Humans have invented a thousand different ways to consume alcohol, mostly to convince ourselves that we’re not really consuming alcohol—that we’re actually just salted-rim and floating-olive fans, and all that 100-proof spirit is just a coincidence.
With these thousand options comes a dense nexus of status anxieties, snobberies, and social codes—such as the law requiring all bourbon drinkers to own a pair of leather driving gloves, for example; or that all I.P.A. orderers “could genuinely have made it” in the music business if they weren’t so damn good at strategic advertising and wearing too-short trousers.
The martini is for alcoholics who know a few Dorothy Parker quotes, while the espresso martini is cocaine for boring people. Ordering a glass of champagne means you want everyone to ask if it’s your birthday, when really you’ve just been dumped. Ordering a bottle means someone else is paying.
Prosecco is for bachelorette parties on a budget, or bottomless brunches taking place next to bachelorette parties on a budget and pretending to be relaxed about all the squealing. Pink champagne is for middle-aged middle managers in marketing. Crémant is for people who think they are the first people to discover crémant.
The Negroni-industrial complex is propped up by people who have been to Florence twice and have no intention of remembering their dinner later. The concoction consists of three types of alcohol in one glass, and it’s clever in that it really tastes like it, too. If you invented it today, people would think they were being pranked for a hidden-camera show instead of drinking it with large-format olives and saying “prego” a lot.
“The espresso martini is cocaine for boring people.”
Rosé can be legally consumed only if you’ve asked the sommelier how “pale” it is beforehand. Natural wine must be accompanied by comments like “You can really taste the soil in this one, actually.” Pét-nat is a bit like micro-dosing, or threesomes, or the novel A Little Life. You read an intriguing piece on it in The New Yorker, you could hold a passable conversation about it at a dinner party, and you’re sure it’s perfectly fine—but you’ve never actually tried it yourself, and that’s the way it’ll stay until the breakdown, thanks.
A hip flask is for “a straightforward shooting weekend,” as Prince Andrew so eloquently put it when asked if he threw a birthday party for Ghislaine Maxwell. A bamboo-and-stainless-steel bar set is the ideal gift for the man who has everything, including 92 types of dark rum, which you’re not supposed to touch. Owners of multiple champagne buckets will open a bottle at the slightest bit of good news, like an Amazon parcel arriving ahead of time, or their boss saying, “That’ll have to do, I guess.”
A continental lager is an Aperol spritz for men; an Aperol spritz is almost acceptable for breakfast, or children. Gin-and-tonics are for people who own humorous signs about gin-and-tonics. Sherry is for people with opinions about hard cheeses. Port is for the gentleman who absolutely intends to have a little snooze between courses, if it’s all the same to you, old boy. A margarita is for fans of heartburn or crying at short notice. A Bloody Mary, meanwhile, is simply a vertical soup.
Joseph Bullmore is a Writer at Large at AIR MAIL and the editor of Gentleman’s Journal in London