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Imagine sitting at your favorite cocktail bar. You can’t really articulate what you want beyond a preference for gin or vodka, but somehow, magically, the bartender whips up exactly what you’re craving—a drink with muddled cucumbers, or a hint of smoke. Imagine taking this glass from the bartender, brushing hands, even, and sipping it while surrounded by maskless people.
I never thought drinking a good cocktail at my favorite bar would surface as one of the rituals I’d miss most in a COVID world. It could be because I was pregnant for a year before this socially distanced hellscape began, which meant that busy bars did not appeal to me even before they closed down. But sometimes, while I was pregnant, I would imagine the day when my husband and I could go out, sans baby, and enjoy a cocktail. When my maternity leave ended in March, COVID hit. We never got to go to that bar.
My first post-baby cocktail was a Gin and Tonic, the drink I’d missed most. But surprisingly, it didn’t taste like the cocktail I’d imagined for all those months. My dad mixed it, and I drank it out of a water glass, so I wondered if perhaps the experience I missed had something to do with the vessel. Then, during a nightly session of doomscrolling, I discovered a set of impossibly cheap whiskey glasses on Amazon; they were beautiful, with an intricate twisted shape that reflected light in shards across the ceiling. I gave the glasses to friends for their Zoom weddings and sent them to family members for long-distance video happy hours. Eventually, I bought them for myself, too.
I’m sure there’s a case to be made for buying fancy glassware, but in my house, glassware always, always breaks. The whiskey glasses we were gifted as a wedding present have all shattered and disappeared. These Amazon tumblers, on the other hand, are durable and thick; this not only helps the cocktails stay cool, it means that when people like my husband knock them around, they don’t break. Honestly, what I most appreciate about them right now is that they look fancy—something I haven’t seen, or felt, for months. They even arrive packaged in a satin-lined box.
Since adding these glasses to our household, once the clock hits 5 p.m., I end my workday, make the 20-step commute upstairs, and pull belly-up to our kitchen counter. “What’s on the menu today?” I ask my husband, who’s taken on the role of house bartender.
We’ve already cycled through many cocktail phases: early-summer Mezcal Margaritas made with the cheapest Trader Joe’s tequila and muddled blood orange juice; long-work-week Gin and Tonics made with gin from a tiny distillery in Utah, a gift from a friend for our solitary, pandemic-style 30th birthdays; hanging-onto-summer Mojitos made with mint from the garden; and it’s-too-hot-to-cook spiked lemonades with various flavorings and infusions.
I’ve come to truly appreciate any excuse to mimic the social rituals that once kept me tethered to the city—and people—around me, and my nightly drink ritual has become a silver lining of this experience, a time to pause after work and catch up with my husband despite the anxiety around us. Now, there’s always a Mason jar of simple syrup in the fridge (we’ve subbed maple syrup in a pinch, too) and a variety of fruit for muddling (blackberry is a frequent request). I’m looking forward to theming our cocktails for the holidays this year, too, especially since we’ll be spending a lot more time alone. I’ve been eyeing a spiced rum and reading up on how to make the perfect hot toddy as the weather starts to turn.
Sure, a beer hits the spot some days. But on other days, when I need to feel an inkling of the professional, social, nonisolated world I’ve left behind, when I look ahead at a relatively solitary holiday season and find myself grasping for some measure of hope, when I worry about the impending Seattle winter and what it means for my social interactions, I’m momentarily soothed by watching the light reflect off of my new cocktail glasses, come what may. Clink.