Non-Teetotalism

 

Bitters End

 

Non-teetotalism is the section of the Goat Waters website devoted to grog.  We do not advocate drunkenness or general hedonism, but we do think there should be a hedonic element to the day, after work, after education.  Yes, as my kids would be quick to tell you, I am a nerd.  Our kind of wild and crazy is the sort where a fuzzy mutt nuzzles your hand dangling by the side of your Adirondack chair while you sip at a glass of something delicious, savoring the evening sounds of waking insects buzzing the air, trilling frogs, and the final calls of the settling birds, chirrup, chirrup.  If we’re in the Caribbean, the houndsitter is with the dogs (yes, plural, again…we’re in the process, as I type this, of adopting a Shar-Pei Bulldog mix), the air is often quieter than in our woodlands (unless it’s filled with the cross-valley barks and howls of island dogs), but this air is so clear that another spectacle discloses itself with the setting sun: the stars.  Island air is clear air, and despite the best attempts of resorts and the inroads of industry, the islands have far less light pollution than southeastern Pennsylvania.  We don’t hope for a shooting star, we wait for them to flash overhead.  We count satellites, mark planets, puzzle out the less familiar constellations, and we do this with a glass in hand.

Come in…join us.

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I was fine, drinking my half decent wine and mostly mediocre beer, but a friend wrecked that for me.  He shipped me six beers that he ranked as worth sharing, along with a letter offering a few thoughts regarding each of these bottles.  If I find that letter, I’ll type it up.  (Yes, I’m a packrat.) A few years later, when I was regularly haunting the infinitely tempting beer cooler at a local pizza shop like the spirit of the unburied Palinurus, and when my wife & I had toured the local wineries, joined a wine club, and forever elevated ourselves to the modest snobbery of wine sold in bottles not boxes, my idea of a mixed drink was still a G&T concocted with Beefeater and Schweppes, decorated with a lime wedge on feast days … and at that moment my prescient friend mailed me an inscribed copy of David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.  Curse you, acquascum.

You really shouldn’t do this to an addictive personality.  I moved from a hunt for beers on par with Stone’s Ruination and Green Flash’s West Coast IPA, to a library shelf, then two, devoted to the art of mixology.  I dipped my toes into bitters and shrubs.  I gathered glassware, to the point where I can stock a small bar (I have hundreds of glasses because some styles can only be got, mail order, by the case), and I hand wash it all so the dishwasher can’t etch it like it has our household water and juice glasses.  I shook and I stirred.  I began using whiskey stones or large, single cubes of ice when modest dilution was called for.  Eventually I joined my friend’s quest for perfectly pellucid ice cubes.  Alcohol can lead to clarity!  Or at least the desire for clarity.  Let me be also be clear on that point, above, about addiction – it’s the books, and the chase, that I’m addicted to.  The hardest part of mixology for the non-lush is the ponderous pace at which new recipes can be measured, mixed, and enjoyed, and because of the expense of the ingredients, all but the worst venom must be imbibed, if only so you engrave it in your brain how bad mixed drinks can be.  They can be very bad.  They can also approach the sublime.  When my wife smiles, I scurry off to my desk and write down what I just did, which is typically a liquid riff on something I’ve read in a book or on a website.  I also make good drinks that cause her to cringe if I even beg her to sniff them.  These are the men’s drinks: dark, complex, and pinned up against the bitter wall on the bitter-sweet spectrum.  Yes, most fellows can love a ladies drink, though we are often loathe to admit it, but it is the rare woman who drinks with the men.  Cheers to them, those happy few.  I know two.  That’s not even a few.  Yes, that’s you N, and you K.

Before I go further, let me give credit where it is due.  As a craftsman and writer, I believe in participating in tradition, which always involves adapting ideas, but I’m also a strident advocate of hat tipping, of attribution.  At the top of this page is a extraordinarily detailed watercolor painting of a bar scene, titled, “The Bitters End of the Bar.”  It was drawn freehand, then painted, by the talented Margaret G. Thorn in early 2018.  While I’d love to post a high-resolution close-up, so you can really experience the level of detail – reading the labels on all the bottles – I promised the Thorns that I wouldn’t  because, very sadly, art images are sometimes stolen off the internet and turned into postcards, coasters, prints, and such without credit (and payment) to the artist.  We’ll have none of that.  If you want to see this painting under better circumstances, please visit Margaret’s web site.  You can support her by purchasing a limited edition print if you like.  The original “Bitters End…” hangs adjacent to our home bar, the counter of which more or less resembles the painting.  Yes, Margaret paints addictions.  I believe she calls them collections.

{Goat Note: the bar knife, which I plunged into the lime, sat in that lime for the duration of a photo session.  That knife had a carbon steel blade and when I pulled it out, the interior design of the citrus, pith and pips, was acid etched onto the blade!  It’s faded now, but I did take a photo of the blade.  I’ve also etched something else I shouldn’t have, the handsome serving tray, carved from a block of fossil-infused limestone, which my wife gifted me one Christmas.  A wiser man would not have loaded it with lemon and lime wedges and let them sit for a party’s length of time.  Oops.  Try not to be stupid.  Acid eats limestone, which is why limestone is often used as a PH buffer during stream restoration projects.}

gw blog bar knife limeprint

Enough for now.  This page will be the lead page for drink related entries as I have time to write them.  Some of the following pages have subpages of their own.  For instance, if you want to learn how we spill a drink at The Stuttering Raven, you need to find the subpage of the subpage Imbibe Responsibly, which is titled Spilling The Negroni.  Spilling doesn’t sound terribly responsible, but it is the height.