There are times, sometimes in the midst of otherwise polite conversation, when it comes out that I make my living writing for the Reader. The follow-up to this revelation is almost never “Oh, that’s right, I read your profile of former New Yorker writer William Murray back in ’99! Great piece!” Rather, it is almost always “Oh, do you know Ollie?” (Or Duncan. Or Naomi. Or Matthew Alice. Or Barbarella. Or, or, or.) This has happened often enough that I have developed, without meaning to, a standard reply to the question: “Oh, no. All of us writers work out of our homes. They like to keep us separated — if we were all together, we’d just sit around and drink.”
I have no idea if that last part is true. In fact, I suspect it isn’t. But it does play off one universal truth — writers would most often rather do anything besides write — and one accepted stereotype: the leather-livered reporter, who, when he isn’t chasing a story, haunts the city’s watering holes, taking its boozy pulse, sniffing out the next trail even as he numbs his overly keen senses with cheap whiskey. “I see too much in my line of work, bartender. I see too much. So now, I’m gonna get blind.” Very romantic and, if the collection of cocktail stories contained herein is any indication, almost entirely fictitious. Happily, these concoctions offer something more interesting— a generous pour of carefully rendered detail, enlivened by a judicious measure of story: what we drink, where we drink it, and why.
A few of us did get together and drink at least once — a party at my place sometime last year. I made sangria. People brought beer and spirits — though I don’t recall any whiskey, cheap or otherwise. At the gathering, I had a chance to meet Dorian Hargrove, one of our newer writers. Feeling expansive, I lent him my copy of former New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel, the book that, for me, served as a model of long-form profile writing — the kind you might find in the Reader.
The first piece in that book is a profile of a place, not a person: McSorley’s Old Ale House in New York City. A journalist writing journalism about drinking — surely we have entered the seventh heaven, the fever dream of aspiration, the ultimate heady mix of business and pleasure. Except, when you read the thing — and you should — it becomes clear that Mitchell probably wasn’t drinking during his many visits to McSorley’s. The observations are too exact, the details too precise, the stories too packed with research and background. Nor does it seem likely that he was drinking when he wrote the profile — the rhythm is too even, the mix of anecdote and interview too proportional.
McSorley’s serves ale and ale alone. For everything else, read on.
— Matthew Lickona
Old-Fashioneds at the Turf Supper Club — Ollie
Tears of the Prophet at Parallel 33 — Pamela Hunt-Cloyd
Irish Coffee at the Ould Sod — Joe Deegan
Raspberry Mojitos at JRDN — Alex Finlayson
Salty Dogs at Nunu’s — Barnaby Monk
French and Italian at the Hotel Del Coronado — Bill Manson
Porto Blanco at Kensington Grill — Barbarella
Spanish Red Wine at Bronx Pizza — Matthew Lickona
Dragon’s Blood Sangria at Laurel — Sue Greenberg
Margaritas at Canes —Josh Board
Soju at Shozen & Manpo — Moss Gropen
Pearl Harbors at Carlee’s Bar and Grill, Borrego Springs — Michael Hemmingson
Long Island Iced Tea at the Brigantine — Ernie Grimm
Listen to Barbarella and Ollie discuss their favorite drinks on Reader Radio!