As Pete Wells recently wrote, our generation matured into a sad time without cocktails. It was all wine and beer. I participated, but aside from my junior year in England I’ve never really been a beer drinker, and red wine, sadly, gives me headaches.
But slowly, happily, the world has started to swing back to cocktails. First, there was our trip to Italy a year after our wedding. We traveled with another couple, and met up, too, with Tony’s brother and his mom, Nancy. An evening with Nancy started around 5 or 6 at her hotel; we would gather from our sight-seeing and share our adventures. She’d drink a martini; Tony (in honor of his late father) would drink a campari and soda; I’d sip a glass of Prosecco. It’s important to have a little bowl of salty snacks — cashews or olives, perhaps– to accompany the drinks. We dubbed it Nancy Hour and it continues to this day, long past Nancy’s passing, whenever we meet up with these same friends.
Then a couple years ago, I gave Tony a bottle of George T. Stagg Kentucky bourbon whiskey for his birthday, a bottle that recently inspired his friends to host a blind tasting of 6 bourbons (now all in our bar) for his 40th. We started watching Mad Men (along with the rest of the country), and discovered San Francisco bartenders mixing up interesting drinks. And so it was that on a recent camping trip with three other families, we brought a full bar and several bottles of wine. I made a batch of these vodka-spiked cherry tomatoes with pepper salt to accompany our drinks, and we stirred up cocktails every night while the kids ate dinner—gin and tonics or sazeracs, sidecars or margaritas on the rocks — and sipped bourbon around the campfire after the kids were down. We carried all the wine back home at the end of the trip. Now I’m no extremist, and there’s still a place in my world for wine, but please don’t cut short the cocktail hour.