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What Your Drink Says About You

Published in Gourmet Live 11.30.11
David Wondrich decodes the imbiber’s manual and tells us you are what you drink

Drinks are like shoes; you need different ones for different occasions, and when they’re too large you tend to wobble. But just as it’s a fashion truism that nothing tells you so much about a person as their shoes, it’s axiomatic in the world of drinks that what a person orders says something about what kind of person he or she is.

I don’t want to oversell this idea—what you order might of course mean nothing more than you’re the kind of person who likes to drink what you like to drink. And Lord knows I’d hate to come up before the Drinks Police myself, with some tipsy Joan Rivers and her cronies cackling at whatever I order. But, that said, it’s always better to know what image you’re projecting, whether you want to do anything about it or not.

Location: Anywhere and everywhere
Order: A Bud Light
Verdict: There’s nothing wrong with the occasional Bud Light, particularly if your choice has to be light beer or no beer at all, but if that’s all you ever drink you’d likely wear jeans and sneakers to your daughter’s wedding, and “neat” sweatpants if you could get away with them.

Location: Anywhere and everywhere
Order: A heavily hopped microbrew, such as Victory HopDevil
Verdict: Similar to the Bud Lite drinker, but with better jeans and leather shoes

Location: Anywhere and everywhere
Order: A glass of Pinot Grigio. Or, in fact, any wine.
Verdict: Wine is a condiment. You drink it with food. To drink wine and only wine at the cocktail lounge and the ball game, on fishing trips, and in smoky dive bars suggests either inflexibility of mind or insecurity about one’s social standing.

Location: Anywhere and everywhere
Order: Champagne—that is, French Champagne
Verdict: Well, OK. If you’re going to be that way about it. No insecurity here. Displaying a single-minded devotion to drinking good Champagne is like displaying a single-minded devotion to reading Shakespeare or dressing like Coco Chanel.

Location: Anywhere at all
Order: Grey Goose and soda
Verdict: The dissonance here between puritanical simplicity and conspicuous consumption—once you mix vodka with ice and soda water, any difference between brands is instantly erased, so you might as well be drinking Georgi—places you as a member of the striving classes. There is an added possibility that you will be unpleasant to the help.

Location: Dive bar
Order: A Pickleback (that’s a shot of Jameson with a shot of pickle brine as a chaser)
Verdict: You spend too much time on social media.

Location: Dive bar
Order: A shot of Powers, a pint of Yuengling, and some change for the jukebox
Verdict: You spend too much time in dive bars. Text us and we’ll join you.

Location: Dive bar
Order: Anything that ends in -tini or -rita
Verdict: You spend too much time in chain restaurants and not nearly enough in dive bars.

Location: Restaurant bar
Order: Double Scotch on the rocks. Keep ’em coming.
Verdict: Your bartender will be watching you. Your server will be watching you. The manager will be watching you. And you know why.

Location: Restaurant bar
Order: A Widow’s Kiss
Verdict: This is a tricky one as its meaning depends entirely on the restaurant. If you’re at a place like Eleven Madison Park, which prides itself on a bar program that can compare to the finest in America, to order an apple brandy–Benedictine-Chartreuse concoction from 1895 is merely putting the scholars behind the bar to use and thus a sign of good sense. In most restaurants, however, such an order is nothing more than an attempt to play “stump the bartender,” and indicative of deep personality flaws.

Location: Restaurant bar
Order: A Negroni, however you make it here
Verdict: Clearly, this is not your first time in a fine restaurant.

Location: Hip cocktail lounge
Order: Anything that ends in -tini or -rita, except a gin Martini or a plain Margarita
Verdict: We don’t need to give you a hard time, since your mustachioed, tattooed, pierced bartender will already have done so.

Location: Hip cocktail lounge
Order: Dry gin Martini
Verdict: The sort of person who, when presented with the dazzling array of elegant potables offered by a state-of-the-craft cocktail bar, confines himself or herself to a dry Martini is the sort of person who dresses in Brooks Brothers, does not use profanity in public, and has never done anything crazy in his or her life except that one time in college.

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