You know how it is. You’re squeezing out thawed boxed spinach into a colander in the sink, your husband is chopping cauliflower for the meatless meatloaf, and you reach for the drink you think is your chardonnay but it’s really your husband’s gin that he didn’t put an olive in and you take a big swig then you taste your mistake as it burns down your throat?
Yeah. Happens all the time, right?
I should have known by the smell, but it happened so fast. It was one of those moments where my brain didn’t identify the pine smell faster than my hand could tip back the glass. As soon as the gin hit the back of my throat, it was like a slow-motion “Ohhhhhh nooooooooo” moment in my mind, but it was too late. The swallow had begun and I had no choice but to follow through.
As my mother would say, “Uffda!”
It’s been years, 14 in fact, since I’ve had the hard stuff. When I moved away from Clarion in 1994 to finish my degree in Minneapolis, the bartender at one of my favorite local bars bought me a shot of tequila. I gladly licked the salt and lime off his bicep before putting back the shot. The burn was worth the bicep moment. Trust me.
Since then I’ve stuck to drinking wine, sometimes a beer. But last night’s gin surprise got me thinking of all the potent potables I’m missing out on. (Speaking of which, didn’t Mormon Ken Jennings run that category every time it came up in Jeopardy during his 74-game streak? Hmm.)
I’ve had some good times with Wild Turkey and Southern Comfort (not at the same time). Top shelf brandy on a cold winter’s night would bring back a lot of good memories, too. The only liquor I can’t drink or even smell without getting nauseous is vodka. Vodka brings back some of my worst memories ever, like the smell of an ex-boyfriend’s aftershave or the song “Sister Christian.” I put back a lot of vodka in the day. Straight up. No mixer. I’ve got the hairs on my chest to prove it.
OK, so I don’t have hair on my chest.
Perhaps the worst thing I ever did with vodka was mix it with grape juice. “WKRP In Cincinnati” character Arthur Carlson, the station owner, said on one episode that he liked vodka and grape juice. Called it a Purple Cow or something like that. I liked grape juice. I liked vodka. I was 17. That’s my only excuse. (Mom, if you’re reading this, it was Pam’s fault. She made me.)
My love for vodka started when I was a kid. Dad let me have the ice cubes from his martinis when he was done. Come to think of it, he let me have the ice cubes from his scotch and sodas, too. Didn’t turn me into a big scotch fan, though.
With most things, too much of something good will kill the pleasure in the end. And so it was with vodka. Too many trips to the porcelain altar, and that morning-after vodka headache is worse than anything wine’s ever done to me. But that was back in my wild days. I can’t drink like that anymore. But a few bad vodka moments doesn’t mean I should punish the rest of the alcohol on the shelf. I do love a good tangy margarita. And Jose Cuervo is pretty tasty……
If my throat can stand the surprise burn of gin and not be turned off, perhaps I’m ready for a Big Girl drink.