An Ode To All The Booze We've Drunk Before

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote a beauteous ode to his alcohol of choice, Scotch, in this weekend's Style section. Scott is a man after our own heart.

We all make choices — and sacrifices — in this economy. But, as Sadie previously wrote, some things are sacrosanct — and things you put into your body tend to be. With the exception of Jess, every one of your editors was refusing to cut back on some luxurious edible, from coffee (Anna) to fancy yogurt (Sadie) to booze (Dodai and I).

The thing about booze is that you really can't go back to those halcyon days when vodka came in plastic jugs and wine from Boone's after you've grown a taste (or a nose) for the good stuff. Scott says:

...nothing is not really an option. And neither, frankly, is a blended jug with a bagpipe player on the cover. I want a single malt with a name I can’t pronounce and a creamy, austere label that tells a complicated story about ancient sherry casks and peat and heather and weird little islands full of taciturn Presbyterians. I want what is perhaps the only luxury product manufactured in a place notorious for thrift.

But, as he notes, it's about the taste and the nuances that are lacking in the cheaper substitutes. What goes for Scotch goes for wine (and even vodka, the plastic-bottle variety of which smells more like rubbing alcohol to me with each passing year). It's not a luxury item if the less expensive variety is so dissimilar from the good stuff.

So, to justify my continued consumption of (relatively) expensive red wine, I'll try to keep up with Scott's lyrical defense of his Scotch habit. Red wine is not meant to taste like grape juice, nor is the alcohol in it intended to overwhelm your palate or nose at the first sip, as a cheap one will. You shouldn't pucker with the sharpness or taste it more on the middle of your tongue than anywhere else. The alcohol should creep up on your palate, not your nose; it should slide smoothly across your tongue and toward the back of your throat leaving little bursts of scent and flavor in its wake that contribute to — not distract from — the whole. The warmth of it should creep up on you like a lover carrying a soft blanket to place around your shoulders on a cold night, rather than burn in your stomach or your throat. Intoxication should creep across your consciousness the way that fog does to the hillsides where good wine is grown — quietly and gently, lulling you into the sense that you can still see clearly.

Alcoholic grape juice isn't red wine anymore than blended malts can be considered "Scotch," and its effects on the psyche and the body cannot be replicated with a cheap pretender to the name. Boone's might be a cheap alcoholic beverage of a similar alcohol content and color, but it's not a substitute for that which will see me through this economic crisis. Now if only I could convince my parents of that when it comes time for Christmas dinner.

Cutbacks? Yes. Cheap Scotch? No Thanks. [New York Times]

Earlier: What's Your "Necessary Luxury?"
Red Wine Mouth: When Your Lips Get As Ugly As Your Issues With Alcohol