Each week, we post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you.
Kara Newman is a cocktail and spirits writer based in New York. She is the Spirits Editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine and writes the weekly “Spirited Traveller” column for Reuters. She is the author of two cocktail books, Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails and the forthcoming Cocktails for a Crowd, both from Chronicle Books. In addition, she also hosts the Drink.Think series for beverage writers and blogs at Tipple Sheet.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Kara Newman: Aside from beer, my first “real” drink was Southern Comfort and orange juice. I was probably 19. A friend had a flask full of the sticky stuff at a fraternity party tucked in her purse. I was so relieved to discover that drinking options existed besides skunky beer!
How did/does your family treat drinking?
Casually. I think “take it or leave it” was/is a healthy attitude.
How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
I spent part of my junior year in college living in London, which means I was 20 when I lived there. For the first time, I was living in a city, and I was legal to drink. And I lived in a cramped little flat with four cheerfully rowdy roommates, which provided extra incentive to spend as little time at home as possible. Of course we went overboard. But the flip side of the story is that when I officially turned 21, legal age at home, I didn’t go on a bender like all my friends did. I’d already gotten it out of my system.
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
My go-to is the Negroni. It’s made of equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth, so it’s impossible to screw up.
Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?
Wine is interwoven into the Jewish culture – particularly sticky-sweet Manichewitz. It’s what we drink at Passover and other holidays. Even kids are permitted a tiny amount, poured into thimble-size silver Kiddush cups. If anything, Manichewitz discouraged me from drinking – I remember thinking, That’s what all the fuss is about? Who cares?” It was a revelation (and a relief!) to learn much later on that wine can be so much more than Manichewitz.
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
“I Ain’t Drunk ( I’m Just Drinking).”by Jimmy & Joe Liggins. I have an mp3 playlist of “drinking songs” I sometimes use for Drink.Think.
What do you like most about drinking?
There are two things: First, the conviviality that goes along with the culture of drinking. There’s a reason alcohol is largely consumed at parties, or at a bar with other people around. Second, just as with food, cocktail recipes appeal to me. Given a choice, I’ll always opt for a spirit mixed into a drink vs. consuming a spirit straight up. I appreciate the history behind many cocktail recipes, as well as the creativity that goes into creating fresh new recipes. I enjoy following a recipe and the ritual of mixing a cocktail, the sound of ice cubes rattling in a cocktail shaker – to me, that’s one of the happiest sounds in the world.