The promise of our show was always that it was “a weekly pseudoacademic pop culture analysis round table with drinking and swearing.” It’s never really THAT much swearing and honestly… but the drinking has never been all that explicit. It’s more that I just kind of drink a beer during ever show to give myself that “having a conversation in a bar” appeal. I mean, I’m not WASTED, but it is sort of “part of the culture of the show” and always has been. SOOOOO, it’s time we really leaned into that one.
What is the culture of drinking? We’ve got hanging out at bars… but we also have everything from going on wine tasting in Napa or having mimosas at lunch or book club. What’s a baseball or football game (at the stadium or your friend’s house) without beer? Hell, my grandmother and her friends got together for “ladies’ club meetings” for like sixty years… which were pretty much really an excuse to get shitfaced. But is there something more cultured and respectable about the elegant tasting experience? Is there more sophistication to drinking when you have a sommelier pair your wine to your Cornish game hen instead of having the waitress at Hooters bring you a pitcher of Bud Light with your bucket of wings? Long time friend of the show Meron Langsner proposed to me that we might investigate that on an episode, so let’s see what he has to say.
Wine and whisky are two forms of alcohol with significant cultural capital and rituals around their consumption and conessiorship. Why is that? And why do we on the whole treat these two substances with greater respect and social value than say, gin? (though there is a wide variety of craftsmanship that goes into a high end gin as well)
People go through great effort to refine their palettes and understand wine and whiskey, there are endless books written about them, and different producing regions take great pride in their local interpretations of the product. Rare bottles are auctioned for astronomical prices, tours of vineyards and distilleries are tourist attractions and de rigueur for connoisseurs. There are modern secular rituals around smelling, tasting, serving, and experiencing these drinks, and connoisseurship is valued in the upper echelons of society. Or so we are told.
And yet, they are still addictive intoxicants that have the potential to both facilitate a good time and/or destroy lives.
What is the mystique and why? And how do these drinks exist in a modern society as both consumer goods and experiences.
As wines and spirits go upscale, what differentiates them as luxury consumer goods? What makes them collectable? What are the signals of connoisseurship?
How does connoisseurship infuse meaning into drinking? How is it acquired? How does it measure status? To what extent is it a social skill? Who is it for? How much do we expect adults in social settings to know about alcohol as a taste experience?
Does extreme levels of connoisseurship/expertise exist as a service skill more than a consumption enhancer? At what point is the expert really at the service of consumers more than their own pleasure?
One of the big differences between whiskey and wine in social circumstances is the pairing of drink with food vs the assumption that is is expected to be the main part of the experience.
As far as wine, what is it’s place in social circumstances with or without food? How much is wine seen as an enhancer of meals vs an experience unto itself?
Whiskey is less often thought of as a paired substance, but its fans often have the same encyclopedic knowledge of origins, aging, process, and regional differences. Where does whiskey culture, which can be quite purist, overlap with cocktail culture?