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.
Drinking Diaries: How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
Kate Bolick: Dinner doesn’t feel like dinner without two glasses of wine. But I don’t have dinner every night. Each week I forget to eat at least twice, and I always reserve one night for me, a book, and a bowl of cereal (shredded wheat, usually), which doesn’t really count as dinner, thank God, as wine and cereal sounds revolting.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
Though my friends started drinking in high school, I held out (I was afraid of it, basically), but rather than simply not drink and just quietly do my own non-drinking thing, I was all flouncy about it, and convinced my friend Jana, a fellow non-drinker, to be Vice President of my Clean Liver Club (I was President, naturally). We made business cards with a line drawing of a clean liver—an amorphous blob with a slight resemblance to South America, which happens to be what a liver sort of looks like. We were the only members. My high-mindedness didn’t last through college, and then it completely evaporated after my mother died in my early 20s and I couldn’t cope with my grief. I still wasn’t a very experienced drinker at that point, so my bingeing entailed a lot of going off the rails, though this is what I was seeking, obviously.
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
So I love wine with dinner. I love the taste, the ritual, the endless variety, the multiplicity of labels, how there’s no limit on what there is to learn, and that I have a lifetime to figure out what I like and don’t like. (These days Sancerre is my favorite white. Though I like all reds except Chianti, I particularly like the really expensive reds that I’m occasionally served by generous hosts and could never afford on my own. It’s as if red is divided into two categories: the fabulously evocative elixirs of the very rich, and the perfectly good stuff for the rest of us.)
For just sitting around with a friend at a bar, or at cocktail parties, nothing beats vodka—vodka and soda water with lime, or on very rare occasions a vodka gimlet, or vodka in some fancy old-timey new-Brooklyn concoction with those artisanal ice cubes that look like mini-icebergs. I swear that vodka makes me the happiest, and doesn’t give me a hangover. But nothing transports me like the smell of sherry. I loved my grandmother, and I loved her habit of quietly relishing a little glass of sherry in the evening. It was so delicate and civilized, and sometimes she’d let me have a sip, so the taste took on this wonderfully nostalgic resonance. The day I turned 21, I drove to a liquor store and bought my own bottle.
Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?
So many! I am such a happy drunk. But once a dashing Italian served me a tiny chilled glass of laurel liquor made from his garden, and I felt very charmed and sophisticated.
What about the worst time?
Oh, dear—too many to recount. I just started typing out a real ringer, about the time in my early 20s that I went to a Halloween party dressed as a movie star from outer space and hit a very bad end by 9:30pm, but it was too painful to see it committed to print. Even more embarrassing is my Christmas party two years back, both for being so recent and so stupid. All day I madly baked piles of sugar cookies, completely forgot to eat, and at 9:30pm (my witching hour, it seems), looked down to see a glass of eggnog in one hand and a glass of red wine in the other, and knew it was all downhill from there.
Has drinking ever affected—either negatively or positively—a relationship of yours?
Not particularly. But I do find it interesting that there are those friends I love drinking with, and those friends I simply don’t drink with, for no reason other than, well, we just don’t. Once I was involved with a non-drinking pot-smoker, and I admit it bummed me out that we couldn’t drink together.
What do you like most about drinking?
That there are so many ways to drink: Sitting on the sofa with a dear old friend catching up over a lovely bottle (this was my last night, actually); getting soused and heedless at a party; bringing a six pack to the beach. I don’t get drunk too often these days, but when it does happen I love that hinge moment of going from perfectly relaxed to this other, more loose, sort of endless space.
How has alcoholism affected your life?
Mostly, I feel very fortunate to not struggle with alcoholism myself.
If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?
Okay, what I probably am is a clean and bubbly vodka and soda water. But I wish I were something mysterious, like absinthe, or a snifter of Old Pogue being savored by a bourbon enthusiast.