So a company that makes those coffee makers that use small pods—I won’t name the company because they’re not paying me enough; more specifically they’re not paying me anything, and they’re so ubiquitous they don’t need me to shill for them anyway—has made a machine that makes cocktails from pods similar to the ones that are used for coffee. The problems with this should be obvious. Aside from the fact that the coffee machine already takes up a lot of valuable kitchen counter real estate, leaving precious little for dishes, cups, take-out Chinese food, mail, umbrellas, briefcases, keys, pocket telescopes, pill bottles, and the assorted flotsam and jetsam of home life, anyone who wants a wide range of cocktails would be better off going to a bar. I know the same could potentially be said for coffee, but even though the machines can make a wide range of lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, frappes, and draperies there must be a limit to how much they can do, otherwise all those coffee places wouldn’t be so ubiquitous they don’t need me to shill for them. And while you can pick up your coffee at a drive-through window I’ve never met anyone who went to a bar and asked for their Bloody Mary to go. And part of the appeal of the pod-cocktail maker, as it’s advertised, is that it can make beer. Apparently they haven’t noticed that beer is already easily available—to go, even—in bottles and cans. So is coffee, although that’s a more recent development and probably got the idea from beer. And no one who’s interested in brewing their own beer at home does it casually, as you’ll know if you’ve ever been cornered at a party by someone who tells you beer brewing is their hobby and within five minutes you realize it’s really their obsession and fifteen minutes later you realize they can’t talk about anything else and an hour later when you finally get away you feel like you’ve been squeezed into a small plastic pod and had hot water forced through you, but that’s another story. And even though cocktail-making is more of a niche activity people who are serious about it are the sort who take it seriously enough that they prefer the hands-on approach to making a sidecar, a margarita, or a martini, and, hey, how hard is it anyway to combine vodka and vermouth or gin and tonic or scotch and asparagus? And because it’s the end of the year the cocktail maker is being promoted as a great gift or the ideal accoutrement for your holiday parties even though it doesn’t make egg nog, or any other variety of nog, which I think is really the only drink, aside from mulled wine, which is also really easy to make—just think about it—for the season, one that should be shared with friends and family around the yuletide fire, which reminds me, what is “yule” anyway? When I was a kid I thought it was some sort of animal, like a small moose, which made the idea of a yule log really unappealing, and then I thought maybe it had something to do with Euell Gibbons who could concoct winter cocktails from pine needles and sap, or maybe Yul Brynner whose movies always seem to play around Thanksgiving and Christmas, et cetera et cetera, and then I pretty much forgot about it until now. It turns out Yule is an ancient Germanic solstice celebration that provided both the timing and many of the symbols associated with Christmas, including the decorated tree as well as the feasting and drinking. And I wouldn’t have thought to look that up if I hadn’t hitched onto this holiday line of thought, so something useful has come out of that cocktail maker after all.