It’s the New Year, a time when people try to put aside their guilty pleasures in favor of healthier, more socially accepted ways. But would it really be a tragedy if you ordered the cocktail you really love instead of the cocktail that everyone else is drinking?
At this point in my drinking life, I know I’ll enjoy a whiskey, a nice glass of wine or a good beer. Sometimes, though, I give in to my dark side and order a drink I know my friends are going to give me shit about.
Even if you have figured out which trendy cocktails you like to drink, there are still those tempting, guilty pleasure drinks that call your name. Say, like, times when you order a Mai Tai because you’re “poolside in Vegas”. (Not that I’ve done that, but even if I did, I wasn’t the only person having a Mai Tai garnished with gaudy chunks of fruit skewered on a plastic sword.)
The strongest among us have dalliances, be it with food (corn dogs), movies (Starship Troopers), music (Neil Diamond) or booze (boat drinks).
I’ve visited 13 islands in my life, and there is a recurring theme: delicious, fruity cocktails that triple-dog dare you to throw caution to the wind. While I have to be barefoot and sandy to drink Bahama Mamas in quantity, every now and then, they’re just too damn delicious to pass up. As a drinker of some repute, I know it looks bad to have an umbrella in a tall-glassed pink drink, but sometimes you just can’t care.
To prove that everyone has guilty pleasures, I took it upon myself to do an exhaustive and very scientific study of what guilty pleasure drinks people order. I spoke with almost 6 people I know who actively drink and with a professional, Sean Kenyon, barman/owner at Williams and Graham, who’s got loads of stories from his 20+ years behind the stick.
A sommelier friend admitted being comfortable/uncomfortable ordering canned beer. With a career spent figuring out how to get people to order expensive, old bottles of wine, he feels strange asking for a $2 Schlitz even if that’s what he wants. Does he do it anyway? Yeah, and that’s where this all fits together. A guilty thought isn’t the same as a guilty pleasure — you have to allow yourself the weakness.
Recently, a friend spent over $2,000 on several bottles of wine for a small dinner party. Delicious, hard-to-get juice everyone enjoyed for several hours. How did they finish this serious meal that night? With a round of $8 “Caucasians,” a nickname for a White Russian from The Big Lebowski, a movie that leans into guilty pleasure territory a bit itself.
Another bar professional friend admitted that sweet coffee drinks are her weakness (and I didn’t even have to blackmail her to get this information). Bailey’s and coffee might get sideways glances from her coworkers, but that doesn’t stop her from ordering and enjoying the hell out of them on a chilly day.
The other night, a friend sat beside me and ordered a Gimlet with Rose’s Lime. Informed (quite nicely, actually) that the bar only had fresh squeezed juices, he opted for a bartender’s choice, admitting to only liking Gimlets with Rose’s. I liked this drinker’s stance, and his decision not to compromise on it.
Sean preferred to keep his guests’ proclivities private (the mark of a good bartender) and instead admitted a weakness of his own: vodka soda lime. While that doesn’t sound like a true guilty pleasure, it is for a man whose livelihood is based on creating multilayered cocktails.
On a side note, if you want to try the original Hemingway Daiquiri (also called the Papa Doble), ask Sean for one sometime at W&G — not a damn thing guilty about that one.