Back in the mid-1990s there were but a handful of scribes dedicated to covering wine and spirits. I happened to be one of them, though admittedly, I was greener than the Chartreuse and Midori.
Over the years, with help from seasoned pros such as Terry Sullivan, Gary Regan and Dale DeGroff, to name a few, I eventually caught on. And while I’m certainly not the savviest booze writer in the business, I rarely embarrass myself anymore either. Hell, sometimes I even manage to impart some honest to goodness useful information about the hooch we cherish.
For instance, it is my informed opinion that Chartreuse and Midori mixed together would taste like cat piss. Don’t try it. (You’re welcome!)
These days, it seems every sauce-soaked sap with a laptop and working liver is blogging about booze. Of course, industry publicists are enabling them by trading product, meals and all-expenses-paid junkets for coverage…no matter how dreadful or low profile it may be. One of the more unfortunate truths about life in the Information Age is that large swaths of society don’t give a hoot that so much of the information they consume is complete crap.
Ah, but where does that leave the discerning reader who’s actually looking for substantive reporting on adult beverages? Shit out of luck, that’s where. Until now. As a public service to those besotted seekers of truth – see, there I go being useful again! – I’ve put together the following guide for aspiring spirits writers out there. It’s designed to help them avoid joining the ranks of the Hapless Hacks. Pay attention, kids. This is important.
1. Down with the People-isms
Though I can’t say with absolute certainty, it’s a safe bet that neither the late great spirits writer Michael Jackson nor the still-living great spirits writer Jim Murray ever described any fortified liquid as their “fave.” Ever. And you shouldn’t either. You must understand that a legit chronicler of liquor would rather cough up his deteriorating liver than describe a drink as “delish” or “sizzling” or “sexy.”
Look, just because US Weekly and In Style weren’t hiring when you graduated from community college does not mean the rest of us should have to endure the puke-inducing pap about “toasty tipples for cold winter nights” that you copied from a press release. Even if you are willing to do it for free! If you want to be taken seriously in this business, look up the definitions of the words “tattered,” “erudite” and “curmudgeon.” And then become one.
2. Don’t play the fame game
Lady Gaga is famous. Nelson Mandela is famous too. So are Bono, Paris Hilton and Michael Jordan. Jim Meehan, on the other hand, is not famous. He’s just a good bartender. And that’s not going to change no matter how many times you refer to him as a “celebrity mixologist” in your blog. Indeed, to 99.9% of the population, the words “Jim” and “Meehan” precede the question mark in the sentence that begins “Who the fuck is…” There are many brilliant bartenders, but there are no famous ones. To claim otherwise is a clear indication you wet the bed as a child. Which brings us to…
3. Keep yourself to yourself
When the aforementioned Michael Jackson wrote about a beer, beer is ALL he wrote about. He didn’t bother telling us what he was wearing or who he was hanging out with in the hotel bar. The reason he didn’t bother with that nonsense is that he understood the most fundamental truth of the spirits-scribbling profession – NOBODY GIVES A FLYING FUCK ABOUT THE WRITER.
Believe me, I know of what I speak. I filled an entire book with navel-gazing observations about my life and career. Random House published it. After it came out, I went on a national book tour and landed on Conan and The Adam Carolla Show, among a host of other high profile programs. The guys who created It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia decided to turn the book into a sitcom. And Fox bought the show. In fact, they just finished shooting a pilot with several big stars in the cast.
And nobody cares. I know this for a fact, because today it’s possible to know, down to the fifth decimal place, just how little anybody cares. After all that amazing exposure, the current Amazon.com rankings for Living Loaded reveal that there are 419,555 books in print that people would prefer to read over mine. Trouble is, there are only about 50 people who still read books at all. If your magnum opus is anywhere out of the top 100, you’d have a better chance of being read if you shot your book into space and trusted in the existence of intelligent alien life. That said, I hear I’m huge on Frobulax 9.
The moral? Know things that other people don’t know, about things they would like to know about. Tell them these things clearly and concisely. And don’t digress into tired stories about hanging out with porn stars and your “celebrity” bartender friends.
That’s my job.