College Drinking Then and Now

surviving_college-3026Like it or not, college life and drinking often go hand in hand. So what do you do, or think, or say when your own kid is soon to enter that four-year phase of alcohol meets academia? And will they really listen?

When I think back to my own college experience, the images that come to mind include lush green quads and the boundless energy of the students walking across them, the classes filled with youthful, eager faces (okay, not all so eager) and most certainly, the rousing football games with pitchers of bloody marys, the games of quarters and cheap beer, and the colorful jello shots that were a main attraction at many a late-night party.

Do I tell my daughters that nearly every night of the week, starting on tuesday, my crew of friends and I had a different bar we’d frequent once our studies were put to bed?

Times are different now. The legal drinking age isn’t 18, like it was when I was in college, and it seems that any level of moderation college drinkingwent out the window with the younger drinking age. Binge drinking is a big problem for college kids. So are incidents of sexual abuse, drunk driving, assault and death. (For a more elaborate list, check out A Snapshot of Annual High-Risk College Drinking Consequences.)

“On average, college students in the U.S. purchase an estimated 430 million gallons of alcoholic beverages, including 4 billion cans of beer annually,” reports an article titled, How Much Drinking is too Much for Students? in Marshall University’s newspaper.

Those are pretty astounding numbers.

My older daughter just finished her sophomore year at college, and has adjusted to the so-called drinking life that seems inevitable on nearly every campus. I’d like to think we taught her how to make smart choices and sound decisions. I have another daughter who’s got one year to go before she, too, is off to college. I’ll just have to hope that when my younger one goes off to school, she’ll use her brain both in class and at parties. And that like her sister, she’ll be good to her brain and body. It’d be naive to think that her college experience will be alcohol-free. And that’s okay. I hope.

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Valentine’s Day: What to Drink with Your Chocolate

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but at some point in the last 17 years, Valentine’s Day became more of a holiday about which red, tinsel-covered chocolate I’d buy for my kids, and less of a Cupid-filled one for my husband and me (I like to believe we don’t need a Hallmark holiday for that, anyway).

Although romance has a time and a place in our everyday lives, I do recall a particular time when my husband and I went away for a weekend in search of something a little more special, surrounded by the vines and wines of California’s Napa Valley. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out quite like we’d expected.

After a lazy morning and breakfast at the inn where we were staying, we ambled into town to rent bicycles to fulfill our romantic mission of visiting wineries on two wheels. It turned out that the only bicycle available was a tandem bike, for two. We took it. Sounds romantic–perhaps for the couple where one partner does ALL the driving–but it quickly turned into a rather memorable nightmare.

“You’re going too fast. Can’t you hit the brakes once in a while?” I yelled from the rear.

“Stop braking!” my husband retorted with frustration. “We’ll never make it up the next hill if we don’t get any speed.”

With each winery, and each tasting, the fighting got more intense (I’ll admit, I was probably the more vocal complainer). By the afternoon, we were hardly speaking to one another. But then, we arrived at a winery where wine was not the only thing on the tasting menu.

Chocolate. They offered each visitor a bowl filled with rich, dark chunks of mouth-watering chocolate to taste with their mouth-watering Zinfandel. Everything in me got a little lighter, smoother, mellower (no more yelling on the bike; now I let him do the pedaling, the breaking, all the work). It’s been more than ten years since that Napa trip, and I still remember the chocolate melting on my tongue, washed down with the spice of the full-bodied wine.

I was hooked. Not on the wine, but on the pairing of the two, and it seems I’m not alone.

While doing some research, I came across numerous articles and websites featuring the dangerously sexy combo of wine and chocolate. The different types of Green & Black Chocolates (70% dark is a personal favorite) are featured on About.com. And you can get some good tips on pairing wine and chocolate on The Daily Sip.

The chart below, from The Nibble.com, was taken from a survey in which they asked readers, “What Do You Drink With Chocolate?”

Here’s what readers drink
with chocolate…
…though quite a few said they drank…(continued in
the next column header)
“Absolutely nothing! Great chocolate must be enjoyed on its own.”
  • Armagnac
  • Banyuls or Maury
  • Beaujolais
  • Beer
  • Bourbon
  • Brachetto D’Acqui
  • Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux/
    Merlot
  • Champagne
  • Cognac
  • Framboise (Bonny
    Doon Dessert Wine)
  • Hungarian Tonka
  • Jurançon
  • Late Harvest
    Riesling/
    Gewurtztraminer/
    Semillon/Zinfandel
  • Liqueurs: Anisette,
    Cointreau, Grand
    Marnier
  • Marsala
  • Mas Amiel
  • Muscat/Moscato di
    Asti
  • Pinot Noir
  • Port: Ruby, Tawny,
    Vintage
  • Riesling
  • Rum
  • Sauternes
  • Setubal
  • Sherry: Cream,
    Fino or
    Pedro Ximinez
  • Single Malt
    Scotch
  • Vin Jaun
  • Vin Santo
  • Zinfandel
Non-Alcoholic Nominations
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Sparkling Water
  • Milk

Valentine’s Day or not, romance or not, there’s always chocolate AND/OR wine…

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Seductive Drinks for Valentines Day

sexycocktailsDepending on the mood you want to set this Valentines Day, it seems there’s a cocktail to fit. Seduction Meals, a website devoted to combining food and drink with passion, has some great recipes. Their motto: Igniting Flames of Passion…One Meal at a Time. Sounds good to us.

Feeling romantic? Then try making your sweetie the Happily Ever After or the Be Mine Mojito. Sexy? There’s Love in the Afternoon, Tongue Tied, or Love Elixir (pictured). Or if you’re like me and you’re chocolate-obsessed, you can go for Death by Chocolate or the White Chocolate Martini. For those who don’t drink,  just leave out the booze (depending on the recipe), and you’ve still got a great non-alcoholic drink.  chocolatecoveredcherrywhitechocolatemartini

If you’re drinking on Valentines Day, you might want to consider one thing: stay hydrated. According to Dr. Harold Katz, founder of the website, therabreath.com, you should drink one glass of water between each cocktail. Drinking can lead to dehydration (not to mention a hangover), and a dry mouth causes bad breath. Dr. Katz also recommends steering clear of sweets on V. day, since sugar feeds bad breath bacteria. But what if you’re like me, and that’s an impossibility? Pick chocolate. Dark or semi-sweet, not milk. (Something you might want to consider when deciding which cocktail to make).

If you’re like me and my husband and have taco night on V. day, disregard all the above advice, because you’re probably completely oblivious to the breath issue, anyway.

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Live Music Makes Me Want to Drink (& Dance)

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I don’t know about you, but live music makes me thirsty. Whether it’s the soft acoustic sound of a female vocalist (which may inspire a glass of sauvignon blanc), or the pounding of the bass guitar blaring from stage speakers (definitely a Sam Adams beer or equivalent), music and drinking do not always–but often do–go together for me.

So it seemed the perfect evening when I discovered that the City Winery in NYC, a small restaurant winery/restaurant/music venue where I’d recently sat up close for a Shawn Colvin show (dining on flat bread pizza and sharing a bottle of Malbec with my hubby), was hosting a night of music and wine. Not just any music, but the Top 20 Songs of ALL TIME (voted by listeners of a New York radio sation, 104.3) played by a cover band. With my husband’s nod of approval, I booked us two tickets.

We arrived at the City Winery at about 7:00 and had our choice of tables. Once we were seated, our placemat announced the event: “Top 20 Songs Paired with 20 Wines!” This would be a night to remember. Thankfully, there would also be a smattering of 6 small food courses.

On our right sat a youngish couple–he was a music-lover and chef at nearby restaurant whose family owned the largest chain of head shops on the East Coast (no joke); his wife was a wine-loving bartender. To our left was a table of three 30-something women, all married  but clearly out for a girls’ night of fun.

The band, all the way from Long Island, got on stage and started with the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” which was paired with a glass of Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain. From there, musical highlights included Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” Bruce’s “Thunder Road” and of course, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.”

As the music and wine countdown progressed from number 20 to number 1, more and more people–mostly women–got looser and got up to dance. And that’s when it hit me, live music makes people happy. And alcohol makes people less inhibited (or me, anyway) and freer to shake their booty. I watched these women strutting and waving their arms, and I knew exactly how they felt–free of judgement and inspired to move with the beat. It was beautiful. One of them even snuck onto the stage, dancing behind the band members while they played, and waving to her two friends beside me. It was hilarious.

My husband isn’t a big dancer, so I just bounced around (a lot) in my seat, clapping, shouting and waving my arms in between sips of a Cabernet or Pouilly Fume. I contemplated getting up and dancing with the gals who bonded as they boogied, but decided to stay in my seat. Music and wine. It was just pure fun.

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All Aboard, Beverages in Hand

by Nicole Gerszberg

Overstuffed tote bags and preppy, nautical attire are but two of the essentials necessary for one to make the trek from New York City to the Hamptons or Montauk on a Friday afternoon. Not to mention the traveler’s drink of choice—maybe a glass of chilled white wine or a can of beer—intended to ease him/her into the weekend early and make the journey of three plus hours a little more bearable.

A recent NY Times article titled “To the Hamptons, and Step on It!” compared the two most popular ways to get to this summer destination without getting behind the steering wheel (or having a chauffeur to do that for you).  The article recounts stories of various passengers who loyally hop aboard the Jitney, while others endure a sweaty Penn Station terminal and its even rowdier party en route to the Long Island shores. While many flock to the beaches and begin drinking upon their arrival, the party  begins earlier and is a part of the traveling experience for those aboard a Long Island Railroad train car or a more upscale Jitney bus, referred to as the Ambassador.

Those who choose to pay the extra bucks to take the Ambassador are provided with wine and snacks along with their luxury bus seating. Passengers are polite, orderly and often seen quietly reading the newspaper or toying with their iPads over sips of wine.

The train from Penn Station to Montauk is an entirely different scene. Even on early morning train rides out to the beach, riders fill every seat and get their drink on as soon as they leave the station. The ritual of getting the party started before hitting the beach is a highlight for many train travelers.

Crisp white wines and beach cocktails are an essential part of the Hamptons/Montauk experience for many.  But it seems that ride from city side to beachside has become the newest booze locale. As the summer nears to a close with August just around the corner, passengers will be sure to toast its finale—whether it’s sparkling wine in a Dixie cup overflowing onto the train floor or a plastic wine glass on board the Ambassador.

Nicole Gerszberg is a student at Wesleyan University. Her work has been published on “The Choice” blog on NYTimes.com

 

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