Although alcohol doesn’t tend to make people want to follow rules, it does somehow make people want to create them. As a culture, we kind of foment this attitude about the correct way to enjoy alcohol and derive norms and then etiquette from these practices. That’s the first step. The second step is when and to what degree we can thumb our noses at those conventions. For example, once you’re an adult serving your guests wine in juice glasses makes a statement. Even if the statement is, “I don’t own wine glasses,” grownups understand the expectation of drink-appropriate glasses. The point is, it’s something a host is likely to acknowledge.
When you break with convention people want to know why. Sometimes the attention is aimed at derision but more often, I like to think, people want to know if you have happened on to something better. This is the way culture evolves. One person finds a way to do something better and people follow along. But there is a fine line between improving and ruining. I mean, you can’t ruin my rye by drinking yours with pineapple juice, but if enough people do that then there’s less rye-flavored rye and more pineapple-flavored rye on the market. I cannot accept that as a cultural improvement.
With the exception of horrendous aesthetic choices, alcohol is more likely to bring people into the fold than drive them away. As Mike Hindi points out in this week’s Happy Hour Todcast, mixing cocktails is a signal. It says you are serving alcohol at a party is to enjoy the taste and social lubrication, not to get hammered and spin out of control.
And that’s the real social norm we dance around when we’re at parties as grownups. If you get silly or even if you say or do something mildly inappropriate or untoward, people let it slide. If you end up puking on the hostess’ cat, that’s a problem. Setting aside the horrors of addiction, this is where I argue against drinks so fruity or sweet that they hide the fact that they are alcoholic. Whenever someone says of a drink, “You can’t even taste the alcohol.” I always think, “Wow. That’s too bad, the alcohol is my favorite part of alcohol.”
By the time you hit your 30s, drunkenness generally should be a not-unpleasant side effect of enjoying alcoholic beverages and conversation, not the point of drinking. I mean, if you know you want to get drunk and also know you don’t want to taste any alcohol that’s an attitude you really ought to consider reviewing with yourself or your mental health professional.
Sometimes the culture passes you by and you don’t even know it. In another 100 years it might be considered gauche or even barbaric to drink straight whiskey. People might look at it in the same way we look at rusty-still moonshine today. Barring a medical miracle, I won’t live to find out, which is just as well.
A Word on the Todcast
The Happy Hour Todcast is recorded weekly, 3 p.m.(ish) at the Pitt Stop in Berlin. If you have something to promote or just want to share your Eastern Shore experiences on the show and are free on a Wednesday afternoon, reach out to Tony.