The year 2015 brought with it a few experiences made me think a lot about why we drink and what we hope to get out of it. For example, this fall I taught a series of cocktail classes in Toronto, and chatting with participants taught me about the concerns and aspirations people have when they make drinks. More recently, cutting down on my liquid intake for health reasons has forced me to focus carefully on what I consume.
Here’s the major takeaway for the year, which I hope will help us all drink better in 2016: If we prepare and consume our drinks slowly and with attention, we will drink less but enjoy it more. If that sounds simple and obvious, I promise the concrete experience of it makes for a more profound revelation than just the words. As pleasures go, intoxication’s got nothing on liquid meditation. So try it. You may have to shed some pound-it-back and refill-the-glass habits of youth (some of us do anyway). Here are three pointers that can help make every drop count, so you can enjoy beverages more while, ideally, drinking less.
Think about matching your beer and wine to your meal
When you drink, drink with food. The right wine or beer will satisfy with quality, not quantity. Don’t just wing it at the liquor store: Plan your meals and drinks around each other, and pick up wine or beer that will complement the main dishes. Certain books will aid you with more than enough practical suggestions. For wine, try Eric Asimov and Florence Fabricant’s Wine With Food: Pairing Notes and Recipes from the New York Times (Rizzoli), and forbeer, consult The Beer & Food Companion (Jacqui Small) by Canadian beer writer Stephen Beaumont.
Don’t take shortcuts
Whenever someone tells me a cocktail recipe didn’t turn out, I ask them what shortcut(s) they took. Inevitably they sheepishly admit: I didn’t have this, I used that instead, and so on. No matter how poorly the drink turns out, people always seem to feel obligated to down it anyway. The lesson: Don’t make a cocktail unless you have the proper ingredients and understand the recipe instructions. Google what you’re unsure of, or ask me over Twitter: @a_mcdo.
Invest in beautiful booze gear
Quite possibly my favourite possession in the world is a squat wooden pitcher that my girlfriend bought me. It’s fashioned out of a piece of birch by Japanese artisan Kota Fukanaga (his wares are intermittently available through the Toronto shop Mjölk, mjolk.ca). It was intended as a vessel for sake but I usually use it to hold the spring water I splash into my scotch.
If you’re paying more attention to each sensory detail as you drink, the aesthetics matter, too. We can elevate our everyday drinking if we gradually replace our ordinary drink ware — glasses, cocktail shakers, strainers and the like — with objects of true elegance, such as you’ll find at specialist retailers like BYOB (byobto.com). Populate a shelf with the warm glow of copper spoons and sinuously etched glass tumblers and they’ll practically beg you, as you pass by, to make a little ritual of stirring up an after-work old fashioned. Perform the ritual with enough care and one will be enough.