Kaye and Altier’s How to Booze

I wasn’t going to do a full post on Jordan Kaye & Marshall Altier’s book, How to Booze: Exquisite Cocktails and Unsound Advice.  No, I was just planning to quietly add it to the Recommended Reading page with a few quick words, and leave it at that.  You see, I didn’t want to embarrass myself by drawing attention to the fact that I’ve been reading it since way back when.  Yet as I finished the book and looked back on the pages I dog-eared, I realized this short book really had several great quotes, and even a few lessons that are worth elaborating upon.

At first glance, this short book reads like any other “how to” booze guide: a description of standard barware; the authors’ description of several cocktails, alongside an entertaining description of the drink’s purported origins and a singularly notable situation the authors found themselves in whilst drinking the particular libation.  And perhaps that well-worn formula was partly responsible for why it took me so long to finish the book.

That’s not to say it’s a bad, unhelpful, or even unfunny book.  On the contrary – the book’s early instructions on “garnishing with a lemon peel” and “how to flame an orange peel” are two uniquely helpful and interesting paragraphs.  However, most of book’s early content – “if any self-destructive pastime can be elevated into an art form, we believe we have stumbled upon it,” for example – rang hollow, trite, and overused.

On the other hand, there are other parts I agree with wholeheartedly.  The authors’ statement that “the right drink is always, always, always, whatever you bloody well feel like drinking” is spot on.  You can’t disagree with their assertion that the Americano’s history makes it belong “to everywhere and nowhere” and that it’s “rarely out of place.”  And I particularly enjoyed their rant against technology’s pervasiveness when out drinking:

We will not join the rest of the world in celebrating this information revolution…  So for old time’s sake, pretend for the moment that your flight is ready for takeoff.  Power down your handheld devices, lift up your trays, and unplug your laptops.  Cut off all access points to the factual record.  The only way to test the strength of your friendships is to nearly ruin them by bickering as if there is no right answer: as if you live in a vacuum and the only path towards redemption involves repeating the same points over and over at progressively louder decibels, insulting each other’s intelligence, and rejecting the possibility of your own fallibility.

Perhaps it is my age, or my current place in life, that made this book’s later pages more relatable than some of the earlier content.  In recommending the Golden Gin Fizz before attempts at procreation, the authors turn introspective.  “Having children may not be the rational thing to do, but it is the gratifying thing to do: gratifying in ways that only a parent can truly comprehend.  Parenting makes every other activity look idiotically pointless in comparison—but it takes being a parent to know that.”

A few pages later, they make a similar point, suggesting the Mint Julep for those times you must accept your present station in life, that of the average, run-of-the-mill yuppie father.  “Throughout life, there are dark moments of weakness, humiliation, and shame – many of them are described in this book – and they call, desperately, for something called liquid dignity.  This is a concept we have no doubt inherited from Hemingway, and though we didn’t want to get you down by mentioning it too early in the book, we should note that the need for liquid dignity is a primary reason for boozing.”

This book’s applicability and usefulness will certainly depend on where you are in life.  Nevertheless, everyone can learn a thing or two about choosing the right drink for the right time.

Published in: on January 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm  Comments (2)  
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