I’m not much of a summer person, and I’m especially not much of a pandemic summer person, where until recently the only social activities you could do were outside in the baking heat. A partial list of things I’m against include: the sun, being hot, bathing suits, treetop trekking (ew!), bees, camping, hiking, bike riding when it isn’t to actually get somewhere, and pretty much any other terrible “nature” thing that people do that isn’t sitting on a patio or on a cottage dock in the shade. (For the record, I am also okay with wandering around the city on warm days — under 26 degrees only! — and going into cute stores in case you think I don’t appreciate the outdoors at all.)
But I had to come up with some way to mark the season or it would be like the last six months was all just one, long terrible day where I went nowhere and saw no one and a deadly pandemic was ruining everything. So I chose drinking. Everybody has to have a COVID hobby, and making cocktails became mine because you know where you can get sourdough bread? AT THE BREAD STORE.
I’ve always liked a good cocktail when I’m out for dinner (aw, remember going out for dinner?) but it never actually occurred to me that you could make one for yourself and drink it at home. I always thought it was, I don’t know, hard, and involved fancy tools that I didn’t have. Plus I’ve just never been much of a home drinker, a defect that puzzled my WASP-y husband and my very… um… how do I say this?… wine-forward group of female neighbours, who walk down the block every night waving vats of chardonnay that they somehow manage to lift with their twiggy white-lady arms.
A negroni was my gateway cocktail. At the beginning of lockdown I was cruising some takeout dinner deal being hawked by my local Italian restaurant and as an add-on you could get a negroni kit with full bottles of the required ingredients (Campari, vermouth, and gin) — for $150. Suddenly I was madly craving a negroni, even though I’d probably only ever drank one in my life, but not craving spending $150. Also this was the phase of lockdown when the entire world was closed, so if you needed an outing there were only three places you could go: the drugstore, the grocery store, and the liquor store, so off I went to pick up the necessities of life at the LCBO. I came home with my kill, mixed my very first at-home cocktail and triumphantly handed it to my husband. Soon a cocktail-of-the day — only one! — became a daily ritual every eve at 5 p.m on the dot (4 p.m on weekends).
My husband was thrilled by this development. Finally we shared a hobby other than arguing about whether the humidex is real! (IT IS.) He’s very serious about alcohol. He was a scotch man when I met him but has been all about craft beers for years now. Also he has a 1970s-style moustache, which means he’s required by law to be a home-brewer, and boyfriend is not fucking around with that shit. Like, I have five kegs filled with different beers he made himself in my laundry room at all times, and there’s often some sort of hideous looking witches barf that he claims is called wort (ew) or a yeast starter in our fridge — v. pandemic chic! He’s even long-since commandeered MY label maker, a very heinous crime, to label each tap. Sometimes he lets our kid name the beers, so that counts as home-schooling too. (But seriously, if the apocalypse comes and we end up in a barter economy I can load you up with a growler full of something called “Emoji.”) All of this is to say that he fully supported me as I started bookmarking cocktail recipes, making simple syrups, and riding across town to buy a set of mint julep cups before I realized that mint juleps are disgusting.
My new hobby gave me something to research other than how many COVID cases there were, was a tasty way to officially mark the end of the workday, and also, why didn’t anyone tell me that a drink takes the edge off?! You people have been hiding this from me my whole life!!
As the season changed so did my drink of choice. I moved from winter bitters to summery mojitos, margaritas, and the occasional sidecar or sloe gin fizz. I started growing my own mint. I hauled massive bags of limes home from Costco. I bought a muddler. We even invested in new porch furniture — well, our first-ever porch furniture — to match our cocktails, a sassy little faux Palm Springs set from Home Depot because we’re fancy that way.
I’m going to have to start planning my fall drinks soon, but if you’re looking for me until then, I’ll be on my porch every night for the rest of the summer, not hiking, drinking fruity cocktails and shouting “I’m drunk!” by 5:43 pm.
If you are struggling with substance abuse, please see here for a list of resources by province in Canada.