I didn’t take a photo

Last week I had one of those magical whiskey moments, and I didn’t take a photo.

I say that with both a tinge of remorse and an inner pride. Remorse because I won’t be able to swipe back over thumbnails and trigger my mental file that contains the remnants of that moment. The file exists whether there’s that trigger or not, but it feels more fragile without the digital dust there to remind me of its existence. My memory just ain’t as good as I’d like it to be. Thus the remorse. I don’t want to lose the moments amidst the messy mental file cabinet in my head.

The pride? I’m sure this is a feeling that many of us over-Instagramming, over-tweeting, social media monsters experience now and again. We’ve succumbed to the social swirl of seeking likes and the notion that we’re “building our brand” every time we let you know that we’re drinking Cool Winemaker X or Rare Whiskey Y, or eating Crazy Dish Z from Awesome Chef 3000. And by we, I mean I. I’ve actually reached the point where NOT photographing and sharing something has an added sheen of inner value just from the fact that I’ve kept it to myself, that I’ve left the moment uninterrupted by the click of a button and the false light of a “smart” phone. That I let the moment just be.

Let’s just let the moments be. At least those magical moments. Those moments that demand uninterrupted attention and intention. That’s my intent.

How to drink in front of your kids

Yesterday I went to a seminar at my kids’ school, on the topic of alcohol addiction. It’s a topic that – for me, as a parent – is critically important. And a topic that – for me, as a drinks writer – I haven’t paid enough attention to. The truth is, I publicly celebrate the cult of drinking on an almost daily basis. And I don’t often enough step back to think of the ramifications of doing so. I post Instagrams of the bourbon I’m tasting, or the wine I’m opening, or the rare beer that just hit the shelves. I tweet out my excitement when a local distillery introduces a new spirit. I write about bartenders and the joy of communal drinking. But I’ve never written about alcoholism, or the dangers of drinking, or the need to model good drinking behavior to kids, or the challenges of striking that right balance between celebration and caution that is inherent in what I do. Let’s face it – the “drink responsible” story is just not as exciting as the “drink really well” story.

So here I am, spurred on by that seminar at my kids’ school, finally jotting down my thoughts on “how to drink in front of your kids.” The folks who put on the seminar had no idea there was a drinks writer in the room, but hopefully this little megaphone helps extend their message more broadly.

Let me start by explaining my personal perspective, and clearly stating that I’m no expert in alcohol dependency. I am not a psychologist, physician, counselor, or educator. What I am is a fan of drinking (and eating) well, in healthy ways. My exposure to alcoholism started when I was young, though I had little understanding of it at the time. It manifested itself as a shadowy figure lurking behind the erratic behavior of my grandmother every now and then, but a shadowy figure that was not really discussed with the kids. Luckily, my grandmother who struggled with addiction came through it fairly well, thanks to some family intervention and support.

Addiction hasn’t stalked me, but as an adult who enjoys drinking and actually writes about it semi-professionally, I have kept a wary eye out for its presence. And by that I mean that I have watched myself… my drinking habits… and second guessed the extent to which I really need that third cocktail at my favorite bar over the course of an evening, or that pour of whiskey after dinner, or that bottle of wine when the only occasion is the fact that there is good wine to be drunk. I’ll admit that I can sometimes be overzealous in my enthusiasm for a good drink. But I also know that it’s just that – enthusiasm – which sometimes needs to be tempered.

I also watch friends and family with a critical eye, making sure they don’t exhibit behavior that is worrying. And making sure I am not the one who might be pushing them into that behavior with my own aforementioned passion for sharing a fine drink. It can happen.

Usually, I’m satisfied that my desire for a drink (and to share a drink) is born out of genuine curiosity, a wish to experience what I consider to be a form of consumable art. I simply don’t turn to alcohol to drown out my sorrows or out of a feeling of necessity. And I’ve only once had to bring the topic up directly with someone else – someone I feared was suffering from alcoholism – out of concern for their safety and the safety of those around them.

So back to the topic of kids. Most of the evidence out there tells us that drinking alcohol is at best a very bad thing (and illegal) for anyone under 21. The statistics are flat out scary – like this from the CDC: “Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. $24 billion in economic costs.” The statistics also say that the earlier kids start drinking, the more likely they are to develop an addiction later on. The longer they go before drinking, the better.

And, believe it or not, kids really care about what their parents think. They do hear us. They do watch us. They do absorb how we approach alcohol. And they do actually care about their relationships with us (even if it may not always seem that way). The role of the parent in guiding their beliefs and behavior is critical.

There are lots of well-documented ways to minimize the likelihood and risks of underage drinking  (for starters, here’s the page from FCD, which is the organization affiliated with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation that was leading the discussion at my kids’ school) – making clear your expectations as a parent, making sure children are educated on the negative impacts of drinking, having open dialog, etc. But what about the question of how to drink in front of your kids? Especially for those of us you might call drinking enthusiasts?

My own experience as a kid watching parents drink is pretty close to what I think is right. My mom and dad were what you could call model drinkers (at least I think so). They enjoyed a glass or two of wine on occasion, almost always in conjunction with a nice meal. The liquor cabinet was, I think, comprised wholly of a dusty bottle of amaretto and a bottle of Frangelico or Kahlua that mostly got used in recipes. No vodka. No whiskey. No gin. No temptation to a teen. Beer was never consumed because they just didn’t care for the taste of it. I understood completely – 100% – that drinking as a teenager was not allowed. And yet…

… I did drink as a teenager (and in college under the age of 21). More than I should have. Almost always cheap swill – stuff like sticky sweet Bartles and Jaymes, or Boone’s Farm (seriously). More often than not back then, I drank with the intent of getting intoxicated, mostly because I thought there was social currency in doing so. I understood it was dangerous, and bad, and illegal. I understood that my parents would not approve. I understood that the type of drinking I was doing was not in line with the type of drinking my parents did. And I did it anyway. Thankfully, I did (and still do) draw a hard line at drinking and driving, whether for myself or for my friends. And I never allowed friends to drink at my house. Those were red lines I wouldn’t cross. And those are among the many red lines I have shared with my kids, as well.

So not only am I not an expert in alcohol addiction, I am an example of a smart kid who had a perfect environment to avoid the negatives of drinking underage, yet stupidly dove right in despite that environment. Clearly, modeling good behavior is no cure-all. But it is absolutely a step in the right direction and a positive thing to take seriously.

Anyway, here are the thoughts that are going through my head right now on how to drink responsibly in front of your kids. These assume that you have already had conversations with them (depending on their age) on the dangers of alcohol and have clearly discussed your expectations for them when it comes to drinking. If you haven’t done that, that’s your first order of business. And a good suggestion from FCD was that 60 one minute conversations with your kids can be a lot more effective than one 60 minute conversation. In other words, make it a conversation, not a lecture.

My suggestions below also assume that you enjoy drinking and appreciate the beauty that a great bottle of wine or whiskey or beer can provide. If you’re in it just for the buzz, well, that’s another issue. Lastly, if you have someone in your family who is an alcoholic, clearly there is a deeper set of guidelines that are required. Your behavior with alcohol is even more critical in its potential impact on your kids.

With that, here are my five suggestions on how to drink in front of your kids:

1. Don’t drink to get drunk. This is kind of obvious, right? Not only is getting drunk NOT the intent of responsible drinking, it is something to be consciously avoided. In my experience, kids seeing their older family members get drunk usually results in funny stories (oh, that time grandpa got drunk and did such and such!), which reinforces that getting drunk can be fun. Unfortunately, that sets a bad example. Rarely (in most families that are not grappling with alcoholism) do the adults get drunk to the point of being sick or dangerous in front of their kids, so kids may lack that firsthand view of the negative things that happen when drinking goes too far – until they do it themselves or have friends who do it. If you see “teachable moments” out and about  – at a bar, restaurant, sporting event, etc. – go ahead and point out the negative side of drinking so your kids will better understand potential consequences.

2. Don’t drink as a stress relief (or, if you must, don’t verbalize that you are drinking as a stress relief!). One of the more surprising statistics I heard from FCD was the extent to which teenagers view drinking as a way to cope with stress. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by that – kids ARE stressed today, way more than when I was young. But knowing that they are stressed, it’s probably a good idea to avoid positioning alcohol as a stress relief mechanism in your home. Coming home and announcing, “man, today was hard, I need a drink”? Not a great idea.

3. Hammer home the “don’t drink and drive” message. Another obvious one, but have a clear rule for avoiding drinking and driving. Make it clear that you have a plan ahead of time – whether that is a designated driver or a taxi/Uber/Lyft. And also make it clear that Uber is not a license to go wild, but rather a plan for responsibility. On a related note – reinforce for your kids that if they are in an environment where there is drinking, they can and should call you for a ride before ever stepping into a car with any of their friends behind the wheel who has had even a single drink.

4. Use drinking as an opportunity for dialog. As you’re having a wine or beer or whatever with dinner or while watching TV, you can talk to your kids about the role of alcohol  – why it’s not healthy for kids, why you drink it (and, yes, it’s OK to say that you enjoy the taste of it, the effort it took to create it, how interesting it is, etc.). They’ll most likely zone out as soon as you start talking about barrel aging or grape varietals or the combination of hops, and that’s probably a good thing.

5. If you’re going to share on social media, focus on the joy of the drink and not the joy of being drunk. See point 1 above. It’s fine to Instagram or tweet out about that really wonderful bottle of whatever. It’s great to celebrate the producers and their craft. It’s not a very good idea to celebrate the fact that you and your friends are drunk. Remember, your kids are watching.

Please add your perspectives in the comments section below – we’d love to hear other successful strategies for modeling good drinking behavior.


FCD, A Global Non-Profit Substance Abuse Prevention Organization

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Rare bourbon for a cause – Pappy Van Winkle and 1980 O.F.C.

In a second, I’m going to tell you about a chance to acquire the full lineup of Pappy Van Winkle bourbons and one of the mere 100 bottles of 1980 O.F.C. bourbon in existence, plus the chance to support a wonderful non-profit. But first, I have a question…

Do you – A) love drinking rare bourbon, B) love supporting a good cause, and C) love using the thousands of dollars of wealth you have accumulated in order to enable your love of drinking rare bourbon and supporting a good cause?

  • If you said YES to all three, congratulations! You are an awesome person and should read on.
  • If you didn’t say YES to all three, you may still be an awesome person… I don’t know, we haven’t met, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. You still might want to read on.
  • If you didn’t say YES to ANY of those three, then you are likely NOT an awesome person, but maybe you have recently declared a new year’s resolution to either drink more bourbon or support more charitable causes, in which case, you may well indeed be on the path to becoming an awesome person. I hope so. Please read on. Maybe it will help you on your way.

So back to the bourbon and the charity. The Giving Kitchen is one of my favorite non-profits. They do tremendous work in the Atlanta restaurant community to aid those in need. I’ve volunteered and worked with them, and even gave them a bottle of Pappy 15 a while ago since I was so enamored with their work. On January 29th, they are holding their annual Team Hidi fundraiser event, which includes a ridiculously good live auction. This year, they happen to have the full lineup of Van Winkle bourbons in one lot (10, 12, 15, 20, 23 year old), and the ultra-rare 1980 O.F.C. bourbon in another lot. And, for the first time, they are allowing bids from outside the room (the event is already sold out).

I don’t need to tell you about the Pappy. We all know how hard it is to come by, especially the chance to get the entire Van Winkle bourbon lineup in one fell swoop.

The O.F.C. you might not be familiar with, but is really interesting for bourbon geeks. Buffalo Trace Distillery has, over the years, been pulling barrels from back vintages – before it even was the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Their new O.F.C. limited releases are vintage-dated, but have not actually been in barrel ever since that initial vintage. The 1980 that the Giving Kitchen will be auctioning off, for example, is not actually a “36 year old” bourbon – it has no age statement. A Buffalo Trace representative tells me, “these bourbons were distilled over 30 years ago, but did not age for three decades.  These bourbons were tasted and removed from the wood as they peaked in flavor over the years.” In any case, they offer a chance to taste something from a different time in the bourbon industry. A time many look back to as the golden age of the craft. (Please read Sean Brock’s thoughts on the matter.)

Maybe the coolest thing about this O.F.C. release is that all of the bottles – 100 from 1980, 50 from 1982, 50 from 1983 – were doled out to charities (no charge) to help raise funds to support their missions. Good bourbon, good cause. I love it.

So, for those of you interested in bidding on either the Pappy or the O.F.C., here are the details, pulled from the Giving Kitchen’s press release. And note that, while they are allowing bids from anyone, the charity’s supporters who are in-person at the event will have the ability to outbid the highest outside bid. In other words, if you actually want to win these lots, you better go big:

The Giving Kitchen, the non-profit that serves Atlanta restaurant workers facing unexpected hardship, will be auctioning off several rare bourbons at its annual Team Hidi event on January 29 and, for the first time, will be taking bids in advance on select lots for those who can’t make it to the sold-out event. Bids on the two lots below will be accepted via email (whiskeygalATL@gmail.com) between Monday, January 23 at 9AM EST and Friday, January 27th at 5PM EST. While these bids allow a wider audience to participate in the auctions, they will serve as the opening bid for each lot, giving supporters in the room the opportunity to bid higher if they so choose.

The first lot of interest to bourbon enthusiasts is a bottle of 1980 vintage O.F.C. Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, one of only 100 bottles produced by Buffalo Trace, exclusively offered to non-profit organizations at no charge to raise money for their causes. The hand-cut crystal bottle containing this precious whiskey is a replica of an O.F.C. decanter from the early 1900s found in the Buffalo Trace Distillery archives. It comes in a luxurious dark wood display box embossed in copper. According to Buffalo Trace, bottles of this rare collectible are expected to bring in upwards of $10,000 each for the charities they support. For the Team Hidi auction, the Giving Kitchen is pairing the rare 1980 O.F.C. with a multi-course whiskey-themed dinner for 12 people at Atlanta’s Empire State South, one of chef Hugh Acheson’s many lauded restaurants. More information on the O.F.C. limited release can be found at www.ofcvintages.com.

The second lot that will draw heavy interest from bourbon fans is titled, “Who’s Your Pappy,” and includes the entire range of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey from the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery – one bottle each of the 10 year Old Rip Van Winkle, 12 year old Van Winkle Special Reserve, 15 year Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve, 20 year Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve, and 23 year Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve. The opportunity to find the full Van Winkle bourbon line-up in one place is incredibly rare. For the Team Hidi auction, the Giving Kitchen is also including a private whiskey tasting and dinner for 20 prepared by the chefs of Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn BBQ at the home of the winning bidder (if in the Atlanta area).

While these are the only two auction lots that are open to outside bidders, the Team Hidi event will also include more than a dozen other impossible-to-replicate auction lots that celebrate Atlanta and the city’s thriving restaurant community.


The sold out Team Hidi event, featuring the live auction and tastes from more than 50 of Atlanta’s top restaurants and bars will take place Sunday, January 29, 2017, from 5-9PM. Bids for the two lots discussed will be accepted via email (whiskeygalATL@gmail.com) between Monday, January 23 at 9AM EST and Friday, January 27th at 5PM EST. All emails should include the specific lot the individual is bidding on, the single bid they are placing on that lot, and the bidder’s home address. At 5pm EST on January 27th, the Team Hidi auction staff will compile and review the submitted bids on the two lots. The highest submitted bidders on each lot will be contacted to ensure that their bid is legitimate, then their bid will serve as the opening bid for that lot in the live auction – so may or may not end up as the winning bid. The opening bidders will be notified immediately after the auction as to the results.


Drink Local: ASW Distillery Fiddler Bourbon

ASW Distillery Fiddler Bourbon

If you’re in Atlanta and enjoy a fine drink, you need to be watching our local distilleries, who are all up to some very cool things. This week in Creative Loafing, I shared the goods on the new Fiddler Bourbon from ASW Distillery. My take? This is a must try for local whiskey enthusiasts, thanks to a  reasonable price, a unique mash bill (45% wheat), and the fact that ASW is very open about this being a foraged spirit that they are fiddling with in the aging process. And it’s delicious. So grab a bottle quick if you are interested – there’s not much to go around.

Here’s the news from Creative Loafing:

The facts: The new Fiddler bourbon whiskey comes from a line of “foraged” spirits to complement ASW’s house-distilled products — meaning ASW bought the stuff from another distillery but have fiddled with it in some way, mainly through aging in different types of casks and blending. This particular release came out Nov. 1 and amounts to a mere 450 bottles, or roughly two barrels. It is a high-wheat bourbon, meaning that wheat makes up a good percentage of the mash bill — 45 percent for this particular whiskey. Other notable wheated bourbons on the market are Maker’s Mark and Pappy Van Winkle, both of which have a much smaller wheat component than ASW’s. This Fiddler release is relatively young — “aged at least 18 months,” according to ASW, in full size new American oak barrels followed by quarter casks. Suggested retail price is around $35.

How it tastes: At 86 proof, Fiddler makes for a smooth and balanced sipper… READ THE REST AT CREATIVE LOAFING.




This is why I love America. Some see political division. I see a shared love of tacos. Some see fear mongering. I see an opportunity for delicious eats.

Click the hat to buy your very own patriotic, taco-loving, head covering. All proceeds from the sale of this hat will go to taco trucks parked on street corners. : )