By Ori Geshury
This article represents a breakthrough I've had after struggling with these issues for fifteen years. One of the most challenging elements in a bartender's life is the fact that we work with alcohol. As our superlatively talented instructor Jeff Bowell once said in conversation:
"Nobody starts a fight over food. Nobody ends a marriage over food. Nobody ends a life over food."
In so many different ways, our relationship with alcohol determines the quality of our lives. I recently read the heartfelt forward of Sasha Petraske's widow. Sasha was the most prolific legacy builder in the world of craft cocktails, died young in a manner that was-at the very least-exacerbated by prolonged abuse of alcohol.
Many bartenders have spoken out this. The three most notable are PDT's Jim Meehan, who talks about the need for balance, exercise, and meditation. Jack McGarry, who talks about his struggles with depression and alcohol abuse that were treated by therapy, sobriety, and marathon running. Giuseppe Gonzales, who makes the remarkable case that most people who have been in the industry long enough to really know it, don't drink:
7. All of the old-time bartenders are sober. “Find me a guy who’s been doing this for 20 or 30 years — not a consultant, not a mixologist, but a bartender who’s worked behind the stick everyday, and ask me if he still drinks — you’re not going to find one,” he says. “You realize at some point in your career, sometime in your 40s, ‘you know what? I’ve got a family and I want to be able to do other things.”
At the same time, we know that alcohol is responsible for tremendous good. We know that alcohol likely played a major role in starting civilization itself! We know that moderate drinking has the ability to extend life, protect against a host of degenerative diseases (the scariest being heart disease, and stroke), increase sex drive, and even boost immunity.
Is Alcohol Good or Evil?
Prolific alcohol journalist Camper English has a mind bending section on his website entitled, good booze/bad booze. He compiles all of the major studies that say alcohol will help us live forever, with all of the major studies that say it's a poisonous carcinogen, and lumps them all together. It's wonderful in the cognitive dissonance it invokes as almost everyone has taken a "side."
What If Alcohol is both Good and Evil?
If we accept both the good and the bad of alcohol as likely true, and decide that we want to keep drinking, as most people in the western world have, how can we we use it as a meditation to transform ourselves?
What if alcohol is an opportunity for us to stop seeing the world in black in white, in terms of good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, logical and illogical, work and pleasure, joy and suffering?
What if we can create harmony by finding the balance between opposites, and expressing that creatively through the practice of making drinks, and our relationship to alcohol?
If either of these are true, then would that mean for our quality of life?