How Do You Spell Holiday?

Meet Your Maker: notes on (not) drinking bourbon

There is an old joke about two buddies, Frank and Jim, who go out for after-work libations.

Frank proceeds to get blind drunk and vomits all over his own shirt. He laments that his wife will be infuriated when she sees him in such a state. Jim, being a generous and ingenious pal, tells Frank to tell his wife instead that it was Jim who got bombed and barfed on Frank’s shirt. To corroborate this story, Jim instructs Frank to plant $10 into his shirt pocket, from Jim, to pay for the estimated dry cleaning.

The last drink of alcohol I ever had was Maker’s Mark bourbon. To be pedantic, the last drink of alcohol I ever had was an entire bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon. It all started with one shot. Then another. Then another. I was at home, alone, and you would think that you can’t get into trouble drinking at home alone. But no.

I vaguely remember that the police arrived, then departed. More bourbon shots followed, which I do not recall. Yadda Yadda Yadda, and I found the bottle upside down in the sink the next morning. Of course I’m Yadda-ing over the worst part.

I don’t know why I was drinking. Perhaps it was the extreme loneliness of the pandemic. Perhaps it was the frustration around the extreme loneliness of the pandemic. Somehow the pandemic had something to do with it. But if I’m being honest, the pandemic was just another excuse, an easy target, like the solution to a 1930s social problem film. The real motive was the spirit in the bottle.

The reason they call spirits ‘spirits’ is because there is a powerful spiritual essence in there. It can take any form, any gender, any identity — it is fluid, after all. The spirit can be charming, clever, courageous, affectionate, amorous. But the spirit can also become impetuous, angry, even violent. And there is a point at which the spirit in the bottle can and will completely take over the spirit in the human being. The spirit assumes one hundred percent control, leaving behind nothing resembling that person, and the spirit will do whatever it will. Fundamentally, its will and our will are out of sync. No one ever says, ‘I’m glad I did X while drunk.’

I am not absolving myself of any responsibility here. It was I who invited the spirit into my life in the first place. I’m the one who drank the bourbon. And I drank everything that I ever drank leading up to the bourbon. But once that particular bourbon entered my bloodstream, I knew to whom its mark belonged. It was not the bourbon’s distiller; the “Maker’s Mark” was of the alcohol’s apposite creator. You know, that guy, from south of the border. (Hell, not America.)

I was invited earlier this month to an exclusive event at the brand new Hyatt Centric hotel in Old Montreal. A pre-Christmas tour of the facility was announced, and abruptly cancelled, for media personnel ostensibly covering the travel industry for various publications. I emailed the Hyatt to find out if the tour had been rescheduled and discovered that there was indeed a visit that very night, if I’d hustled to the property, followed by a tasting of a batch of Maker’s Mark bourbon produced especially for The Burgundy Lion’s sister restaurant, Cartier Arms. I was under the impression that journalism was dying. But it’s encouraging to see how many people consider themselves journalists when someone is administering journalists free bourbon shots.

The Hyatt Centric, the majestic, off-kilter, white cube that looms high on the horizon over Montreal’s most historically rich neighbourhood, seemed a fitting venue for the Maker’s Mark unveiling. Because of its architecturally anomalous design, its hallways appear to veer sideways. It is undeniably an admirably built edifice. But there is something Death Star-ish about it. Maybe it’s the fact that it is perpetually under construction. Or maybe it’s the fact that this Hyatt represents another giant corporation planting its flag in the heart of Montreal, thus marking yet another slide down the world’s slippery slope of ultimately toxic inclinations.

Toby Lyle, the restaurateur, and the aptly named Lindsay Wood, Maker’s Mark’s diplomat, were on hand to give their respective spiels describing this niche bourbon blend, called Adrianna, after Lyle’s daughter. They regaled the audience with details about how the bourbon is made, about how Maker’s Mark distillery boasts its own water source, about how bourbon needn’t be manufactured in Kentucky, but has to be blended using a minimum of fifty-one percent corn to be considered bourbon proper. Lyle divulged to the crowd that he’d planned to gift his daughter a bottle of her bourbon on her eighteenth birthday. I hope Adrianna respects the spirit that is now her namesake. I pray she understands the potential curse bottled therein.

A number of recent studies have concluded that, contrary to popular belief, there is no healthy amount of alcohol for humans. Nada. Zero. Zilch. All of the positive effects previously associated with booze — decreased blood pressure, antioxidation — can be better achieved with many other safe and effective methods that do not involve intoxication. We might have normalized alcoholism in modern society, but statistics suggest that young people are consuming far less alcohol than previous generations, and soft drink industry efforts to entice young consumers back to habitual boozing by introducing alcohol are both indicative of those trends, as well as proof of capitalism’s pure evil.

So, what was the worst part of my last drink?

When Frank arrives home, his wife is predictably enraged and immediately rebukes him. Frank, though, proceeds to unravel the alibi concocted earlier — that it was really Jim who had drunkenly vomited on Frank’s shirt. Frank implores his wife to check inside his pocket in which she will find $10, from Jim, for the dry cleaning. She inspects his pockets, but instead finds $20. To which Frank replies, “Well, he took a shit in my pants, too.”◼︎

Help is available if you or anyone you know is suffering from addictions.

Imbibe Adrianna exclusively at Cartier Arms, where there is also a selection of delicious virgin cocktails.