Why I don’t Drink Manhattans Anymore

I was in the middle of my whiskey phase. Mad Men had nothing to do with it.
I was in the middle of my whiskey phase. Mad Men had nothing to do with it.

It was late on a November Saturday night in 2012 when I sauntered into my favorite cocktail lounge with an unusually high spring in my step. I nodded with a chirpy hello to the bouncer whose scarred eyebrow and barrel-sized biceps hinted at the fact his day job was cage-fighting coach. I slipped into my favorite corner seat at the bar and leaned across to give the bartender, Kay, my best girl friend’s boyfriend, a warm hello.

He looked at me puzzled. She had called him earlier to warn him I might be coming from a rough night — I’d need taking care of, she suggested. The chipper red-haired girl in the tangerine top didn’t look like she needed taking care of.

“Something strong?” Kay asked.

“Yes, please! I’ll have a Manhattan.”

Seconds later, he slid a martini glass under my nose, a rich copper-hued drink sloshed but didn’t jump over the edges. I was in the of what can only be labeled a Whiskey-phase. Mad Men had nothing to do with it. The Manhattan had replaced the Tanqueray10 martini as my go-to night out indulgence and a Jameson on the rocks was my new dive bar safe bet. All it took was one sip and I knew this was the best Manhattan I’d ever had, was ever going to have. Liquid gold. When he slide a small carafe with the “leftovers” from the shaker (the equivalent of a second drink), I figured I was satisfyingly set for the night.

I was alone on a Saturday night, drinking a whiskey drink and content. Sitting next to me was another loner, and apparently, another regular. Kay introduced the robust and somewhat rotund young man to me as Joe, and since I was already onto the carafe, I was in a mood to chat… and over share.

I was newly single. So I let the Tony Soparno look alike buy me a 3rd and 4th drink... mistake.
I was newly single. So I let the Tony Soparno look alike buy me a 3rd and 4th drink… mistake.

Joe was a well-manner Jerseyite who could easily have passed for an extra on The Sopranos — perhaps even a younger Tony Soprano, in the right over sized golf shirt. We talked about the Yankees and our favorite restaurants. Even though his waistline was evident of a life spent mostly eating out and watching sports rather than playing them, Joe was a top-shelf kind of guy, which roughly translates into my kind of person.

“Are you always such good company?” Joe asked, as I neared the end of my drink and in theory, the end of my night.

“I broke up with my boyfriend an hour and a half ago.”

In my head, that answered the question. Isn’t every girl extra charming and cheery after she breaks up with the guy who sent her flowers on her birthday and talked about spending the rest of his life with her?

“Shouldn’t you be crying with your girlfriends, or something? You’re in an awfully good mood.”

I shrugged and took the final slug of my drink (technically, my second, though I had convinced myself otherwise.)

“It’s a relief, to be honest. That it’s all over. I wanted to throw up the whole day before it happened. Now, I couldn’t be in a better mood.”

Wait. The irony is coming.

“You’re not leaving yet are you?” Joe chripped as I began to fumble for my wallet — a perfunctory motion as I knew tonight’s $15 beverage was likely on the house. “You’re newly single. Let me buy you another.”

I looked at my watch — I’d already missed my train and my rule is to never let strangers buy me drinks. But, really, what harm would another drink do? I was newly single, after all. Joe fancied himself a cocktail connoisseur and ordered me what I vaguely recall him calling a Manhattan Perfect. I could be totally wrong, but it seemed to fit because drinks 3 and 4 (Kay and his damn carafe!) were perfectly toxic.

Tee Burberry trench coat fell victim to one Manhattan too many, but recovered in time for a trip to Prague.
The Burberry trench coat fell victim to one Manhattan too many, but recovered in time for a trip to Prague.

I wobbled out an hour later, convinced I was totally sober and even a little proud for being able to hold down so much whiskey. But as I stood on the subway platform, I realized I was in for it. When I vomited all over my Burberry trench coat and silk jersey tangerine Theory top, I knew I had just been taught a lesson. There is such thing as too much whiskey.

And I had just become that girl who throws up on the last train out of Grand Central.

I vomited two more times — once on the sidewalk at my home station and once again in the trashcan next to my bed — before finally falling asleep. In the morning, the only reminder of the previous night’s break-up and excess was my tangerine top, soaking in the sink, a few bits of undigested orechette and broccoli floating beside it. I might have been sloppy, but at least I clean up after myself.

The purging of my stomach contents so soon after finishing my last sip might have saved me from a hangover, but it also killed my taste for whiskey. And that favorite tangerine top, while the stains are long gone, will always be that shirt I threw up on the night I broke up with the Admiral. At work on Monday, I was greeted with an email from Joe asking to take me out for dinner somewhere I could never afford on an non-profit employee’s salary. Apparently, I had given him my business card. I had been back on the market for less than 24 hours and already I had a suitor. I politely declined.

Last night, I poured a heavy draw of McMallan 12, figuring it was a perfect companion drink on a cold winter’s night dedicated to writing a curatorial essay. With a new boyfriend at my side and the past year behind me, I figured I could handle my first whiskey in over a year. One sip and the room began to spin and my stomach began to turn. Apparently, at least for this girl, it’s easier to recover from a relationship gone wrong than from a bad night of drinking.

This kitty is never drinking Whiskey again.... Tanqueray is still on the table, however.
This kitty is never drinking Whiskey again…. Tanqueray is still on the table, however.

The Best Diets I’ve Accidentally Been On

could it be that my new kettlebell workout is already starting to show?

There’s a lady in the ready-to-wear section of Neiman Marcus who, whenever she sees me, tells me I’ve lost a lot of weight. She’s rarely right, and if she was right every time she saw me, I’d be smaller than a size 0 — I’d be invisible. I’ve been on a new eating and exercising regiment since the beginning of the New Year, but out of fear of being disappointed, I’ve refused to step on the scale to verify her observation.

Though it’s not the case this time, the most effective diets I’ve ever followed have relied on meal replacement programs.

Instead of a traditional lunch or dinner, I had alcohol.

In college I went on the Sonoma diet. I lost five pounds in the first week. I wasn’t really allowed to eat anything, but it told me to drink wine. I was constantly hungry. I was also constantly buzzed and five pounds lighter – how could I complain?

In lieu of two meals of deep fried fish parts, I had one meal of Quidi Vidi beer and one meal of fish and chips. I lost 5 pounds in Newfoundland.

One summer vacation, I spent two weeks in Newfoundland, Canada, where they warned me I’d find love and  fish battered and fried is both its own food group and the only thing on most menus.  In an attempt to mitigate the potentially damaging effects of 2 meals slathered in batter and hot fat, I replaced one of those meals with another Newfoundland specialty — Quidi Vidi beer. I don’t know what my arteries looked like, but I came home several pound lighter.

As a curatorial intern at the Museum of Modern Art, I was commuting from Westchester to midtown Manhattan while trying to be a competitive athlete while trying to earn a small income doing freelance projects. I’d come home late at night too tired to turn on the stove, but not too tired to pour a gin and tonic. My “Intern Diet,” as I called it, resulted in my first significant weight loss regime with lasting results since puberty took away my puppy fat. It also resulted in a small stomach ulcer.

That’s the problem with successful diets – they’re often bad for your health.

Unwrapping Christmas Presents Past: an Inner-Child Grows-Up, but Only Just a Little

It was a snowy Christmas morning when I was 4 and found myself standing in front of a large, me-sized box wrapped calico-style and adorned with a shiny, red, stick-on bow. I had asked for an Easy Bake Oven and given its size, I was sure this box was not my easy Bake Oven. I was somewhere between being tickled pink with anticipation and overwrought with disappointment.

It wasn't my Easy-Bake Oven. It was a lavender bike with a wicker basket and streamers. And it was snowing outside.

As I tore away the paper, I quickly saw I was right: this was not my Easy-Bake Oven. Instead, Santa had given me a lavender bicycle with streamers and a white wicker basket. I looked at the picture on the box then turned to the window.  The snow on the lawn was blinding white and the ice clean-up trucks chugged noisily down my street spraying salt and sand as they went. I was doubtful that this present would produce any immediate gratification. But I had seen enough Christmas movies and heard enough stories from my friends to understand that a bike for Christmas was a big deal. So I followed convention and starting jumping with joy, encouraging Daddy to put it together ASAP so I could ride it around the living room.

“No. You can’t ride the bike in the house. We just refinished the floors.” My mother didn’t realize what lasting effects this command would have.

I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was 17 and I never mastered turning. Now, the only bike I ride is a stationary spin one. Meanwhile, despite never having got my Easy Bake Oven (I asked for it every Christmas up until I was 11), I’ve become a bake-o-holic. My parents claim that it’s because I never had an Easy Bake that I’ve become such an able-bodied, all-from-scratch cook — I had to learn how to use a real stove, not one powered by a light bulb. One can never argue with a parent’s logic.

So far, my dinner guests have gotten more use out of my guitar than I have. But it's not too late for me to become the next Jewel

Yet while I can now churn out cakes, cookies and pies like nobody’s business, I’ve never gotten over the Easy-Bake Oven. Determined to prevent Santa from once again confusing “bakeware” with “bicycle,” I started writing elaborate Christmas Wish lists, complete with figures, web links, and product numbers. Each list has reflected whatever stage of my life I had entered — from preteen to early adulthood. A remote controlled plane, Backstreet Boys concert tickets, a watercolor box set, a Play-Station 2 with Guitar Hero, a real guitar, books by my professors, Kate Spade flats — for sure, with each item comes a flood of memories from not only that Christmas, but from that year in my life.

But in 2010, I couldn’t be bothered writing a list. Surely, after 25 years my parents knew I was easy enough to please that as long as it wasn’t a bicycle, I would be happy. My mother cursed me as she roamed the mall and racked her brain.

“Look, why don’t you just get me a cookbook or something.”

“You don’t need another cookbook.”

It was nothing short of a miracle that, come Christmas morning, there were presents waiting for me under the tree. My mother handed me an armful of crudely wrapped items with a look of both pride and concern on her face. “I don’t know why I bought you these,” she said. “But I figured we’ll need them later.”

I felt like I was 4 again as I shook the boxes. The sound of liquid sloshing around had me stymied. As I ripped away the paper and bows I was surprised to see a set of martini glasses, a bottle of Tanqueray, a bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice, and a copy of “Vintage Cocktails,” a book featuring recipes from Pegu Club, my favorite cocktail lounge in New York.

“Now, just remember, when you make things out of this recipe book you’ll not only get fat, you’ll get drunk,” Mum said as she cracked open the gin.”Go easy.”

I guess that’s why she neglected to give me a drink shaker.

Unlike the lavender bike, it didn't take me long to put these Christmas presents to use... despite the missing cocktail shaker