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.
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.
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.