Blame it on Mad Men, this taste that I’ve acquired for Manhattans and old-fashioneds made with the rye whiskeys Bogart called for by the shot.
Maybe it was a re-reading of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye by the oceanside a few years ago that turned my taste buds on to the pale green summer goddess of goodness that is the gimlet.
Maybe I simply had had my fill with flat, dull tonics bartenders had neutered my Tanqueray with for too many years.
Regardless, it’s time to admit, with pride not shame, that I’m imbiber of what my wife teasingly calls “Old Man Drinks.”
I knew this change of life would eventually come. My hairline and waistline have been growing apart in recent years. As the river runs, so my back creaks. Worst of all, the music of my youth is now in regular rotation on the oldies station my father once tuned into for doo-wop, British Invasion hits and the occasional swinging ‘60s Sinatra song.
Not all has changed. My first potent potable love still remains beer. And not Budweiser blandness or, God save us, anything ending with a watery “light.” I may be aging but I’m not dying from tastelessness. I relish sipping on a unique craft beer as well as any Millennial coveted by the local developers of my hometown’s rapidly gentrify old factory district. (Note: During the peak of the housing bubble, my bosses in the residential construction business lusted that same way for Baby Boomers they “knew” would want to buy luxury second homes in the Las Vegas desert and North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains. Learn from those laid off executives people.) Helles (and a lovely summertime brew-style that is), I was in on the ground floor of the beer revolution, kids! Jim Koch, the founder of Samuel Adams Boston Lager himself, once poured me a draft when I toured his still regional-only brewery back in that first glorious Clintonian autumn when, uh … uh …
Where was I? Oh, facing hard facts.
Sophistication is not my people’s strength. I’m early-stage Gen Xer, born to Depression babies in the age of ratty tie-dyes and raised in the era of fluorescent Day-Glo parachute pants. My peers grew up lied to, believing good friends toasted each other with Löwenbräu, not the real German beer but the bastardized version dumped on us by the Miller High Life folks. Sure, we briefly flirted with pinot noirs, cosmos and every fruit-tini ever imagined, but we grew jaded and realized what our parents and grandparents did many years ago: a fella needs a solid, go-to stiff drink once in a while.
(Confession: Apparently one of my grandfathers had a thing for creamy pink squirrels and minty grasshoppers for a while. I believe that was his generation’s equivalent of experimenting with acid.)
Just don’t give me your purple prose on the “cocktail culture renaissance.” Ignore the poseur mixologists, pass on the artisanal ice cubes and just skip those rarefied infusions made with herbs cultivated by Himalayan monks conceived only in months containing the letter “u.” The fanciest I ever want to get is insisting my whiskey sour be made with real lemon juice and simple sugar syrup rather than that high fructose mixer swill from the supermarket shelf.
Instead, I seek solace in the solid simplicity of, say, a Negroni. It’s perfect as in perfectly equal parts dry gin, Campari and sweet vermouth (sub in rye whiskey for gin during the colder months and you have the equally awesome Boulevardier). It’s a red-hued elixir of soothing balance that rights the many wrongs faced during the day by any average person, such as an old man like me.
Originally Published on Always Home and Uncool