It took me forever to become a boozehound who’d order Jameson at bars. In my sloppy beginnings, I tiptoed around it so hard, you would’ve thought I was trying to sneak-attack liquor.
First, as a precocious teenager, I gained alcohol’s trust, sipping beers, downing shots reluctantly, and emptying wine coolers because...I don’t know, guys; what reasonable explanation is there, really?
Secondly, I learned alcohol’s customs, suddenly getting hellfire hammered on empty stomachs out of a nervous disposition. I finally worked up the courage to explore, as only a timid young lad can.
I drank weird sugar cocktails, dessert-esque concoctions that not even a gaggle of Real Housewives would take down or throw in a frenemy’s face. That lasted for a spell, until I found myself in college with my twenties begging me to change before I added even more hype as a weak-ass scrub to my nightlife résumé.
So I poured gasoline (cheap vodka) down my throat in parking lots, most notably fifths of Popov. I don’t remember enjoying it, and years later, I found out that none of us necessarily liked it. We all did it for the same reason: it was cheap and it got you drunk. Then, I drank beer that wasn’t terrible, though, admittedly, graduating from Miller Lite to Tecate (and ultimately to craft beer) isn’t exactly something to write home about. But who the hell writes home about drinking beer anyway?
Bursting to life at the gloriously unholy age of 21, I found my match at the bottom of a whiskey sour. I still don’t count them as my first grown-up drink, because I was more so getting away with an act, not really thriving with it as my lifeforce.
I didn’t sit in stylish bars and enjoy highballs. I showed up to dives half-drunk from a friend’s house where we either drank from a bottle or did shots beforehand. I thought I was drinking like an adult, but I wasn’t; I was just a much better poser.
That summer, I came to adore Irish whiskey. It became the nectar my proud Irish heritage always told me it was in ghost stories.
In truth, I suppose I always kind of liked whiskey, even when I was trying my best to “man up” in high school, but it just wasn’t enough. I’d do a shot, kind of dig the roll of its taste in my gums, then someone would ask if I wanted another, and I’d pass on it for dirty-water beer or some melted, Skittle-lookin’ beverage.
This is probably the darkest secret on my father’s side of the family. My goodness, the scandal!
But I finally had a “go-to” with Irish whiskey, Jameson specifically (still my favorite bottle). It was absolutely not, and it still isn’t, anything fancy (unless you get the aged, of course), but it became a drink that my friends would order for me if they were buying a round and didn’t catch what I said.
“I’ll have a Jameson on the rocks,” I’d say with confidence that year. To be honest, it was originally “a Jameson neat,” but I was getting drunk too quickly. I had the appreciation down, but I was still screwball with patience.
Jameson on the rocks was the first drink that I’d order on the regular where I was somewhere to converse, not rage. I wasn’t cackling, slurring, or, for whatever reason, continually yelling, “Woo!” I was there to experience the evening. I was there to offer something. I was there to just be. Nothing to prove, nothing to hope for: just a man, drinking a night away.