Saturday, March 23, 2013

Shaken, not stirred

Just the mention of that phrase and no doubt your mind immediately landed on James Bond and his signature drink. Alcohol and literature go way back -- and why not?  It's a handy way to establish a mood. If someone slides onto a stool and calls to the bartender, "Bourbon, neat," it's probably safe to assume he's had a rough day. If the writer chooses to mention a brand, you'll know what this character can afford to spend. Our Sam Spade may have shifted into a shaken stock broker who's just lost a hell of a lot of his client's money. By the same token, another person could announce, "Drinks are one me!" and you know he's got something to celebrate.

Drinks help provide atmosphere. Compare beaches. One bathed in bright sunshine, a gorgeous blue expanse  of ocean, gentle waves sliding up and back, leaving a damp footprint behind. What sort of glass would that pretty woman stretched out on that lounge chair be holding in her hand? Odds are, it's garnished with colorful fresh fruit of some kind. Now let's slide over to a different beach, at night. The stars are pinpricks of light against the dark sky. Waves crest and crash over the rocky shore. There's a cool bite in the air, but the glowing bonfire feels good as a number of couples stare into the flames, talking, perhaps singing. Odds are, they're chilling out with bottles of beer.

Even the type of bar can be useful for a writer. Imagine a group of friends enjoying a girls' night out. It's an opportunity to let down their hair and dish about their jobs and love lives while they take the fancy cocktail menu out for a spin. You know they probably aren't in a sports bar with big screen televisions on every wall. Then there's the quiet neighborhood bar, ala Cheers, where the person behind the counter knows their customers by name and drink. The best are the clubs where a man can send over a drink as a precursor to approaching a woman he'd like to meet. You can have a lot of fun with smooth or clumsy pick up lines.

When a bottle comes out, the glasses can matter.  You know when someone sets a bottle down hard on a table and adds two shot glasses, they either want to talk about something serious or forget it. How different when compared to a bottle of wine and two glasses, one with a smudge of lipstick on the lip. Wine sets the stage for romance and infuses the moment with heady aromas and chewy flavors that linger on the tongue and breath. It's fun to describe intoxicating kisses with a subtle wine finish. 

Last but certainly not least, is champagne. The pop of the cork, the bubbles chasing and swirling up the long fluted stemware. Is it an engagement? Wedding? Did the divorce finally go through? The possibilities are exciting. Let's imagine a pretty bride, stood up at the altar. Perhaps she's perched in all her finery on the pristine white tablecloth of the head table, passing a bottle of bubbly back and forth with the best man. As they slowly get sloshed, will he finally admit that he's glad the groom didn't show? Will the spirits move him to slide that gorgeous floral centerpiece out of the way and lay her out on that table and show her that she's been wasting her time with the wrong guy? I certainly hope so.



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