Expert Drinker

Photo credit to James Martin. Pic first appeared on his blog, The Sipologist. At this time two years ago, I was wasting away in an office job to make money. It was what I thought a career had to be -- grunt work with a generous helping of boredom and convoluted power structures.

When I got the chance to bartend, I jumped on it. From the outside, it seemed both nerdy and glamorous, and I wanted to be part of that culture. To catch up, I studied drink and product flashcards every day. I asked bartenders I knew for book recommendations, and read them all the time.

After a little while, I started writing about what I'd learned. It was easy and challenging all at once: I'd become passionate about cocktails, so I wanted to do their stories justice. It was a topic I'd come to know well, so it was sometimes hard to translate my knowledge into an accessible story.

But explaining product and cocktails are both parts of bartending, so I used every shift to refine my narrative about a certain drink or a technique or an ingredient. Once I started practicing, it became easier and easier to explain it out loud and in writing.

As an adult, I've had trouble owning up to what I am and what I want to be. It took me a long time to call myself a writer, and a few months of bartending full-time before I would call myself a bartender without a qualifier. Even now, I'm not a drinks expert. What I am is an expert drinker. I've developed a palate, know how to balance and re-balance a cocktail, and consult the Flavor Bible enough to figure out what liquors play well with what flavors.

I'm still learning, and I'm still putting off reading the stack of cocktail books I keep by my bed. With writing, tutoring, and regular bartending shifts, I can make time to read an article or two every day, but I've had a lot of trouble keeping pace with my drinks library. To become a true drinks expert, I'll have to dive back in, and soon. I'll start on it tomorrow.

Running for fun?

I think I'm a runner now. I fall into certain practices and habits very quickly. Unfortunately, exercise and fashion are the exceptions to that rule, so starting any sort of program or regular routine is very difficult. After I started running with Adam on Sundays, it was as much to my surprise as his when I began running with another friend during the week.

Then I was invited to go to a group class at Resolute Running, a Homewood-based running gym. Even when I could barely run a mile, they encouraged me to call myself a runner. During that time, Adam challenged me to push myself in running the way I push myself to do better in every other aspect of my life. At first, I was offended. These runs allowed me to wallow in my lack of athleticism instead of working out.

Once I thought about it for a time, I made the choice to push myself just a little bit more, but also to cross train and be mindful of my joints. After only four weeks, I could run almost 1.5 miles without stopping or severe joint pain. Though it might not sound like much, I am now regularly running longer routes than have compromised my knees in the past.

My goal is currently to run a 5K, then to work with a coach at Resolute Running to come up with a plan for a half marathon (a what?). I have recently purchased an actual athletic shirt, and have plans to go running in Philadelphia while I'm in there.

For me, continuing to run is now like sticking with physics in college. Neither of these things come easily to me, and I've poked fun of individuals who were masochistic enough to push through on either path. Finishing my physics degree became one of the biggest challenges I've ever faced, and completing it extremely satisfying.

It is my hope that crossing the finish line at my first 5K will be just as much of a rush. At this point, maybe I'll start actually calling myself a runner. Maybe. Until then, I'll keep going for runs.