Don't Put All Your Booze Into One Basket

This is my sixth Thanksgiving Wednesday at K&L and I like to think I'm a bit wiser with five superdays under my belt. We're going to get absolutely thrashed today and I'm completely ready for it. There will be lines out the door, mayhem on the sales floor, and staff members running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Deliveries coming in, orders going out, and only us standing in between them. With all the madness that is the day before Thanksgiving at K&L, it's the actual holiday that I'm still learning how to deal with. I can handle the store and the stress, but getting the right booze for the following family occasion still gives me fits. Let's look at my five previous Thanksgivings to illustrate this point:

Thanksgiving 2007: I had just started working at K&L so I had no idea what to get. I basically relied on the advice of my colleagues to make my wine selections, which led to mixed results with my family. None of us really knew what we were drinking.

Thanksgiving 2008: This year I had a good grasp on things as far as selecting great wines and pairing them with the appropriate courses. I was really excited. This was my first real chance to nail this thing. I did a list with info about how each wine was made and what made it special. When we sat down and I gave a quick rundown, my family began getting restless and began interrupting me after only a minute. They were totally bored, seemingly annoyed, and it was completely unsuccessful.

Thanksgiving 2009: After learning from the misguided educational efforts of 2008, I still chose really great wines, but decided to just leave them there for people to drink at their leisure. This ended up with only about a third of the wine being consumed with some more expensive bottles being opened, but only partially drunk. Still a disappointment because people didn't care about the wine whether I told them about it or not. This was also my first T-Day as spirits buyer so I brought some great booze that no one ended up drinking because they had already drunk too much wine.

Thanksgiving 2010: This was the first year that I introduced Pliny the Elder beer to the table. It was the hit of the night. So much so that no one wanted to drink wine or spirits, so the bottles just sat there.

Thanksgiving 2011: We had a completely different group this year as half of my family went down south to visit my cousin and his new twin daughters. I opened way too much wine for a small group and watched as one of our family friends took down a $40 bottle on her own. She really enjoyed it, but I think she would have enjoyed it no matter what it was.

Let me clear up a few things here to help put this into perspective. My family loves to drink. My family enjoys beer, wine, and spirits. They all purchase booze on their own and look forward to my selections. In no way am I bringing booze to people who don't want to drink or enjoy it. The problem is me. I have certain expectations for how booze is going to be consumed, received, and enjoyed. They are impossible standards that can never be achieved. I have realized that and have finally freed myself from the eventual disappointment that will inevitably follow. Thanksgiving is not the time to bring out the big guns and show everyone how big It's a time to sit back and enjoy yourself with family. Stressing about drinking the perfect booze just means more stress!

The only times I have enjoyed really expensive wines were while dining with other K&L employees. The only times I have enjoyed really expensive whiskies were while drinking with other K&L employees (or with my friend David OG while overseas). That's not because they're the only ones who "get it," it's because they're the only other people I know who care. Why take your wife who hates James Bond to see a James Bond movie with you? Why take your mother, who hates French cuisine, out to the a fancy meal at the French Laundry? Who are you really trying to please? I'll give you a hint: it's not the other person. If you want to enjoy doing something you like to do (i.e. talk about wine or ponder a glass of single malt) then you need to do so with others who share your interests. Find a social club or a weekly meet-up group, but don't force your loved ones to carry the burden. Just because someone likes to drink doesn't mean they actually want to talk about what they're drinking. That's a very important distinction.

Thanksgiving 2012: Inexpensive Italian white: 2010 Malvira Arneis Roero. Inexpensive Spanish reds: 2011 Lesmos "Cuarteto" and the 2006 Crianza. These wines are delicious, pair well with turkey, and represent tremendous value. They're unique and different enough to generate a bit of excitement, but still taste familiar enough to be inclusive. For a starter we'll drink our new Spanish import: the Mas Codina Brut Reserva. I'll probably bring a bottle of Calvados and a bottle of Scotch just to have in case someone wants a glass later on. That's it. I bring some good booze, others drink it. If they want to know more, they can ask. If not, no big deal.

There will be no Pappy at my table. No Four Roses. No K&L Exclusive single barrel Scotch. No limited edition Cognac. No fancy, pre-Prohibition cocktails. I know I'm supposed to be writing an article about all the fancy booze I'll be "drinking" (in the fictional, fantasy K&L spirits buyer world, that is) in order to get you all to buy some. That's what holiday booze articles are for: getting the general public to feed into the romanticism and react with their credit cards. However, I want you to actually enjoy yourselves. I'm not going to lie. You don't need trophy bottles to enjoy Thanksgiving. In my opinion, it's probably the worst day of the year to drink them.

If you're eating Thanksgiving dinner with Robert Parker or your weekly wine tasting group, then by all means break out the old Burgundy. If you're carving the bird with the Malt Maniacs or the LA Whiskey Society, then bring your Port Ellen and Brora stash. Those people will actually enjoy, appreciate, and marvel in what you're offering. If you're dining with your family, however, I'd suggest bringing it down a notch. Forcing them to sit through wine pairings, boring lectures, tasting notes, and booze history is quite torturous. You can't force people to love something as much as you do (especially in the span of a few hours). In the end you'll be the most disappointed, knowing that you put so much effort into making Thanksgiving perfect, but ended up isolating your family members as a result.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and prepare my first annual Thanksgiving movie screening. We'll start with a retrospective of Jean Claude Van Damme's early films before a segway into some older WWF matches from the early 1990's as we continue to get more intoxicated. I know my family is going to love it!! They're going to love my passion for these classics! Who wouldn't?

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll