A Lady and Her Liquor, Part 1

PRACTICALLY anybody old enough to read these words can remember when few, if any, ladies drank. Feminine lips that touched whisky were, of course, almost unmentionable, whisky being definitely a man's drink. As for a woman who lived alone and kept liquor in her cupboard-she was referred to in hushed tones as a woman with an affliction, like insanity or epilepsy.

Today, the woman who doesn't drink is more apt to have high blood-pressure than moral prejudices. In even the most feminine restaurants, where men are rare (and uninteresting), the majority of customers take cocktails, and as many whisky drinks as gin drinks are sold. In feminine apartments, as a rule, not even the occasional teetotaler begrudges a highball to a guest. Enjoying your friends' drinks, but never serving any, seems like another form of sponging, and most people feel that they are boring when they don't drink with the crowd.

But for all this modern viewpoint, there are plenty of ladies who don't seem to know very much about liquor. You see them in bars, looking vague when their escorts ask them what they want; you hear them in restaurants, murmuring vaguely that they'd like "one of those pale drinks with olives in them." They accept meekly the masculine assumption that it's the men who know all about liquor, and we hate to think what they may put into their crystal cocktail shakers at home.

But why should men be the only ones to know their drinks? If you're going to serve them, as apparently you are, why not serve the right ones at the right time and know how to mix them? It's not an asset to be known as that woman who serves the terrible applejack cocktails.

We are not urging you to serve any liquor at all. We are not going into the matter of morals-which is, after all, nobody's business but your own. But whatever your ideas on the subject, it's very useful to know the ABC s of drinking. Even if you never drink, but more especially if you do, understanding what to drink and how much is pretty important. And understanding what to serve and when is invaluable to any hostess. There is no simpler way of entertaining successfully than having a cocktail party, and there is no surer way of making a casual guest have a good time, than serving a highball. For breaking ice, mixing strangers, and increasing popularity, alcohol is still unrivaled, Mrs. Boole and all her willing workers to the contrary.

Fortunately, it is entirely possible to have occasional cocktail parties and to keep on hand an adequate supply of the necessary ingredients for drinks to serve unexpectedly, all without having a cellar. With seven bottles and a small amount of knowledge, anybody can be a good hostess.

As a surprising number of women lack even this knowledge, we will start from the beginning. The seven essential bottles contain sherry, gin, Scotch, rye, French and Italian vermouth, and bitters. Sherry for the mild drinkers and more and more for the sophisticated ones. Gin and both vermouths for Martinis. Scotch for highballs; rye and bitters for the Old-Fashioned, and rye, bitters, and Italian vermouth for Manhattans. All of these things can be used in dozens of other ways, of course, and you can add innumerable bottles, but you can get just as far with these seven. You can, in fact, go too far with even fewer. If you are a beginner as a bartender, we advise you to stick to these and leave the drinks with the fancy names and the fancy colors to the professionals.

Buying liquor may seem like a problem in itself, but, in reality, it has ceased to be one of the great masculine mysteries. Like so many of them, it turns out to be a simple matter after all. All you really need to do is to go to a reliable shop and get confidential with the salesman. Tell him any doubts in your mihd and watch him respond chivalrously to a lady in distress. He will like it, and you will come out with as satisfactory a purchase as though your most hard-drinking friend had bought it. You may feel a little silly, but it is better to be silly than stung.

If you go into a not-so-reliable shop, you will probably be sold a bargain, and bargains in liquor, like bargains in clothes, are only for Those Who Know. While you are still learning, never buy anything but the best. (This is not a bad rule to stick to through life.)

If you don't want to leave it to the salesman, ask a friend who serves good cocktails to tell you the names of one or two good brands of each kind of liquor and memorize them. If the shop you go to hasn't got them, go to another shop. Incidentally, buy an imported sherry that came from Spain by way of England. It's an old Spanish custom to embroider the truth on labels, but British reserve holds true here as elsewhere. And get fairly dry sherry, but not the dryest. Very dry sherry is something that most people drink because they have heard it was chic and not because they like it.