Alcohol for Academia

GYDO fan and grad student says:

i would like some alcohol advice for someone who’s stopped drinking for the most part but is wrestling with racial imaginaries and the reductionist views of binary/hybridity discourse.”

I don’t know what that means, but while she professes to hardly drink, she surely wants and, yes, even needs to drink more. This is a cry for help.

Sounds like someone needs the drink of a scholar.

The Ingredients

First, procure some sort of silky ascot and smoking jacket.  A pipe would help, too.  Extra points if you can score a replica of Gandalf’s pipe from the LOTR movies, because nothing says “scholar” like wizardly accouterments. Next on the list:  A stuffed, mounted lion head, seven or eight candles, which will be placed in vintage wall sconces, some firewood, and many leather-bound books of pretentious subject matter.  Last, but perhaps most importantly, you’ll require several classy brandy snifters or sipping glasses and a bottle of cognac, such as King Louis XIII (if you happen to have a couple Gs lying around).  Hennessy, Courvoisier, and Remy Martin are also fine and much more affordable, ranging from around $30-$100 per bottle depending on how long it’s been aged.

A quick note about cognac gradings and what they mean:

  1. VS – “Very Special” is aged for a minimum of three years.  This is also known as “three star” cognac.
  2. VSOP – “Very Superior Old Pale” might sound like a reference to John McCain, but actually just means the cognac has been aged for a minimum of five years.  This is also known as “five star” cognac.
  3. XO – “Extra Old” could also be mistaken for a McCain reference, but this time indicates that your cognac has been aged for over six years.  Also known as “extra expensive” cognac.

Technically, cognac may be drunk from any container, or while wearing any type of attire. However, if your aim is to look and feel scholarly, you may want to try using the a few of the cognac accessories listed above.

Sometimes, you don’t want to “fake it ’til you make it”. Sometimes you just wanna drink it all away. But look, if you just wanted to get drunk like a college kid, it’d be easy enough to throw back a few pints of beer — or craft beer, if you’re in grad school.

If it’s a touch of class and a warm fall back-to-school glow you seek, throw on a tweed blazer and let’s make some cognac cocktails.

I pulled this simple ‘beaut from the Hennessey site — which has a decent selection of vintage-inspired and retro cognac recipes. Of the two recipes on the above linked page, this one is my favorite. It’s hard to dislike a drink that incorporates marmalade. That’s so fucking classy, it’s basically British.

  • 1 ½ oz – Hennessy V.S (or other cognac)
  • ¾ oz – Velvet Falernum
  • 2 Dashes – Angostura bitters
  • 1 heaping tbsp – orange marmalade
  • ½ oz – fresh lemon juice

Add all liquids to a shaker tin with ice. Shake until well chilled. Fine strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist

* * * * *

I’ll admit the breadth of my cognac knowledge is not up to snuff for someone who professes to be a boozing professional, but I have enjoyed these and other cocktails served to me by skilled barkeeps, and have enjoyed them thoroughly. Don’t think  there’s no place in your collection for cognac just because you might not have much experience with it.

It’s a nice, seldom-utilized (but crucial) ingredient in lots of vintage cocktails, and perfect for fireside sipping with no accompaniment. It also makes for a smooth complement to the spiced and citrus tones of autumn and winter dishes, so make sure you have a bottle in the back of your liquor cabinet for sweater weather.

You can also dip cake in it. A chunk of Pannetone clutched in your grubby, drunk fist, dripping with cognac, is the perfect late night snack for when you find yourself stumbling into the snow to get some air at the office holiday party. So I’ve been told.

If you’re drinking these cognac cocktails and you still don’t feel scholarly, perhaps you should crack a damned book and get to studying. Neither consistent, manageable drunkenness nor a learned, cultured mind just happens. You have to work for that.


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