The Hay-Adams, Washington (two years ago) - On our last night in Washington, mid-May 2008, the Z and I were at the Off the Record bar - itself an institution, and the closest (geographically and figuratively) power bar to the White House that you'll find - having a final libation before turning in for the night and closing the D.C. chapter of our lives. We were chatting up the patrons and generally reflecting on the previous eight years when a fully intoxicated man saddled up next to us and informed the barman that he was making the switch to his "summer drink."
The impetus behind this pre-Labor Day decision was that he'd just left a reception at the Russian Embassy where all he could rummage up were vodka drinks. So really the premature changeover was force-fed. But it was fortuitous, b/c his comment got me thinking about a glaring oversight in my own drinking habits. I was, for all intents and purposes, a whiskey, beer, and wine-man, and had essentially relegated clear spirits to the memory of when my dad used to pick me up from baseball practice, and in my haste to quench a thirst I would instinctively grab his "water" glass only to take a giant gulp of a gin/vodka tonic. I hated it b/c a) I was twelve, and b) didn't know any better; he hated it b/c whatever I'd just imbibed ended up regurgitated all over the dashboard... looking back, it was an entirely understandable irritation.
So over the ensuing two months, prior to starting a new job, I base-camped in New Orleans and began the process of adding my own official summer drink to the repertoire. Slowly but surely an appreciation began to take hold, and I credit entirely the Absinthe House for countless "educational' gin gimlets and vodka tonics. Toward the end of my stay I was taking lessons with the Negroni and the iconic Martini. Then football season arrived, and like a moth to a flame I was drawn instinctively back to the brown liquor. But each summer since I've attempted to broaden my reach into the cabinet, and while my failsafe whiskey and soda still finds its way into my tumbler, I do my best between Memorial and Labor Day to keep it light and refreshing. Usually straight up... with a twist.