About a month ago I had the privilege of traveling to Oxnard, California (about an hour north of L.A.) as a birthday gift from my sister. After a full official year of legal drinking experience, I thought I had seen it all. Indeed, I’ve gained a great deal of knowledge and experience since I turned 21; yet this weekend provided some much-needed prospective on the economics of booze as well as coastal and global differences in the ways people consume alcohol.
On my five-and-a-half hour flight to L.A. I was lucky enough to be seated next to a fellow college student, a 21-year-old from Queens University, originally hailing from Trinidad. The flight attendant tried to charge us each $7.00 for an ounce of booze, but my Trinidadian/Canadian friend told a very sad story about what a long flight it was, and how he had only four American dollars because he thought Canadian currency would be more widely accepted in the U.S., and she (somewhat begrudgingly) gave us both free tiny airplane bottles of booze.
On the topic of alcohol, my friend offered a family recipe from Trinidad for my column. “It’s actually a rhyme,” he said. “One sour, one sweet, three strong, four weak.” He went on to tell me that that recipe “is actually shit” and you must add some things to the recipe to make it work. So here it is, straight from Trinidad.
1 part pure, fresh lime juice
2 parts simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled until dissolved, allowed to cool)
3 parts gold rum
4 parts water
To liven up this punch recipe, my friend recommends adding several dashes of angostura bitters (to taste), along with ground nutmeg and sliced fruit. Prepare for an authentic island experience!
Part of the weekend festivities included a wine tour up the coast. As I cannot give you a recipe for wine (although I imagine it starts with “grapes”) I can only recommend that you go out and buy a bottle of California Pinot Noir — you won’t regret it. Northside offers a 2008 Pinot Noir from the Cambria winery in the Santa Maria Valley — it’s a little on the pricier side, but well worth the extra bucks. Just don’t drink a bottle of it, and then a whole bunch of whiskey and then an 8-ounce steak. It tastes great going down, but … ugh … you know the rest.
On the car ride home from the wineries I received a text message from a dear friend who was also in southern California for the weekend. “Discovered a new type of bomb drink,” he reported. “It’s called a lunch box.” Apparently going to southern California is quite the education in booze. I was skeptical when he told me the ingredients, but this bomb definitely falls in the “Don’t Knock It ‘Til You Try It” category.
4 oz. light beer (anything but Keystone)
1 oz. orange juice
1 oz. Amaretto liqueur
For those of you not familiar with a “bomb” (c’mon now, really guys?) pour the first two ingredients into a pint glass and drop a shot glass of amaretto into the glass. Chug. Enjoy.
So what are some morals from this story? First, booze is more expensive on airplanes (and airport bars), but never underestimate the value of a good personality (or sexy accent) to circumvent the laws of supply and demand. Second, if you go to southern California, try the Pinot Noir. Third, whether its through mixology columns, family rhymes, text messages or chance encounters on airplanes, alcohol has a language all its own, with an ability to express cultural and geographical differences, as well as cross those same boundaries when shared amongst family, friends and strangers.
Or, if you prefer, can just get you really friggin' smashed. And isn’t that the beauty of it? RLD