by Lou Bustamante
As I was having an email conversation with an old friend I’d reconnected with on Facebook, I was struck by the difficulty of describing my interest in spirits (and my profession) without conjuring up images of the movie “Leaving Las Vegas.”
Drunk. Lush. Alcoholic. Bar fly. Boozer. Lubricator. Those are some of the nicer names to describe people who enjoy fine spirits and cocktails, but those words don’t adequately define people like me. All those expressions characterize overindulgence instead of a refined interest in liquor. It would be like using the word glutton to describe a gourmet. It’s clear that we need a suitable name for ourselves.
Without a doubt alcohol has an image problem, especially hard liquor and cocktails. People mostly see alcohol as a means to get drunk, as quickly as possible, with no regard for the taste. Sure, they want a delicious cocktail, but they’d rather taste the mixers than the spirits.
Beyond the Long Island Iced Tea ideology, there exists a group of people who are interested, either professionally or as a hobby, with the collecting, mixing, history, production, and discussion of spirits and cocktails. The fact that it’s alcoholic is more important for its chemical properties than for it’s intoxicating effects.
No one is accusing anybody in the third-wave coffee movement (Stumptown, Blue Bottle, etc.) of drinking espresso merely for the caffeine. But just as bean selection, proper roasting, and expertise brewing all have an impact in the cup, similar skill and consideration is becoming more commonplace in the bar.
The craft cocktail movement illustrates the growing core of people who need a new identity—people who care deeply about what’s in the glass: how it got there, where it was made, who made it, and the history of it’s development. These are the folks who have created a renewed interest in, and availability of, small-batch artisanal products from tiny distilleries.
Back to the question of what to call us. The term foodie* is about as close as it gets, although in my mind the expression is too general and includes a great number of people for whom alcohol is of little interest, or even forbidden. (More for us, I say. The less competition I have looking for the yearly release of Sazerac 18 year Rye, the better.)
Somehow the term Drinkie just isn’t right. It sounds like something you’d serve a kindergartner in a sippy cup or a box. Drinkanado? No. Boozacrat? Too far in the Frasier Crane direction. Boozadore? Even worse.
Since a lot of fuel for the movement has come from looking back at the pre-prohibition era, I propose we draw a name from the older lexicon. But words like bon vivant, boulevardier, and gourmet, are frankly too broad—and hard to spell.
Liquorist stands out; old terminology for someone who creates spirits. It sounds sophisticated, appropriately defines a spirits enthusiast, and more importantly is an expression I’d use to describe myself.
The only thing left to do is say, “I am a Liquorist.”