The Alcohol Algorithm

I’m somewhat blitzed this evening. After a tough day at work I had a great time playing Question Derby at River Run. This isn’t . . . bragging, exactly, but as a 40-year-old drinker, I’ve been drunk many times in my adult life. I tend to pause before speaking or moving when I’m drunk because I’ve adopted a simple, robot-like set of instructions to follow before taking most actions.

1) Do not endanger myself or others. I walk carefully, look for obstacles, avoid bumping things because I know I’m clumsy, don’t drive a car, etc. I sometimes feel like an ostrich having to make its way through a discothecque.

2) Do not say anything stupid. I can get enthusiastic and eager when drinking. I’ve gotten to where I run things I want to say through an extra filter that tests, in essence, “Am I about to say something really stupid or embarassing?”

3) Have fun! If what I’m doing is not dangerous, ignorant, or egregiously outside social norms, I know I can tend to ramble and blather on. I don’t mind saying things that I later think might be odd, random, irrelevant, etc., as long as I’m not making others uncomfortable.

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Boozin’ it up

A few miscellaneous tips for drinkers and amateur bartenders

1) Ice is important. You need about twice as much as you probably think you need. You can quickly chill cocktail glasses and shake drinks until they’re very cold, and for lots of drinks on the rocks you’ll shake a portion on ice and also pour the drink over ice to keep it cold.

2) When collecting spirits for a home bar don’t get top shelf brands of base liquor unless you really want them. The subtleties of the best brands are usually lost when mixed with fruit juices, sodas, etc. If you really love good sipping tequila than by all means get some, but don’t put $35/bottle tequila in margaritas for your buddies.

3) Invest in good liqueurs over time. Start out with some Cointreau, Kahlua, and amaretto, but don’t stop there. There’s a wealth of delicious liqueurs out there that reward you with drinks different from any you’ve tasted before: Luxardo (maraschino), Amaro (herbal), absinthe (anise), Frangelico (hazelnut), and so many more. They’re pricey, but a little goes a long way in a drink.

4) Try some bitters. Any liquor store will have Angostura bitters, and it’s mighty fine and useful stuff. Try a few others, though: a lemon bitters, Regan’s Orange, Peychaud’s. You usually only need one or two dashes per drink to add a great depth and complexity, so a bottle of the stuff can last YEARS.

5) Don’t use regular table sugar. Most mixed drinks are cold, and crystallized sugar doesn’t dissolve in cold liquid without a lot of shaking. Make simple syrup: one part water to one part sugar, heated in a pot until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally, let cool and pour in a bottle when done. Alternatively, get some superfine sugar (also called bar sugar or caster sugar); it dissolves easily even in cold liquids.

My day at the fair, by Joey, Age 40

joeycowsFor my birthday we went to the Orange County Fair up in Barton. I LOVE the fair. Not in an ironic hipstery way–I sincerely love the stalls full of well-kept animals and hopeful owners in their country best. The midway games, rigged or pointless or impossible, full of cheap toys made in a Chinese village where the workers must wonder what the hell we’re thinking. The Bloomin’ Onions, sausage and peppers, roasted corn, fresh lemonade, and cotton candy. I want to watch kids rassle pigs; I need fried dough with cinnamon sugar ; I crave a mirror with Black Sabbath’s logo.

See this little girl? She had bunnies. She took care of them herself and was very proud to show them off. joeycowsHad the makings of a sharp little businessperson too, letting us know when the next litter was due, how much they’d cost, asking if we’d like a cute bunny of our own. There’s something about a county fair that just feels different from anything else in the world–that mix of socializing, business, entertainment you don’t get any other place, local tradition, agriculture, good bad food, and, yes, tackiness.