The Imbiber In Vegas
The Chuck Yeagers of debauchery unite. In Vegas.
This dispatch is coming to you in pseudo-real-time from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America’s 69th annual convention at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
Some go to Vegas to drink. Some go for conventions. But those who come here for drinking conventions? Let’s face it folks, we’re the Chuck Yeagers of debauchery. That demon that lives in the air? He's nothing compared to the demon that lives at the center of a hangover caused by 27 different kinds of alcohol.
So far I’ve been here 22 hours and have been in varying stages of intoxication for all but .5 of them. And while I’ve always fancied myself a bit of an Iron Man when it comes to this professional imbibing business, there are people here who put my big-in-Japan drinking game to shame. Case in point, I have counted at least seven or eight people at this convention who — had the late Amy Winehouse been an organ donor — almost certainly would have taken her up on her liver.
Just maintaining basal body function amid the twin black holes of workaday Las Vegas and the booze industry cutting loose is a challenge, and the organizers know it. Survival is foremost on their minds. Why else would they have booked a keynote address from none other than Nando Parrado, one of sixteen survivors of the 1972 airplane crash immortalized in the international bestseller Alive. I missed Parrado’s speech, unfortunately, but I hear it was quite inspirational. I’m told, however, that some found the cooking demonstration to be in poor taste.
What? Too soon?
Sweet pole-vaulting Jesus yes it is. Because I’ve got to jet down to the main ballroom in, looks like… SIX MINUTES to judge the Iron Mixologist competition, one of the convention’s centerpiece events.
You'll hear all about it later… that is assuming no one finds me passed out, salts me and sets me in the sun to make jerky out of me. But even if that happens, no worries. Once you get past my leathery texture, you'll find I'm quite a delicacy. Back in a few hours, wish me luck.
Five hours later…
Okay, I’m back. And you’re not going to believe who I ran into at the event. Well, ran into isn’t quite accurate. This cat tracked me down, stalker-style.
His name is Paul Goldman. Astute readers of this column may recall that I took him to task a few months back for having launched a dubious product called Kansas Spirit Whiskey.
I didn’t pull any punches in my original assessment of Goldman’s hooch, which he boldly claimed is intended "to appeal equally to men and women who typically enjoy vodka." Because, you know, there apparently isn’t enough vodka around to sate that sect’s voracious thirst. As for Goldman’s marketing strategy, which is based on the premise that traditional whiskey comes with a “middle-aged yuck factor,” well I denounced it as the single most moronic idea I’d ever encountered in the business.
Oh, and since Goldman’s wife, who complained to her hubby that whiskey "was for old men" and "wasn't cool," provided impetus for the whole venture, I poked some fun at her too. Playfully suggesting she was daft, and that he might be better off dead. But, hey, they picked a fight with my beloved whisky. They were asking for it.
So after it was brought to my attention that the rather strapping fellow in the crowd who’d been staring at me like a starving plane crash survivor for the bulk of the Iron Mixologist contest was, in fact, Paul Goldman, I assumed some sort of nasty confrontation was in the offing.
Sure enough, Goldman made a run at me as I attempted to sneak out a side door, and blindsided me with a big ol’ haymaker of, um…niceness. Yep. Turns out, he’s a very mellow dude and that rather than wanting to kill me – or, at least, openly express such a desire in a public setting – he only wanted to talk. To set me straight, as it were, about all things related to Kansas Spirit Whiskey.
I figured why not? It beats having the shit kicked out of me in front of a bunch of middle-aged white guys in suits at a wholesalers’ convention. Tune in next time for a full report on that tete-a-tete…
Read the previous installment of The Imbiber on Food Republic.
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