The Man boldly shakes up his signature pour
I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis.” Those are the last words of Humphrey Bogart, who after years of heavy smoking and hard drinking apparently decided it was gin that finally did him in. Unlike Bogie, and despite a noble effort on its part, gin has yet to get the best of me. But Bogart’s lament got me thinking. I’ve been a devout martini drinker for years and have never really acquired a taste for whiskey. Did he know something I don’t? Is it time to change my gin-drinking ways?
I’ve always placed whiskey in the same category as sushi and bluegrass music: things I can endure for about fifteen minutes before getting sick. Generally after a night spent drinking gin, I awake feeling a little groggy but more or less human. After a night spent drinking whiskey, I wake up with a head like an aquarium and a mouth like a litter box. Dark liquors have never been kind to me, which could stem from a very traumatic teenage incident where, on a dare, I stole a dusty bottle from the back of my parent’s liquor cabinet and chugged a quarter of its contents. Even now just typing the word Kahlua makes me queasy.
We do tend to find a drink we like and stick with it. I have some friends who drink nothing but red wine and others who confine themselves to Scotch, beer, bourbon, or vodka. Some go a step further and drink nothing but Pinot Noir, or single-malt Scotch or small-batch bourbon. Pretentiousness aside, obviously one’s palate plays a major role in what we imbibe. Recently at the Trappe Door I overheard an obnoxious young woman, perplexed by the restaurant’s extensive Belgian beer list, ask the bartender where she could find “something that tastes like Bud Light.” I wanted to suggest she try the faucet in the restroom. But who I am to judge?
Scientists say our genetic predisposition for certain tastes plays a very small role in our food and drink preferences. I find that hard to believe since I’ve despised salmon, cantaloupe, and turkey since I first shoved them off the tray of my high chair. Then again I was well into my twenties before I learned to enjoy oysters, blue cheese, and anchovies. Do our preferences in alcohol work the same way? If one tries hard enough, can one acquire a taste for Ouzo or Pernod or even Fluffed Marshmallow–flavored vodka?
But in truth it’s not just Bogart’s words that are making me consider switching from gin to whiskey. It’s also the words of Richard Overton, the oldest surviving American World War II veteran. In an interview, Overton credited his longevity in part to his habit of mixing a little whiskey in with his morning coffee and sipping a little more at night mixed with soda. Bogart died at 57. Overton just turned 108. I think that’s a story worth its liquor.