On Beer, Tequila, and Other Libations
Q: If I go to a fiesta and take a twelve-pack of Lone Star with me and only drink eight, can I take the remaining brews home with me?
A: Experience tells the Texanist that even when one arrives at a party empty-handed, drinks one’s fill, makes a horse’s ass of oneself with the host’s college-age daughter, steals out the back door with an armful of clanking liquor bottles, and stumbles down the street loudly singing that old Larry L. King favorite “Jesus on the Five-Yard Line” until a very stern policeman who appears out of nowhere and looks like one’s Uncle Gary asks one to shut the hell up, even then, Mr. Valdez, nobody is likely to say a word. Shocked gasps? Maybe. Real verbal confrontation? Doubtful. There is a limit, however, to the number of times one can blithely trample on society’s good graces, so if for no other reason than to build up a great storehouse of credit for those terrible groggy mornings when you will need to spend it, the Texanist advises you to not relieve the icebox of the remnants of the $8.49 twelver of Lone Star longnecks with which you so generously blessed the festivities. Just go on home.
Q: Salt, lime, tequila; or tequila, lime, salt; or lime, salt, tequila? What’s the right way to shoot tequila?
A: Traditionally, gulps of Mexican rotgut have been taken with the salt first, then the tequila, and then the lime, followed by a lot of puckering, wincing, and fanfare. But the Texanist would urge you to have it however you prefer it, whether that be with additional ingredients or slurped straight from the navel of a giggling Swedish dental technician late one night in the Cattle Baron Suite at the Driskill Hotel in Austin after a Jerry Jeff Walker birthday celebration that overlapped quite pleasantly with an international oral hygiene convention.
Q: What are skinny margaritas, and who should or shouldn’t be drinking them?
A: Often purported as a Texas invention, the classic margarita, in its purest, most unadulterated incarnation—as opposed to the lime-juiceless margs made from sugary mixes for consumption by college students—is the best chilled tequila-based drink to ever pass the Texanist’s parched lips. Such margaritas make for a perfectly refreshing accompaniment to a hot Texas evening. An evening just like this one, in fact. Excuse the Texanist for one moment, will you? [Editors’ note: The Texanist’s first draft of this month’s column ended here, and initial attempts to reach him regarding the whereabouts of the remaining material were unsuccessful. However, thanks to an apparently inadvertent 45-minute-long message left on his editor’s voicemail containing only the sounds of splashing liquor, clinking ice, shaking, pouring, and off-key humming of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” he was finally located and brought to the office. The following “advice” was subsequently squeezed out of him, like so many drops of juice from an old and pithy lime. We offer it for what it’s worth.] Advice? You want more advice? Look, the Texanist told you that he doesn’t have any more time for advice. He’s busy with a very important project this afternoon, and he needs to get back to the, uh, lab. Pronto! Listen up, you. What if you knew that right nowyou were putting at risk a serious scientific advancement? Because that’s what you are doing. The Texanist is on the brink—and this is not to be repeated by or to anyone—but the Texanist is on the brink of ascertaining the precise formula for el supremo, the mother of all margaritas. ¡La madre de todos las goddam margaritas! Do you comprehende? Hey, what happened to the Texanist’s shirt? Never mind. See, traditionally you mix tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau on a 1.5-to-1-to-.5 ratio, and then you shake it, salt the rim, yadda yadda yadda. But the Texanist is working on some brand-newmethods—some recipes that cannot be presently discussed. With anyone! We’re talking about variations that could revolutionize the whole idea of the margarita, but they must be tested. And retested! And yet here you are, dragging the Texanist into the office at this ungodly hour of two in the afternoon to answer what is frankly a rather silly question. What’s a skinny margarita? Nothing more than the delicious original rebranded for the modern health-conscious imbiber. Of course, calling it that is unnecessary, since a margarita should always be served as the simple, no-frills, and relatively low-calorie alcoholic concoction God intended. At least until the Texanist finishes his landmark research. Now if you’ll excuse him, he simply must get back to his work.
Q: What’s with people using beer as a cocktail mixer these days? I seem to be running across this weird phenomenon more and more lately. Beer with tomato juice? Beer with orange juice? Beer on ice? What’s wrong with drinking a traditional Texas “coldbeer” straight from the packaging (or keg) that the brewer (and God) intended it to be drunk from?
A: The beer cocktail—or cerveza preparada, as it is known south of the border—is nothing new, although a few of its numerous variations do seem to be more prevalent in the state’s watering holes of late. Why, in the last week alone, the Texanist has had the following libations forcefully pushed upon him: a bevy of Bloody Mary–esque micheladas, one overly citrusy Brass Monkey, a Shiner on the rocks, a couple of Flaming Dr Peppers, four boilermakers, an unknown quantity of sake bombs, and one extremely large and overpowering Mexican Bulldog, which is basically a schooner of frozen margarita with an upside-down longneck stabbed into it. No doubt some of these doctored-up drinks constituted a flagrant display of beverage blasphemy, but variety is the spice of life. And when that spice is applied to the rim of a glass containing a frosty and refreshing alcoholic concoction, the Texanist knows of no reason why decent, God-fearing people should refrain from having a few sips. Cheers. May the road rise up to meet you, though not as quickly as it did for the Texanist as he was stumbling home after that salvo of sake bombs.
Q: When I’m at a crowded bar, what’s the best way to get the bartender’s attention?
A: Here is what you do: Wedge yourself through the thirsty throng until you have a hand on the bar, preferably a hand that is clenching a bill of at least a Jacksonian denomination (this will act as a beacon to any barkeep worth his margarita salt). A common mistake at this point is to begin scanning the crowd for a comely lass with whom to make eyes while you wait. Do not succumb to this temptation! You must be vigilant, like a hawk! Maintain a fixed gaze on the mixologist. Ignore the girlish giggles coming from what you imagine to be a glistening Brazilian supermodel in a red leather miniskirt sizing you up for her dastardly erotic schemes. You do not want to miss the barman’s passing glance. Once the green guiding light of your bill is noticed, his attention will be undivided and yours. Libation in hand, turn and give the supermodel a—Holy Mother of God! It’s your old high school guidance counselor, the one whose sessions always left you feeling a little funny. What’s she doing here? And what is she doing with that maraschino cherry? The Texanist, sorry to say, has no advice to offer for this peculiar situation. You’re on your own.
Q: I am a transplanted Texan living on the West Coast. Lately, I have started noticing that I get strange looks from people out here every time I order bourbon. All they drink here is wine and microbrew. Should I change my drink in order to blend in?
San Francisco, California
A: Your situation is a serious one. Don’t be alarmed, but it sounds as if you are being groomed for indoctrination into the cultlike society known as the “California lifestyle.” You stand at a threshold, Scott D., beyond which there will be no turning back. You must resist the temptation to abandon the common sense of your homeland for the Dionysian mores of the Golden State. The Texanist advises you to disregard anything with enticingly subtle allusions of mango, guava, or flint and to pay no attention to any sparkling stemware that flaunts, like the Pacific Coast sunset itself, the shimmering hues of golden rose. Additionally, beware of convertibles, Rollerblades, and spandex shorts. Keep your distaste for sprouts and keep ordering your libations as you like them. And don’t be afraid to write again. A crisis such as yours is nothing to be ashamed of.
Q: Last Saturday, when we had finished loading the groceries into our truck, my husband, Tim, went to return the cart when he noticed that someone had left a twelve-pack of Coors Light in his buggy. My husband, being the honest man he is, took the beer back into the Super Target. He said the clerks seemed shocked at his honesty but that he felt that if he had kept the beer it would be considered stealing. I disagreed and said it wouldn’t be stealing at all and that the beer, which has no name on it, was “found.” I most certainly would have returned the beer myself, but I disagree that keeping it would be stealing. I told him, “What if God had left that beer there for you?” to which he replied, “God would never have left me Coors Light.” So, my wise friend, please shed some light on this disagreement: Was it theft or just not our lucky day?
A: The Texanist has been saddled with enough swayback, gotch-eyed, glue-bound bags of bones to know better than to adhere strictly to ill-advised adages. Your husband was absolutely right to look this particular gift horse in the mouth and walk it back to the stable from whence it came. Although loading up a dozen forsaken Silver Bullets would not technically make you a low-down beer bandit, neither would it call for a jig. Let us review once again the purpose of beer: It is a fermented brew that produces a pleasant feeling of easy relaxation and mild amusement. Yet the Texanist has a hard time seeing how your husband—an honest man, to all appearances—could enjoy these sensations in any real way while at the same time grappling with a parking lot misdeed. Beer that causes its drinker to feel guilt or sorrow is no beer at all. The Texanist is prompted to recall a party he attended during his undergraduate days. Drawn thither by a handbill offering “FREE LONE STAR!” he discovered upon arrival that the gathering had been organized by the Society for the Promotion of Vegetarian Cookery. Neither a member nor at all interested in becoming one, he nonetheless gamely played the part in order to snag the suds, rambling on for quite some time about his favorite chickpea preparations. Yet round about his seventh cup, he was forced to admit that the purloined beer was not having the desired effect, that it had, in fact, been tainted by the false pretenses under which it had been gotten, and that no good could come of any subsequent cups (he had one anyway just to see). He thus finds much to relate to in your story. The half-case of Colorado Kool-Aid light was paid for by someone else, and although temporarily misplaced, the brew belonged to him and not you. No way around it. Cheers, Davises. You are good folk.
Q: My family sits down for a home-cooked dinner four times a week. Generally, everyone is happy and well behaved. I usually have a glass of wine or just water, but no matter what we are eating, my husband will only drink Dr Pepper. Lately our two sons have been asking to have Dr Pepper too. I won’t let them and neither will my husband, but it’s starting to become a major issue at the table. What can I do?
A: The roots of the Texanist’s family tree run through Dublin, where the best Dr Pepper is bottled, the stuff with the Imperial pure cane sugar. He attributes his long love affair (10, 2, and 4—365) with DP to this geographical link, along with the fact that high-quality DP just tastes so damn good. At one point in time, he felt the same way about flaming Dr Pepper cocktails, a drink made with three parts amaretto, one part Bacardi 151, a spark, beer, and no Dr Pepper at all, though his affection for this concoction is no longer so strong, having gone down in flames, quite literally, back in his undergraduate days. Variety, though, is the spice of life, and if your husband hasn’t yet experienced the same fiery unpleasantness as the Texanist once did, maybe the flaming Dr Pepper is your answer. It does sort of taste Dr Peppery, and while the kids will be sure to love its flashiness, they will be terrified by their father’s contorted, grimacing face and slurred speech. Not to mention the horrible smell of his singed hair. Problem solved.
Q: Is it okay to throw cans and bottles into a bonfire on the beach? I was recently sitting around a campfire on South Padre Island with a bunch of friends, and this very question came up after someone tossed an empty beer can into the flames. If the fire’s hot enough, the can sort of melts into nothing and then gets buried anyway, so it’s not exactly like littering, right?
A: You are correct: chucking dead soldiers into a beach bonfire is not exactly like littering, but the Texanist would counter that neither is it exactly likenot littering. Come to think of it, it’s a whole lot more like littering than it is like not littering. When visiting the beautiful beaches of the Texas Coastal Bend, it’s best to try to pack out what you pack in or at least utilize the provided trash barrels. Really, the only foreign body that it is okay to bury in the sand is your Uncle Stan’s, but even then, that should be temporary. He burns so easily.
Q: Several days a week, when I get home from work, I take my dogs for a short walk around our East Dallas neighborhood. Lately, I have gotten in the habit of taking a can of beer with me for the walk. It’s a leisurely stroll that helps me unwind from the workday, so I figure why not accompany it with a nice cold one. My wife disagrees. She says it is inappropriate to walk down the sidewalk with an alcoholic beverage in hand. Is it okay to drink a beer on a dog walk?
A: The Texanist applauds your style. If no local ordinance prohibits you from sucking down a can of beer out on the public walkways of your neighborhood while unspooling the stress of a long day at the salt mines, then neither should anything or anybody else stand in your way, your well-mannered and no doubt well-intentioned missus included. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. Nothing at all. As evidence of this fact, the Texanist would refer you to his garage, where, gathering dust in the back corner, amid a heap of accumulated flotsam, sits the stroller he once used to push his little baby girl Texanist around their neighborhood. Upon inspection, you will find that, among the buggy’s many bells, whistles, and remnant Cheerios, there is a built-in beer holder. Now why, the Texanist rhetorically asks, would the people at the stroller company have included a beer holder if it were not perfectly acceptable to walk down the street drinking one? He rests his case. Cheers!
Q: I grew up in the great state of Oklahoma and cannot recall ever being served tea without a healthy dose of sugar in it. In fact, my cousin Boyd, who now lives in Georgia, another sweet-tea state, fondly recalls being served sweet tea in his baby bottle. Is Texas a non-sweet-tea state, or are you all closeted sweet-tea drinkers?
A: While it is true that not all the tea in, say, China Grove is served presweetened, Texans enjoy iced sweet tea as much as and likely more than their Oklahoman neighbors and in fact are perfectly capable of displaying that enthusiasm outside of their closets. When it comes to tea, the Texanist follows the native spirit of do-it-yourself-ism. To him, having another person sweeten his drink when he is perfectly capable of doing it himself just isn’t proper. Since the dawn of time, Texans have been known to bait their own hooks, raise their own barns, mend their own fences, shuck their own corn, saddle their own horses, drill their own wells, spike their own punch, and dance their own jigs. It should be no different with the sweetening of their iced tea. Yet they know well that too much of a good thing can lead to ruination. So in closing, the Texanist has a question for you: How it is that your cousin Boyd manages to enjoy those firm and juicy Georgia peaches when every last one of his teeth has rotted to oblivion from a lifelong diet of sweet tea?
Q: I am a Texan of advanced age who is hearing all the clamor surrounding health care. I grew up in Mineral Wells, drinking the famed water they merchandise, and I enjoy great health in my senior years. Would you think that perhaps we have overlooked the secret to good health that was once marketed as “Crazy Water”?
A: Texans, according to statistics on such matters, can expect to continue breathing the sweet-smelling Texas air until the ripe old age of 78.27 years. This is a smidge below the national average of 78.61 years, but consider that Texans must live out their days in a land chock-full of venomous snakes, poisonous spiders, angry fire ants (see Critter), bucking broncos, jagged rocks, wildfires, harsh weather, and rank bulls, not to mention outlaws, crooks, crummy politicians, bad cops, mean teachers, and naked drivers (see “2013 Bum Steer Awards”). The Texanist must congratulate you, Mr. Brookshire, for having survived so long in these sometimes less-than-hospitable environs. However, he is not ready to credit the world-renowned waters of Mineral Wells as the cause of your healthful longevity. While your particular experience does seem to suggest the salubrious properties of these fluids, such has not been uniformly the case. Though very few people “take the waters” anymore, notable past visitors to the purportedly curative health spas include Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Welk, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, LBJ, and possibly even Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Famous folks, indeed, but what’s most impressive about this bunch is the fact that Welk is the only one who made it past 65. Dorsey died at 51, Gable at 59, Garland at 47, LBJ at 64, and Bonnie and Clyde at 23 and 25 (though with no one to blame for their grisly demise but themselves). Since the Crazy Well was dug, in the early 1880’s, there have been lots of claims made on its behalf, but the Texanist can find no reliable proof that Mineral Wells is, in fact, the Fountain of Youth. To answer your question, this H 2O probably does not, unfortunately, constitute “the secret to good health” and will likely cure what ails you only if what ails you happens to be a case of parchedness. Note, though, that the Crazy Water of your youth is being marketed once again under that brand name and is the only mineral water bottled in Texas. Bottoms up!