The Land of Forgotten Cocktails


Resolutions for the boozily inclined

Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever.

—Mark Twain

My constitution, like that of most people in the tippling life, cringes at the ritual of the New Year’s Resolution. It’s not that we’re so pleasantly juiced as to think things are fine and dandy. To the contrary, we’re well aware the world is falling apart at the seams. It just feels like time on a treadmill or away from bacon and chocolate and happy hour might actually make things worse. Who needs the added guilt of falling off all those extra wagons?

So with that in mind, I offer for 2010 an easy regimen of resolutions for the boozily inclined. Consider them a series of modest proposals, subversive at the core, that if widely applied might usher in a more interesting liquid environment come 2011. Call it The Bollard’s eight-point plan for better drinking.

I resolve that in 2010…

I will not drink so much vodka. I take a lot of swipes at vodka and couldn’t let the decade end without taking a couple more. Vodka is a sign of surrender — just add anything and you have a cocktail. (Too lazy even for that? It comes in flavors!) But seriously, vodka is crowding out everything on the liquor shelf, and the big multinational liquor concerns are cannibalizing everything in sight to get you to buy more of it. If your local liquor store was Sebago Lake and your local bar was the Kennebec River, we’d declare vodka an invasive species and fight over how best to get rid of it.

But if you just gotta drink the little water, at least support your local sherriff: Twenty 2 Vodka is made in Houlton, Cold River is distilled in Freeport, and Double Cross, while not yet available in Maine, is owned by a gang of Capers.

I will drink more gin. The biggest casualty when vodka infested our bibulous waters was gin. Vodka stole gin’s mojo as America’s mixer of choice, even making away with gin’s great recipes. The Gin Blossom became the Screwdriver, for instance, and we all know what happened to the Martini (the once noble Martini!). So for 2010, resolve to fearlessly drink gin. Forget the two gin drinks you’ve had that you don’t like (the badly made Martini and the Gin ’n’ Tonic). Forget what your mother said about gin making you mean. Turn the tables and put gin in your favorite vodka drink: Gin Cosmopolitans are a vast improvement over the usual version, and a stick of gin in a Bloody Mary (a Red Snapper) is an exemplary way to get through brunch.

I will endeavor to taste better and will free myself from the shackles of marketing. Try to spend some time in 2010 tasting similar spirits against each other in a blind setting with an open mind. I guarantee you will be amazed. The results of a famous tasting by the New York Times several years ago showed Smirnoff besting all the premium vodka brands. Bacardi often fails to deliver the goods when tasted against similar rums, and Patron — well, don’t get me started on Patron. For my part, this year I hope to organize a blind tasting of the coffee liqueurs. I’m secretly pulling for Allen’s.

I will spend less. I will not buy “mixes” anymore. Not for Bloody Marys, not for Mojitos, and never for Margaritas.

I will spend more for fresh fruit like limes and lemons and grapefruit. I will squeeze the juice out of them and use it to make cocktails like Sours and Mojitos and Margaritas.

I will travel more. Go to bars you normally don’t go to, even if you go just once. Who knows what you’ll find there? You might find love. You might find a place to hide on those days when anonymity and a glass of cheer are a must. Or better yet, you might find a cocktail you can’t get anywhere else — or three.

I will read more books, magazines, and blogs that feature cocktails. This will spark your curiosity about all the bottles of stuff that isn’t vodka. You will discover some nifty recipes from some of the best mixologists in all the land. You will become an educated consumer and demand more from your bartenders (forcing them to make better drinks), from your local liquor retailer (forcing them to provide a better selection) and, ultimately, from the Byzantine apparatus I like to call the Maine Liquor Industrial Complex (whom you can’t force to do anything).

I will write more letters to all the stakeholders of the Liquor Industrial Complex. In 2004, the Baldacci administration sold the state’s liquor monopoly to a private concern. We’re only halfway through the 10-year contract, but it was clear after the first year that this deal is terrible. The public’s on track to lose at least $100 million. The fee structure has proven to be a comfort to the greedy and risk-averse and a nightmare for those who value choice. Portland’s (and Maine’s) hard-earned reputation as a culinary destination is underserved by this clay-footed troll.

So there it is, our eight-point plan for better drinking. Do as much as you can as often as is convenient, and don’t worry too much if, like most resolutions, these go in one year and out the other.

— John Myers

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