I’m stirring my husband’s whiskey drink fifty times like he instructed, but I lose count after three. I’m focused too much on my technique and how to maneuver the special tall silver spoon. Yes, Josh did give me a spoon demonstration a minute ago. It’s all in the wrist and you have to loosen your grip. The latter is hard for me. I have a tendency to hold things tightly. It used to drive my high school golf coach crazy. Stop strangling the poor club! he’d say, exasperated.
Round and round and round, the mouth of the spoon hits the sides of the glass clink! clink! clink! It’s the sound of my dad making a Manhattan every night when he comes home from work. He’d stir it up and toss in a cherry. There was no fancy spoon. Sometimes, I’d ask for the cherry, and my dad would fish it out for me. My first taste of whiskey, all wrapped up in a bright red cherry.
My dad has a beer now instead of his evening cocktail. Not by choice. My mom insists on it. He doesn’t have the tolerance for it anymore, she says. His once strong, sturdy body has suffered the passage of time. A number of hip and knee replacements later, the lingering pain makes him unsteady. My dad’s too stubborn to use a cain, so it’s probably for the best he’s not mixing Manhattans every night. But, leave it to Josh to present him with one on Christmas Eve. My dad’s amusement at this gift is a vision! He can’t withhold his childlike surprise. He’s blushing and raising his glass. Clink!
My older brother, Brad, drank Jim Beam. My second taste of whiskey.
I was eighteen when he pulled into an empty lot of a bar on a Sunday afternoon. The bartender gives me a dubious look and says, How old are you?
I don’t know what to say. Uh…um… eighteen?
He’s chuckling, and I figure I’ve passed the test because he’s asking, What’ll it be?
What he’s having seems like an appropriate response.
Jim Beam on the rocks. If I have to characterize my second taste of whiskey, definitely some kind of terrible, acid waste, death poison. No sweet cherry to mask this flavor. My brother reads the disgust registered on my face and says something about it putting hair on my chest some day.
Fifty or so stirs later, a finished cocktail, my life in whiskey, and still no hair on my chest.