Monday, July 9, 2007

Ask the Bartender : Advice Column #3

Hey Bartender!
Once upon a time, I prided myself on being a girl that could hang with the guys - chugging beer, eating late night greasy food, and otherwise being awesome. However, I've recently decided to treat my body more nicely and have cut back on all of the above activities. My friends seem to take it personally that I don't indulge in their lifestyle anymore, but I just want to be coherent more hours of the day. Is that really so much to ask for? How do I keep their friendship and my new-found good health?

First, don't cut back on being awesome. Drinks and greasy food have nothing to do with your awesomeness. Your friends probably aren't "taking it personally" because you don't want to pound pints, but because you aren't spending as much time with them. There are two obvious ways to improve this situation. You can include them in your life more, or include your new self in their activities.

As a bartender, I do a lot of socializing in the afternoon or on off-nights. Brunch is a wonderful meal to share with your binge-drinker friends. The pressure is off, so you can drink your coffee while they order up another Bloody Mary. Try to leave your judgements of their lifestyle at the coat check; if you want them to respect your choices, you have to do the same. You can drench them in your exciting new plans for hiking under the stars and stories about the yoga class that took over your early-start Thursdays. Let them brag about their drunken escapades over pancakes without dragging you into an uncomfortable scene. You can have the quality time they (and you) miss, without feeling like you aren't allowed to grow.

If they just can't get out of bed before three, and whine about not meeting you at the old drinking hole, think about being awesome without falling into old patterns. Take up playing darts or pool, use your 'athletic' prowess as an excuse to drink seltzer and orange juice with a dash of Rose's lime. I knew a sober girl who used to shark the table in one of my favorite haunts; she politely refused when hotties tried to buy her a drink, and had a blast playing pool and trash talking to all her drunken friends. Being sober in a bar doesn't make you the enemy, it teaches you how to have fun without relying on a bender.

Have some patience with your drinking buddies. Change is hard, and people who spend all their time in bars tend to be a little weak on making changes in their lives. Just because you retired your beer mug, doesn't mean that they should have to make the same choice. You can still be the awesome girl who hangs with the dudes- all their beer guts aren't going to help them win the afternoon soccer match you challenge them to, their slurred words are never gonna beat your clever quips over a darts match, and maybe they could try to join you in your new activities. You should invite them.

Hey Bartender!
I'm finished college, and have my first real job. I'm having some people over for my first summer barbecue. Most of these people are new friends from work and my post-graduate life, and of course, my work crush. I don't want to say I've grown out of the cheap beers from my college days, but I have a little more expendable income in my life and I want to impress my co-workers (and the crush) at this happening. What drinks do you suggest for the summer party atmosphere, beer and otherwise?

Ah, the debutant ball of the corporate office- the summer barbecue. And the budding office romance?-how perfect! You might want to ask the crush out for a happy hour drink, so you can take note of his or her order, and stock it for the party- even if they don't say anything, they'll note it- and you'll score major "thinking about you" points. You are going to need some great summer beers, and a really great punch as a signature drink for the event.

Allagash Brewery in Maine makes an amazing classic Belgian style wheat, Allagash White. It's like a Hoegarten, but better, and made by a great domestic micro-brewery. Oranges are the appropriate garnish for a wheat beer, so have some around. Another great Maine summer wheat is the fruity Sea Dog Bluepaw Blueberry wheat beer. Everyone doesn't love the wheats, so pick up a sixer of Dogfish Head Aprihop, and for the begrudging few who want something lite and crisp, pick up some Gaffel kolsch. Kolsch beers are sadly overlooked by American audiences, but are light and easy on the palette. Stay strong on refusing to supply Macro-brew light beers - they taste awful and your friends deserve better. Insist people try something new and better.

I'll never understand why, but some people don't like beer. For those lagging behind the micro-brew revolution, you should mix up a bowl of Fish House Punch, a drink adored by George Washington at the State in Schuylkill Fishing Club during the American Revolution. This angling club was established in 1732, near Philadelphia, and claims the origin of a perfect punch. Don't worry, it doesn't taste like fish. There are many variations on this recipe, so don't be scared if you get a little bit sloppy with your pours. Remember that a punch is never better than the quality of its ingredients, so buy high shelf liquor and fresh fruits. You might want to double the recipe if your guest list is ample.

1 cup sugar (Rumor argues for brown sugar)
3 1/2 cups water (Include a large block of ice into this count)
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice (6 to 8 lemons), strained
1 (750-ml) bottle Jamaican amber rum (Appleton's rum is preferred)
12 oz Cognac (1 1/2 cups) (The best punch has Courvousier VSOP Cognac)
2 oz peach brandy (1/4 cup)
2 ripe peaches, sliced

The night before your amazing event, make a block of ice. Use a piece of flexible Tupperware to get the square shape- anything glass will break if you freeze water in it, so don't use your brownie pan. Leave the ice in the freezer until you're ready to serve the punch. It'll need about 8 hours to fully freeze.
Hours before your guests are even thinking about heading over, dissolve the sugar into the lemon juice. Mix it around a bit, then add the liquors and
one and a half cups of water. Some recipes use sparkling water instead of plain water- this choice is yours. Once, a friend of mine substituted some champagne for the sparkling water, making a strong but delectable variation.
Taste the punch as you're making it to see if you'd like a little more of one thing or another. It's your punch, your party.
Let the punch mellow in your fridge, stirring the mix once an hour until right before your company arrives.
When it's time to serve the batch, add your block of ice and sliced fresh ripe peaches. Serve in small glasses.

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