Friday, March 28, 2008

Advice Column #19

Hey Bartender!

We've been together for seven years, and I know I want to marry my girlfriend. What's more, I know she's waiting for me to ask. I bought a ring about a month ago. I just can't figure out how to ask her. I mean, there's tons of cliche's that I'm sure she'd be happy with, but I really do want it to be special. I want her to be able to brag about her engagement, especially since most of our friends are already married or engaged. I just can't come up with anything. Help! My brain is an empty glass.


You need to revisit the fundamentals of love. Whenever you do enter a new chapter of your romance, you need to create an excitement about how you are loving each other. When you fell in love seven years ago, your love was fresh and dynamic. You were amazed by her, and she by you. Every morning was a bit magical and every moment with her was romance. Obviously, after years, life settles back in. Now there's no moment to ask her to marry you. It's not on the grocery list or the television line up or at the brunch spot you go to every Sunday.

At this point, most people fall back on safe ideas to break that routine. They go on vacation and come back engaged. They go to a fancy restaurant and by dessert they're engaged. There are aspects of these cliche's that can be useful: you want a sense of adventure and a sense of luxury. But adventure and elegance are not enough to rise above the norm; you need to add a sense of wonderment and magic to be overwhelmingly amazed and delighted.

How do you create a sense of wonder? You don't. She already has a sense of wonder, you just have to draw it out. Here's where I can give you no answers. Sorry. You know her better than I do, and you need to figure out what she dreams about. And then you need to make it happen. Not the big things, but the precious dreams.

Maybe she talks about sailboats and deep sea adventures. Instead of taking her on a boring yacht cruise, get a model building kit of the most complicated boat you can find. Spend a day with her building it, laughing, with glue all over your fingers. Ask her to marry you before you go on the island vacation. The mismatched, sort of looks like a boat sculpture will be on your mantel forever, symbolizing the joy you construct in each other.

Maybe she reads too much science fiction and is a big nerd. Make her a scavenger hunt based on science facts that leads her to all the places you both love and let it end at the planetarium, where you two watch a program on space, and ask her before the astronaut ice cream.

Maybe she wanted to be a ballerina. You could get those fancy dance slippers (tu-tu optional), and make a dance interpreting your love for her. The sillier the better, lots of leaps. She'll be laughing until she cries, but she'll adore you. Perhaps you could take a couple's dancing class afterwards, to prepare for the big day.

The best engagement stories aren't the most expensive or the most outrageous, but the most personal. You don't want to marry an idea, and you don't just want a wife-- you want her. So yes, figure out how to make her feel amazed, like she was when she was a little girl and first went to the aquarium and stared at the huge mysterious fish behind the glass. Make her heart flutter. Break your routine without using a fall-back plan. No matter what you do, don't put that ring into any drink. You'll have nightmares about administering the Heimlich maneuver. At best, you'll have submerged the most expensive thing you own into sticky liquid. Don't do that.

That's your homework. Remember: sense of wonderment, personal. Try to make her laugh. Be excited about her, let yourself fall in love with her all over again.

As for that empty glass, I really want to fill it with booze, with thinking juice. But to be helpful, I'd suggest that you take her out for a brain storming session. Order her a white lady (gin, cointreau, lemon juice), and ask her about dreams she had as a little kid. Figure out all the personal stuff that I can't tell you. Flirt with her a little, it'll be fun. I have faith in you. If you lasted seven years, and possibly for ever more, you can figure out how to make it magical. She's got all the answers. I'm just the bartender.

Advice Column #18

Hey Bartender,
I'm a senior in college, and I'm having that senioritis problem where I'm not sure what to do after graduation. The job market looks crappy and I don't have a very "professionally oriented" major anyway. I don't want to go to grad school yet, and they say you need life experience to get in. What should I do? I promised myself I'd let go of my anxiety for all of spring break, but some advice would be handy. A drink might help too.


The year after college is going to be the most trying year of your life. It will test you and it will not always be pleasant. All those things your professors told you about bright futures and infinite possibilities will suddenly turn into the horror of paying taxes, or worse, living in your parent's house again. Be strong senior. You went to college so you'd have options. You may not be the oldest, most refined whiskey on the shelf. You might not have that unending initiative that drives people to do great things immediately. You can still be great, and have a great life. Only, you have to do it. No one else can do it for you now. Step up.

First, find out if your school has a dossier service. Sometimes these are called letter services and are usually in the career services office. Open yourself a file, and give recommendation forms to every professor who still knows your name. Ask them to write you two general recommendation letters: one for a job and one for any graduate programs or grants you might apply for. Tell them you respect them, and hope that by asking them to write you a letter now, you won't have to bother them in a few years if they move on with their careers. Realize that you are asking for a favor, so be gracious. You want as many recommendations on file as you can get, so that if you decide to apply for anything, you can have the dossier service send letters for you, on short notice, without having to remind your professors who you were and how they might remember you. This is important- you will need these letters in a few years and they will not be as easy to come by then.

You might want to have a meeting with a few of those trusted mentors and ask them what they think you should do. Obviously, the bartender gives the best advice, but perhaps your teachers can provide professional contacts to jobs, internships, organizations, or research. Who knows, maybe your favorite professor needs an assistant on his or her groundbreaking new project, and you are the perfect candidate for the job. You don't know unless you ask. Ask early, before someone else gets there first.

Consider your dreams. Maybe being a rock star is a little far fetched for your first few months, but getting an entry job in the music industry or becoming a roadie for a touring band- you could make that happen. In the professional world, being pesky is called tenacity, so send thank you notes and make follow up calls. Defer your student loans (it's easy, really) and get a job that sounds exciting to you. Do everything you can to explore your options. Work on a boat, teach English in France, get a job on a farm in New Zealand. Don't settle for the coffee shop job unless you have to. For goodness sakes, get out of that town, which ever town you've been in, leave your stuff in your parent's basement while your parents are still living in a house with a basement, or get rid of all your stuff, and get someone to pay you to try something not on the required curriculum. Meet people in bars, walk through open doors, be willing to live your life. Your future is not right now. Your life is right now.

The sensible side of me also wants you to think about putting 10 percent of your income into a savings account, get a credit card you don't use but for emergencies, and not to get that tattoo you've been talking about. Start applying for things when you get back from break, in the spring, before applications are due. Get better grades this last term. If your parents give you money for graduation, put it into an interest bearing mutual fund. You need to work your way to your future, not spend your way there. Get a job, but get a job that challenges you. Meet new people (your college friends will still be on Facebook later), and try to make your way across some ocean to somewhere else.

The job market in the US might be staggeringly bad, but in other countries, the situation differs. A year or two in an exotic locale will not hurt you if you decide to come back. There is no rush, no time limit, and no prize for being the first one of your friends to go to law school, get married, buy a house, or get a job with a 401k and stock options. Try to remain confident in yourself, and know that you are making good decisions. Don't do drugs, try not to get pregnant, and stay away from diseases or too much booze. Also, don't live like this for more than 5 years. In five years, re-evaluate what you want from your life, but not until then.

Some cocktails rely on the harshness of a lesser quality bottle. Cocktails so classic that they emerge from a time when quality was harder to come by, but taste remained at a nearly unachievable level. The relic of that time is the Manhattan. One can say what they will of that tiny island full of nonsense and finance, but this drink is the ideal of American prosperity. Take a harsh, ordinary quality of whiskey, not the finest proof you have, not one that remarks in it's sweetness and smooth qualities, take that bottle and pour 2 ounces out into a high glass. A martini glass will do, but really, any glass will do. Pour one ounce of Italian vermouth, and a single maraschino cherry, and stir. Why? Because your future is based on you being able to make the best out of whatever happens. Your luck may change, your credit may suck, but you need to be able to let go of that anxiety and roll with the punches. When you hit bottom, push hard. Whiskey, like people, comes in many refinements. If you don't think you're precious enough to be drank neat, make yourself into something you admire. A great cocktail can open doors you didn't even see, and strangers at bars will change your life. A Manhattan is a simple, pleasant drink made from a harsh spirit and a little something to cut the booze. You'll be fine, kiddo, just relax and go.

Advice Column #17

Hey Bartender!

My girlfriend of nearly a year broke up with me a few months ago. We didn't speak for a while, but now, after I made a friendly overture, she's been sending me flirty emails. We're supposed to get a drink next week, and I think she may want to start something up. All in all, I'd like to be friendly, if not friends, but I think hooking up would be a bad idea. What should we drink to keep things on the up and up?

I am often amazed at how people refuse to recognize the negative impact of an ex-factor. Not how extreme you are- your ex-factor is how many ex-girlfriends you keep around. Why do you need her around, making things awkward? Is it to feel good about yourself? Few people are so awesome that you can't live without them. Do you want to torture future girlfriends? I don't understand. People do this all the time and I never get a straight answer for why. It's a bad idea, this post-love friendship. The point of the silence after a break up is to realize that your life doesn't need the other person, or to find someone else to take their place.

I can understand ex-wives or long term (like many years) relationships, those have meaning- those were partners who witnessed your life, and perhaps with whom you still have financial relationships. The girlfriend of one year- she was a project, a romantic interlude, someone who needs to be cut loose. She didn't work out, and neither will this "up and up" date.

You sent her a "friendly overture" because you wanted to know if you have a chance. Sure, argue that you just wanted to be friends; create whatever lies you need to tell yourself about how you just wanted to be friends, that this flirting and "starting something up" isn't what you had hoped would occur. This drink next week is going to lead to more rejection, either for you or her. You had closure before, this is about reopening wounds.

Listen man, ex's are not good company. They are emotional baggage you need to toss overboard and abandon to the sharks. You learned what you could from her, you had some stories, and now you need to put it behind you. The ex-lovers you keep as friends will only remind you of pain you felt, opportunities you lost, and the people you were- who you will never be again. What you need to do at this meet-up, for once and for all, is to end it. Not have some long drawn out relationship talk about what didn't work or what great times you had together, but end it. Shackle the hopeless part of you that wrote that initial email. Expel the dramatist part of you who wants to be friends out of spite. Give yourself a show of how much she doesn't meet your expectations. Get her wild sloppy drunk and see her worst side, then walk away after putting her in a cab home. Or get yourself wild drunk, and wake up with her the next morning to leave before breakfast. Either way, you need to kill this poisonous friendship before it begins.

My advice on total annihilation of your feelings: a Parkeroo. The Stork club spoke of this drink as a "among the more exotic of the restorative category... a sort of bastard martini". You need some restoration from this illegitimate evening. The drink had a slogan: " to drink it while it's laughing at you". Quickly, drink it quickly. To make: pour 2 oz. of dry sherry, 1 oz. of tequila, and a lemon peel over shaved ice, allow to chill, and then pour into a pre-chilled champagne glass.

Other fine options for getting wasted while you waste your time with your ex-lover include Kwak from Bosteels or Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Ale. Pauwel Kwak, a 8% abv Flemish orange beer, is begun with three malt mash, then browned and sweetened with candy sugar. It comes in a quarter yard carriage glass- a strange scientific looking container- the glass will remind you that this date is an experiment, and if you had any sense in you, you'd be leaving. Bigfoot is a barley wine style beer from Sierra, and at 9.6% abv you might start seeing mythical things that don't exist, like the future of your friendship. Just break it off man, save yourself the torture. Go have a beer with someone who hasn't had the chance to break your heart yet. Let go of the past and find yourself a well mixed future. If you were better distracted by your new company, you wouldn't write invitations to people who you shouldn't waste your time on.

Advice Column #16

Hey Bartender!

So I spent valentines day at a bar alone, and I met a woman who was drinking away her sorrows with her best friend. I got her number and now we're supposed to go on a first date. Any amazing first date suggestions? I'm a little shy, more of a nerd than a player, and want things to go well. Or at least to have a second date. Please?

Wow, isn't that the ideal end to a lonely valentine! Before we get to drinks, we need to talk about strategy. I'm not going to tell you how to get laid (there goes the readership); this column is about how to fall in love with someone. That's what valentines day was really about right? Cards and chocolates are only the beginning to our culture's meek attempt to articulate love.

So how do you spark love? Sure, you managed to get a phone number on the most desperate lonely night of the year, but now you're confronted with the pressure of calling her, and going on a date, and of course, courting her. Wow, that's certainly more to live up to than most mornings. You can do it kiddo. I have faith in you, or in me explaining to you what to do, and hopefully you knowing how to take some serious advice.

Call her and ask her out. Don't wait or be coy or play games. Just ask her out. That's why you got her number, because you wanted to spend some time with her. If you got her number for some other reason, this might not be the column for you. I'm still too hung up on love to care about anything less. And while you were drinking away valentine's day, likely with a glass of something that I pity you for- you were pining for companionship, not sex. So remember the goal you have set forth for yourself: love, which requires you to spend time with this woman in order for you both to fall in love, then yada-yada, birds, bees, fireworks- not my business.

Call her. Focus on her. When you speak to her think of her as the most important thing in the world- this is paying attention. You are paying it to her because she is worth it. Not because you are the "nice guy". You are the guy who actually listens. Your self-depreciating humor is funny. Your interesting stories are actually interesting. Don't spill your guts at her. She'll have to learn to love your guts later. Right now, for a while, you need to hold some things back- this is being mysterious. Are you actually listening to her yet? If you're bored, then you're boring. And don't tell me that you're mom said that, I know. Where do you think I learned this stuff anyway.

Back to the date. Ask her to meet you for tea. Tea? Yes, because you don't have to get someone drunk to get them to kiss you. If you do, you shouldn't kiss them back. On this date, you are not goal oriented, you are having fun. Fun is easier if you don't have to figure everything out on the spot. Before your date, discern an attainable fantasy- by fantasy I mean something you want to do that is fantastic. During the date convince her of your plan's brilliance. Then do it.

What am I telling you to do? While you're out for tea, say to her "I've always wanted to kiss someone for the first time in a planetarium". Then hand her tickets to the local science museum's planetarium show that starts in an hour. Wink. Or if there's no convenient planetarium, say "I've got this telescope in the back of my car, would you like to join me on some interstellar navigation instead?" Tell her stories about watching Star trek as a kid, or about astronomy club in high school. Valentines day may have passed, but romance is not passing you by. Can you name some constellations? Remember to bring a star map, or make up your own stories. It's your date. You want her to be enchanted, and you want to be enchanted too. So if planetariums and night skies aren't your drink, what is? Figure that out. If nothing else, have a first date that makes a sweet story.

Falling in love is about new experiences, about making someone feel a certain way for the first time, about bringing a sense of wonder between two people and holding it there for as long as possible. If you can do that on a first date, there will be a second, and many more. Another day, after you've discovered that she's the most fun person in the world and that you're both willing to have incredibly adventures in small ways, then you can slip some booze into the tea. Maybe she loves your guts, or loves your liver a little less than your heart, and together you'll see what both of those organs can handle.

How should you St. Valentine that tea? Pour half a glass of a spiced tea into a shaker with ice, add a shot of gin, a few dashes of bitters, and some honey. Shake and strain into a glass with cracked ice. Call it whatever you called that constellation, or tell her you named it after her. Or order up an old favorite, like a Zoom: one and half ounces of brandy, one fourth of an ounce of honey, and half an ounce of fresh cream, shook and served in a wine glass. Another delight for your new love could be a Honeymoon, a drink consisting of one and half ounces of applejack, half an ounce of benedictine, the juice of half a lemon, and three dashes of curacao all shook and served in a wine glass.

But first, you have to call her.

Advice Column #15

Hey Bartender!

I'm an average guy, but nobody really likes me. It makes it hard for me to interact with people or go to parties (not that I'm invited very often). I don't want to look like one of those guys who tries too hard to be liked either. What can I do to be more popular without seeming even more desperate?

Grow a mustache. No matter how zany your mustache looks, it'll get people to talk to you. It's a conversation piece on your face. At first, it may seem that people are talking to you just because of the mustache, but soon you'll find that the mustache is just an excuse to begin a conversation with you- the rest is just you. It's not a gimmick really, because mustaches are all the rage these days, and grow naturally on dude's faces. Just don't become that dude with the zany hat, that guy isn't very fun.

Also, find a bar and become a regular. Go there on a regular basis, on the same nights, and get to know the bartenders and the other regulars. If you find that your pleasant attempts to start conversations with people are not returned, that the bartender can't tell the vodka from the gin, or that people aren't asking questions about your mustache, find another bar and start over. You want to find a community of people that you think you could be happy socializing with. There's no point to becoming popular in a bar full of jerks. Once you find a nice scene, attendance is mandatory (at least once a week). You could be nice, or demure, or whatever you are, but just keep going to the bar. As the other regulars get used to you, they'll grow to like you. Eventually someone will invite you to somewhere else, and by then, you can decide if you want to go or not. Remember- the trick to not becoming that desperate loser is actually not being a desperate loser. You can say no and you can pick your friends. You aren't a loser, and you don't have to worry about becoming a person you aren't. You just need to go have fun. People gravitate towards other people who are having fun, and people with mustaches. You can be you with a mustache, and you can have fun. Popularity, sorry to say, is an attendance award.

What should you drink with your new mustache in a bar where you are learning people's names (or giving them hilarious nicknames) and challenging them to games of billiards? Nothing better to cure social anxiety than a butterflies cocktail. The classic drink contains lemon juice, grenadine, applejack, and gin in equal portions of 1/4 ounce each. Tell your new favorite bartender to shake them well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Sure, it's simple, alluring, and tasty- but it creates a radiant air around you which whispers, this guy knows how to have fun. People will like you, you just have to like yourself first.

Somewhere along the line, some lady will become jealous of your mustache, and your circle of friends, and shout across the room- how can I get one of those. Tell the bartender to send her down a Clover club on your tab, and after her first sip, say "well, there's the 'stache at least.." Ok, maybe my jokes aren't funny. But this drink is also great, and egg drinks tend to leave white mustaches on the smooth faces of the ladies that drink them. The Clover Club is 1.5 oz gin, 4 dashes of grenadine, the juice of half a lemon, and the white of an egg. Shake these ingredients with some cracked ice and strain into a small wine glass. Just try to have some fun, popularity will follow.

Advice Column #14

Hey Bartender!

My mom visits me twice a year. Last time she brought me a gift- a huge, exquisitely ugly painting. It makes my living room look like a discount bordello. She paid a fortune for it. What can I do? I can't leave it on my wall where people will see it. I have no room to store it. I can't get rid of it or my mom will write me out of her will. I need a drink.

I wish you would have sent a picture of this horrible painting. Perhaps I could find a drink that matched aesthetically. You have some interesting options here on what to do, and later, the perfect drink. I doubt your mom will write you out of her will over a undesired gift. She's your mom- and loves you unconditionally. That's what moms are for.

First, you need to find out how much the painting is worth and who deals or sells that artist's work. Find out how big of a fortune was wasted on the art, and the possibilities of the value of the work appreciating. Art is a funny market, and if you're going to jeopardize your relationship to get rid of this painting, you better cash it in. The internet has a lot of resources for finding other works by the artist, and assessing value. Useful websites to find out the value include www.askart.com, www.artnet.com, and of course, ebay.com. You may also find some background information on the artist's work that could help you appreciate it as your mother does.

Speaking of, why not call your Mom and ask her what in the painting made her think that it was perfect for you. If she comes up with unfounded answers, you could reply, "while I appreciate the gift, Mom, I think you see much more in this painting than I do, and that it would make you happier to have it in your own house." Then suggest a great place she could hang it. Let her protest, or ramble on about how it was a gift, and bring it with you the next time you visit her- and just hang it on the wall. You too, can insist. You've probably learned this trait from her. Try to understand her appreciating of the work, and try to remember that she was trying to show you those good things by giving it to you- and you missed it.

You are not required to live in a prison of things that cannot be re-gifted. You are not required to accept gifts you do not want and that do not fit into your life. Bad art can wreck the relaxing mood of your living room, and you don't need it. An option is to go to etsy.com and find something to replace it on your walls, or buy a painting from an artist you know and love- for a market (not a "friend-rate") price. You should support artists you like, and not feel compelled to keep art you can't stand. You have agency.

If you aren't ready to talk to your mom about how much you don't like the art, you can hang something over it on the wall where it presently hangs until the day before she arrives. The next time your Mom comes to town, go to some art galleries with her and find some work that you really love. Buy it. Tell your mom how inspired you were by her encouraging you to become a young collector, and then- astonishingly- realize the art you've bought displaces the work that your Mom inflicted upon you. You can also use the age old excuse that the old painting doesn't match your new furniture. Ask her if she would mind hanging the monstrous work in her house until you have a place big enough to take it back. When that time comes, tell her you can't imagine the painting anywhere but with her.

This second plan has the bonus of actually starting your art collecting, and making sure your mom gets to enjoy the present she thought you would like. I'm certain that it reflects her taste better than it does yours. You can also spend some quality time talking to your mom about what you like in a painting, so maybe the next gift won't be in left field. You two will have drank a lot of wine at the art openings, of varying quality and taste- much like the art. Just make sure you try to relate to your mom, so you can both understand each other's tastes. You need to show her what you do and don't like, in art that neither of you own yet. Then show her how dedicated you are to those tastes, by buying a work that you love- right in front of her.

While art opening wine can't be avoided, or upgraded, you can flex your big choice muscles afterwards with an aperitif. This choice drink can accompany dinner or dessert, and like you're conflict free resolution of the bad gift, has taken a long time to get just right. Pommeau de Normandie from Etienne Dupont is a mixture of calvados (apple brandy) and apple must (unfermented cider) aged for 30 months in oak casks. The aperitif is 17% alcohol, and has rich flavors of apple, vanilla, and prune. The rich and delightful taste will leave your mouth with a rinse of caramel. The mahogany drink has been aging in a certain kind of oak- the kind that was grown in sandy soil and burnt slowly when being formed into a barrel. If the oak were grown in rocky soil, it would leave a tar taste in the place of the vanilla. Your mother- she gives you things unaware of what they will mean to you- generally Mothers aren't trying to ruin your life or your living room decor- give her a little time to mature, and mix your critique of her gift with a desire to understand her tastes, and how you can improve them. If you throw rocks at her attempts to be kind, you'll just damage your relationship with her, but if you nurture her kindness, you can find out how much you have in common, and how art, and amazing Pommeau, can bring you together.

Advice Column #13

Hey Bartender!

I'm a normal girl who wants to sleep with another woman. My boyfriend feels that if I do, he should be allowed to sleep with another girl. How can I get him to understand that this is different; it's about self-discovery and not sex. I don't want him to use it as an excuse for cheating.

If you're in a relationship that defines sleeping with other people as cheating, that's what you're doing. Women are people too, even the ones you're going to use for supposedly meaningless sex. If you want to cheat on him with a girl, for whatever reason, realize that you're telling him that you want to share an intimate part of yourself with someone else, and that he might feel as threatened by that as you feel about his sleeping with another girl. If you really think that having sex with someone outside of your relationship isn't about sex, you're only trying to justify an affair. Come to terms with what you want to do here: you want to have an affair.

If you want to do it without him taking equal action, you could lie to him. I would call you a coward for that plan. Or you could offer him inclusion by asking him to participate. A three-some might not be as threatening to him as you're journey of self-discovery, and you could both be involved with the same other woman, and watch each other take part in it. Is it cheating if you're in the bed too?

Really, you need to move on from this relationship. Obviously he's probably going to have a hard time trusting you, and you want to sow your wild seeds more. That's fine. You want different things. You need to make a new years resolution to be honest with yourself about what you want and what you need. You need to be with someone, or a few someones, who want what you want. He should be with someone who doesn't think that their own dishonesty is an excuse for anything. You should be in relationships that make you feel good and fulfilled.

What should you drink? The Harvey Wallbanger. The drink was allegedly named after a surfer in California in the 1960's. The drink, a dressed up screwdriver, was invented by Donato "Duke" Antone, a legendary bartender who also is accredited with the first pour of the rusty nail. Harvey Wallbanger is served in a Collins glass, filled with an ounce of vodka, four ounces of orange juice, and half an ounce of galliano floated on top. The sixties were a great time of exploration, so here's a signature cocktail! Break up with him, go find yourself, just be honest about what you're doing and realize that you could hurt other people's feelings too. Happy New Year!


Hey Bartender!

I love my boyfriend, but he drinks icky dark beers and porters. I want, as a new years resolution, to make him more health conscious and get him to switch to light beers which aren't as fattening. I guess he's only drinking them to impress his guy friends, but I'm his girlfriend. My opinion should be more important to him, shouldn't it?

The sad truth is that you probably believe that he's drinking dark beer to impress someone, and that you think you can just exchange the dark malty porters for something light. Beer is beer, right? No!

Centuries of brewing have made great progress in the varying tastes of different beers. Your opinion should be important to him, but not if it's based in the land of make-believe and advertisements. Light beers don't taste the same. They aren't even in the same league as regular beers. The endless advertising you've seen about the macrobrew beers (Bud, Coors, Michelob, etc.) has brain washed you into thinking these beers are actually good for you, or actually beers. Macrobrews are made with the cheapest market grain, namely rice or corn, instead of actual brewing grains like barley, wheat, and oats.

Consider it this way: microbreweries who make those dark delicious beers are using real brewing grains to make them, and producing smaller batches with more attention to quality organic ingredients and sustainable business practices. Macro(big)breweries are making beer out of whatever is cheapest that day, which usually is the same material used to fatten up cattle. The proclaimed "light" and "better for you" beers are full of watered down cattle feed, and have a lower alcohol content. The craft brews are stronger, are made with ingredients that wouldn't disgust you, and are more likely to be nutritionally healthier for you. The healthiest beer you could drink from the larger breweries isn't even labeled light, it's Guinness. Guinness is like an anti-oxidant milkshake, with less than 4% abv, and a high iron content.

Your first new years resolution should be to learn a bit before you tell someone else to change their habits. If what you really want is a healthier boyfriend, target his sitting around all the time, or eating all those fried foods late at night because he's drunk. Go for walks to the bar, leave early to go home and make your heart rates surge. Eat less, exercise more. Drink well, and in moderation. You should learn to drink too, and not that crap you wanted him to drink, but some of his dark lovely beers. Try a rogue mocha porter from Oregon, a corsendonk brown or a grotten brown from Belgium, or young's double chocolate stout from England. Dark beer is wonderful, and in moderation, nothing is that bad for you.

Advice Column #12

Hey Bartender,

I've always been the type of person who pursues what they love. Unfortunately, I find that I often burn myself out while throwing all of my energy into projects and jobs that I care about. Ones that I don't care about bore me and I do not excel in them at all. How do I do things I love without killing myself in the process?


This is the time of year that we spend all our cash, in the name of saving the economy or holiday giving, and are told that giving is the most virtuous thing we can do. Maybe I'm paraphrasing some Plato that I read years and years ago (as any good bartender has a vague recollection of philosophy they've read), but it's a sloppy way to interact with people and the world. There are times when selfishness is indeed virtuous and helpful.

You have to care about yourself more than you care about anything else, or your life becomes dangerous, and not your own.

Whoa! What? Did I just misplace the tender in bartender?

No. I didn't. It's hard to understand, because we think that the more we devote ourselves to our goals, the better the outcome will be, but it's not always so. Without a bit of restraint, we lack the distance to critique our development as people or how our actions are affecting the progress of our goals. Most things in life barely deserve 70% of our effort (a C will pass), and for most things, that's more than we can muster. We aren't over-achievers in every area of our lives, just the ones we think are important. The fatigue such over-achievers suffer from comes from burning themselves out while trying to push 110% in every area. I'm not saying here that you shouldn't try, but instead that there are degrees of trying. Most things need about 70% to make happen, you don't have to be perfect at those things. The new job deserves about 90% for a few weeks, the old job is probably slipping to 80%- get a raise and don't get fired, etc.

The things that really matter: the big goals, the loves, the relationships- we have been too long convinced that we need to destroy ourselves to make these things happen. We need to learn to hold back a part of ourselves. It seems like the wrong thing to do- as Americans we are taught that the harder we try, the better it'll be. In some cases this is true, especially when you have to overcome obstacles, but that 110% comes at a cost. When you toss all of yourself into something, there's nothing left of you to admire what you've done, nothing left to nurse yourself back, nothing left to survive. It is a sloppy way to care about things, and not a way to keep above water. Those who admire the 110% givers are admiring the lost. You have to care enough to succeed, and stop yourself when it hurts. Maybe your goals need 98% of your effort, or maybe you can achieve that goal with 85%. It's not slacking; it's taking a little bit of your life for you.

Don't take this to an extreme. If you don't try and don't make any effort, you're going to be a worthless person to be friends with or do business with. Effort isn't black and white, it's not on or off. You need to find the gray areas where you try a lot, but not with all your might. This finesse will allow you to store some gusto for times when you need a little more than you can muster, or so you can teach yourself to relax. You are not selfish, but you need to learn to be, a little, and a little ruthless about it. You have to learn 90%. You have to learn that you need to hold something back for you, or you'll lose yourself. You have to learn to say no, to the only person you listen to, you.

How? There are many ways to take back some of yourself. Set limits. Schedule time for yourself, for things that aren't your projects or jobs- going out for drinks, or taking a yoga class. Schedule time to decompress; sleep in on the weekend. You know what calms you down, and you need to make sure that there are times when your cell phone is off, your computer is off, and you are having time for you. This is just as important as all the other things that you do to nurture your dreams, because it's nurturing you. Make this your first New Years Resolution: to keep a part of yourself for yourself, and to care about yourself first.

And of course, what do you drink? There's a drink which has become known for all it's extras, all the added junk that never really amounted to a better taste, a drink that needs to be paired down to it's classic form, and appreciated as such. The Daiquiri. Not the frozen mix thirteen fruit and avocado junk daiquiri, but the original classic. This is a drink that has been derived into a thousand forms, but still relies on the stable perfect cocktail that it should be. Don't go buy some mix from the freezer section, or get out those little plastic mermaids that fit on the edge of the glass, just get a shaker and some ice. Pour two ounces of light rum, one ounce of fresh lime juice, and half an ounce of simple syrup into the shaker. Simple syrup, as we all remember, is just sugar and water. Shake vigorously, perhaps to the beat of your favorite song that you're totally singing at the top of your lungs, and pour into the nearest clean glass. This is the daiquiri. This is the part of yourself you need to nurture so that everything you build, everything you add to your life, has a solid stable base to work from. You can spend your time thinking about how this drink was named after a beach and an iron mine near Santiago, Cuba. Your life needs to know how to treat things not just like a beach or an iron mine, but like a perfectly proportioned classic drink. Sip slowly while you think about what every aspect of your life is worth, and how much effort each part really needs.