whiskey, glass, acohol
George Pieper

George Pieper

Your First Cocktail?

What was your first cocktail?  In thinking back, I cannot quite be sure, but I have narrowed it down to either a Cuba Libre or a 7&7.  Of course, given the era, it could have been a fuzzy navel, a screwdriver, or a poorly made tequila sunrise.  All are contenders.  As a teenager coming of age in the 1980’s it seemed that having a sip of a cocktail was part of the rite of passage into adulthood.  We lived in a college town and parties abound.  It was not a party if there was not the ubiquitous bags of chips and dips, a keg of beer, a table host to a variety of booze, and a stack of red plastic solo cups.  Not yet college aged, I knew that I would get into the party with my friends if I brought a bottle of something with me as the cost of entry.  To my mother’s chagrin, it was usually something taken from her liquor cabinet.    


Suicide punch or Spodie, as we called it, would ensue.  There was always the handful of partygoers that would mix too much to the point of regret.  While a cocktail is something with an air of sophistication, like anything new we try for the first time, we make mistakes and fumble through the experience until we develop some confidence.  Somehow, I knew better than to mix profusely.  I stuck to drinking Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers back in those days.  I had cool parents who trusted me to make good decisions and with that I was in fact a responsible youth.  My mother would insist I call her to be picked up from such a party if I drank too much, rather than attempt to drive or get in the car with a driver who was inebriated.  It was a good system.  It was in the 1980’s after all when the legal age to drink alcohol in the United States was restricted from 18 to 21, so there was a sense of adjustment we went through to agree with the new limitations.  Many looked the other way and all the kids knew which liquor stores would sell hooch without checking your ID in the process.    


My mom and stepfather surprised me on my 21st birthday with a trip to Las Vegas.  While I had been many times before, this was my first adult experience where I was not relegated to the kid’s carnival area at the Circus Circus Hotel or the pool for the remainder of the trip.  This was bar and casino time!  It was a fabulous trip with many memories made.  My mom was so excited to order me my first drink, that it took place in a bar in the Sea-Tac Airport before we even took off for Las Vegas.  So, my first official drink was a classic 7&7 cocktail.  The classic 7&7 of course is 1 oz. Seagram’s Seven Crown American Whiskey and 6 oz. of the 7Up brand of lemon-lime flavored soft drink. 


I knew exactly what to order, because I had some experience under my belt at this point.  On my journey into manhood, (in the days pre-internet), I prepared myself with articles from magazines like Gentleman’s Quarterly and Esquire.  I recall an article about the “things every man should know”.  In the field of general knowledge were things like the importance of having a favorite quote, being able to tell a joke, having a favorite poem memorized at the ready to recite, and having a personal signature cocktail to order at a bar.  The point of the latter was not necessarily to appear clever like the rest, but it was a courtesy to others waiting to order.  This was a suggestion to appear decisive and confident.  No one likes to be behind the person who cannot make up their mind and it is particularly not attractive when on a date.  I soaked in these recommendations and acted with assuredness when the opportunities presented themselves. 


A few years after the trip to Las Vegas, I was on a trip to Washington, DC.  My grandfather on my father’s side who I had not seen for many years lived not too far away in a suburb of Wilmington, Delaware.  So, I made a point to see him.  We called him Grandpa East since he lived on the East Coast.  I had never been to his house as we only saw him when he came to visit us in California.  It was wonderful to reconnect.  He took me to the Dupont Country Club just down the street from his house where he had been a member for decades, so we could have a drink and catch up.  When we walked up to the bar, I knew just what to order, my standby 7&7.  My grandfather started to grin and chuckle.  He order one as well and said that a 7&7 was his signature drink too.  He was delighted that we had this in common and it was a wonderful thing we shared. 


While my tastes have matured to enjoy a much greater range of cocktails, I am never at a loss for what to order at a bar.  You certainly cannot go wrong with ordering one of the classics.  On the occasion that I do have a 7&7, which seem to be fewer these days, I am always overcome by a smile on my face.  I recount that first drink I had officially with my mom or the wonderful connection I shared with my grandfather.  What was your first cocktail?  Does it bring back good memories for you?  Do you have a standby that you order just in case the choices are overwhelming?  Please let me know, I would love to hear from you. Cheers!      

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