Last week, I decided to throw a contest to pick one reader judge for the upcoming Seattle Weekly Hot Cocktails competition coming up Sunday December 5 at Liberty. In case you missed the details of said competition, they are thus: Sunday, December 5 at 7pm at Liberty (517 15th Avenue East, right at the height of Capitol Hill), featuring some of the city's best bars (Mistral Kitchen, Vessel and La Bete, as of today), mixing up hot cocktails on a cold winter's night. But the real draw will be a competition, with a twist--we will be judging the best cocktails crafted by one of each bar's regulars (backed up by a professional), and have decided to give one judging slot to one lucky reader, chosen from among the entrants in an essay contest.
The essay question was simple: tell us the story of the one drink that changed your life. And we've heard some good stories already.
Ziggity came up with the creation myth of a cocktail:
"In Boston, most bars are open until 1am, but a select few are open until 2am. When I lived there several years back, one of these rare late-night places was a block from my apartment. No matter where I was in the city at closing time, I could always count on a couple more drinks. Of course, I woke up on far too many Saturdays and Sundays (and Thursdays and Fridays) too hungover to function properly, but being the pragmatic drinker than I am, I realized the problem was not the volume of my cups but their content - mostly IPAs and G&Ts. I needed something neutral that would wash the brain in nourishing ethanol, yet cushion it from the harsh blows of the bleak dehydrated gusts off the Charles River. I came up with "the blank". Basically a vodka and soda on the rocks in a heavy glass. I prefer Stoli, but stick to the middle shelf - nothing too extensive. And no fruit! This is a classy drink, and its minimalism is meant to coddle the dregs of your consciousness, not interject with flavor or acidity.
So my life changing cocktail: the Blank. Accept no substitutes."
A Jeanne told a cautionary tale:
"I had a summer job at a fancy gourmet food and wine shop in college. One day, I was slicing up some delicious salami for a sampler tray and I cut two of my fingers, and bled profusely. My manager (rightly so) insisted on taking me to the emergency room for liability reasons. I got my fingers bandaged up and with a prescription in hand, went home. My boyfriend came home a couple hours later with a couple of 40s of malt liquor. I wasn't much of a drinker in those days, and definitely wasn't into beer or malt liquor at the time but I partook anyway. I did stop, halfway through, to take some of my prescribed medicine. The boyfriend asked me what it was and I told him I was pretty sure it was an antibiotic and realizing that I missed my first dose, I took two. I finished the 40 and had another.
Then, I awoke, at about 4:30am, in a giant cardboard box in my backyard. A friend came over later that day and when I told her what happened she asked to see my prescription and explained to me exactly what Percocet was and why I shouldn't mix it with 80oz of malt liquor. Oops. Didn't do that again."
MJ Hughes came up with the most evocative story (though not necessarily a life-changing one):
"This is the story of the lifesavingly best beer and a bump ever. It was a cold February night in southwest England (imagine any cold rainy February night here and you've got it). My friends (aka Capn Bill-igh and his First Mate) and I were taking our new canal boat out for a first spin (why we were doing that on a cold February night is a whole other tale worthy of a warm snifter of something in front of a cozy fire).
We'd docked for the night in anticipation of a much needed pint and robust dinner of meat and two veg at the quaint (and warm) canalside pub. It had been a rough day, with the weather exacerbating some near-mutinous dissention amongst the crew, plus I'd caught a none-too-quaint Olde English cold. We were all in sore need of libation, food and warmth to cut the tension.
But as I stood ashore in the rain waiting for my companions, I heard the Capn and Mate discussing the boat's non-functioning battery and electrical system and noises about trying to fix it (right then...in the dark, the cold and the rain...). In disbelief I took a pull on my trusy flask -- and got zip (or nil if you're an English football fan). This was clearly unacceptable, especially with a pub 100 yards away.
With some sneezed-out words about meeting my friends inside, I headed into the Cross Guns pub -- a centuries-old public house complete with low-beamed ceilings, lots of horse brass and, thankfully, a roaring fire. I sniffed up to the apple-cheeked barman, my empty flask upside down and asked, "I need help. Could you please fill this with Dalwhinnie? Please?" With a sad smile, he nodded and carefully measured and poured my favorite amber liquid into my little flask.
"Anything else I can do for you, luv?" "Oh yes please -- pour me a pint of whatever you like best." He pulled a caramel-colored glass of a local Real Ale, handed it to me and pointed to the fireplace. "It's especially good around the hearth on a night like tonight."
Following his kind advice, I shuffled over to the fire, pint glass in one hand, flask at the ready in the other. With that first pull on that perfect pint, followed by an ambrosial sip from my flask, I was transported out of my wet, frozen, snot-choked body and into a Dickens lithograph. I didn't want to be anywhere but there in that very moment -- it was almost primal, imbibing the drinks of my people in a timeless (and warm) setting. It remains the best encounter with alcohol that I've ever had, although I'm always trying to top it."
And with those three already in the running for the coveted Hot Cocktails judging spot, the question now becomes: Do you think you can do better?
If you have a story you think can top those, you've still got until Friday to drop it into the comments section and see what happens. I'll be announcing a winner before close of play on Friday (just in case that life-altering cocktail happens to come to you over the Thanksgiving holiday), but after that, it'll be too late.
So get writing, my little lushes. Comments accepted either here or appended to the original Hot Cocktails post. And as always, good luck...