Tuesday, June 19, 2012

family tradition.

I am single-handedly ruining my families most beloved tradition.

Maybe not single-handedly.

But you see, we have a tradition, a romance, with drinking, and my style is decidedly one-night-stand when it comes to booze.

I think one of the reasons for this is that I don't really have a signature drink. I would have thought that by 25 (almost 26...ugh), almost FIVE  full years of legal drinking and several less-legal years of drinking under my belt, something would have floated to the top, an old standby. Yet, while I've had plenty of romances when it comes to alcoholic beverages through the phases of experimentation, nothing has really stuck. I love bourbon and I love champagne and both have a time, but neither is right all the time.

You see, in my family, cocktail hour begins promptly at five. Complete with hors d' ovres. We're not talking canned cheese and Ritz, either. Think steamed artichokes with individual butter dishes, baked brie, smoked whitefish.  No, we don't fuck around with cocktail hour, a fact so ingrained into my being that when I find myself in the company of other families and the clock strikes five, I gaze around in awe that the moment goes by uncelebrated.  Any hope I may have had of one day marrying a Mormon or living a vice-free life were denied me by birth rite, but it's just as well, most Mormons I've met are too righteous for my taste and people without vices aren't that interesting to me anyway.

And so we gather around and sip our drinks and talk until someone brings up something that starts an argument and then we sip in silence. It's comforting, really, to have such a pronounced tradition, one most sacred when my grandfather is the person orchestrating drinks. It's family. It makes me feel at home, as weird as that sounds. Now that I'm rarely around my family come cocktail hour, I appreciate it more consciously when I am, I look forward to the time when we all sit around and talk for the sake of our sips and the company of each other.  

As you may expect, everyone has their drink. The standing order that goes without saying.

 Everyone except me.
My Nan always drank an Old Fashioned. She's not much of a drinker these days due to declining health, so even a glass of bubbly at Christmas is rare occasion, but from the time I can remember ordering a ginger-ale with grenadine from my grandfather at near-toddling age, I can see my Nan throwing together a tray of appetizers and wiping her hands on a towel as she'd settle her bright pink lips on an Old Fashioned.

Never mind the fact that I bartended for two summers and never once received an order for my Nan's old standby, I still feel like it's one of those timeless beverages that speaks volumes for the person ordering. I served more Bud Lites to a single person in the time I spent bartending than I received real drink orders from people who enjoyed good company and cocktail hour over the spectacle of getting OMGZ SO WASTED.

There's almost no romance in drinking anymore, unless you count going home with someone you meet at closing time, which I don't.

I think back to watching my grandfather carefully measure out the ingredients for everything in shot glasses, using his special bar cutting-board and knife to slice up an orange. I think of him presenting each drink with flourish, and it makes it hard to see the vice in drinking. One reason is probably because usually at family cocktail hour, no one was getting drunk. I mean, sometimes someone still did, but usually they had the decency to act like it was an accident.

Alas, I don't drink anything so romantic and complex as the Old Fashioned, although I'll order one to feel adult when I'm dressed up and feeling fancy- Or simply need to channel my Nan.  The fact is, I rarely ever sip at all if I've set my mind to drinking. In fact, I've been known to drink with abandon, unapologetically, when the mood strikes.  I'll glide like a skipping stone from one drink to the next, never claiming allegiance to anything before I meet my nights end and fall into sleep.  

At family cocktail hour, my order is always in rotation, sometimes a beer, sometimes a glass of wine. Nothing as distinguished as my Nan and her muddled whiskey, bitters, and orange peel Old Fashioned. I guess I don't feel like I've earned the right.  I have to hope that someday I'll gain the class and quiet poise that goes along with drinking such a sturdy and distinguished signature beverage, and I'll carry on my family tradition with the honor and dignity it deserves.- But until that day comes, you can be sure, there is decidedly little romance in my drinking.

Although at the very least, I still have the decency to act like it was an accident when the night ends with me pulling my dress up over my head.

1 comment:

  1. I don't yet have "my order" either; lately it has been a real margarita, but there are always so many other good choices. I believe every person should have an drink order, and it should say something about you.