Recently I read a review of some local specialty non-alcoholic drinks. In other words cocktails without the alcohol. The cynic in me thinks mocktails are just a way for restaurants and bars to charge fancy drink prices while saving themselves money by cutting out the alcohol—the ultimate form of watering down drinks. But I also get that there’s much more to it than that. People who don’t drink deserve to have a fancy drink and even those of us who do drink sometimes want another option. Having something flavorful and different and still being able to drive home is a nice thing too.
And it occurs to me they’re not really all that new as an idea. Back when I was in college and would go out with friends there’d always be one or two people in the group who would order a virgin pina colada or daiquiri, and then there was that one joker at the end of the bar who’d ask for a virgin martini, just to see what the bartender would do.
And long before I started going out with friends and ordering virgin martinis I was introduced to the Shirley Temple—not the actress but the drink named after her which, funny enough, she hated. I was seven or eight and I guess my parents couldn’t get a babysitter because they took me to a fancy restaurant where the waitress, after taking their drink orders, turned to me and asked, “And, you, sir, would you like a Shirley Temple?”
I had no idea but I was a polite kid, even when panicking under adult scrutiny, so I blurted out, “Yes, please!” and felt very grown up drinking my fancy drink from a stemmed glass with a bendy straw.
Some time after that I had some friends over from school and my parents weren’t home and I got this crazy idea I’d play bartender, draping a towel over one arm and mixing up Shirley Temples in regular glasses using some Sprite that was about to go flat, since we didn’t have any ginger ale, and a jar of maraschino cherries I found in the back of the refrigerator that I’m pretty sure my parents bought when Nixon was still in office. Then I spilled one of the drinks while serving my friends and panicked and realized that bartending may look cool but it can also be exhausting.
The same is true of cooking. I like to cook and I’m pretty good at it, but, while some nights I have no problem making a quiche, other nights I barely have the energy to scramble a couple of eggs. The same goes for fancy drinks. Some nights I’m up to making a cocktail. Some nights all I want to do is open a bottle or a can and pour.