Barbie houses boasting menus of over 100 different types of martinis when in fact they have exactly two (vodka and gin) and 98 impostors. Thanks to these audacious con men, there are now roughly 20 million deluded yuppies who believe they are about to enjoy a martini when they order something rainbow-hued, sickeningly sweet and with an obscene half a banana sticking out of it.
Liquor companies must also share the blame. While humanity once only required exactly five types of spirits (gin, vodka, whiskey, rum and tequila) to get loaded, we are now faced with a ever growing tidal wave of fruit-flavored, double-infused, triple-filtered, cross-blended, small-batch, boutique and limited-edition variations to choose from.
It’s no wonder organizations like MADD are able to make off with our rights with impunity — we drunks are too busy trying to figure out what to get hammered on to notice.
–Frank Kelly Rich