Perhaps you remember the major financial crash of 2008, the most significant global economic crisis since the Great Depression. That year I was a sophomore at Cornell University’s Hotel School. Autumn is typically a time when students are excited about the new semester, primed for learning and inspiration. Instead, I saw students crying in the hallways. Their trust funds and dreams for lucrative careers were going up in smoke.
The general air of desperation and a few other factors led to my realization that a career in hospitality was not something I wanted to pursue, so I transferred to the School of Arts and Sciences to become an English major. What better field of study to take on during such a time of economic turmoil?
The good news was that at the nadir of the crisis, I still had a few languorous years left as a student. But too quickly, 2011 arrived and I was catapulted into the real world woefully underprepared.
I had a few embarrassing Skype interviews from my dank basement apartment for jobs with PR firms, paralegal positions, editorial assistants, and anything else the career services advisor told me to look into. My lack of direction was woefully obvious (one prospective employer cut short the interview, told me I needed to figure out what I wanted to do before I wasted anyone else’s time, and said I’d thank him later for this advice). I gave up on the white collar track and started applying for jobs in retail, at summer camps and unpaid positions at nonprofits. I got one callback from the Limited, where I tried to act interested in colorblocking but likely didn’t wear enough accessories to look like I would be a convincing shill. I moved home and my mom started paying me to do her grocery shopping.
Finally I got a waitressing job at an Italian restaurant at the mall. I could recite from memory the ingredients of all of the sauces, but one day a man at my table ordered a martini. I entered it into the system and realized there were many questions I didn’t have the answers to. Gin or vodka? Shaken* or stirred? Twist or olive?
I realized standing at the servers’ station, trying to put in an order for what I thought was a simple cocktail, that there was a whole language of cocktails I was utterly unaware of. I wanted to be the kind of person who had a direction in life: who knew they wanted a Tanqueray martini, stirred with a twist — and who knew why they wanted it that way.
Thus began my interest in cocktails. Now, I have a job in a field I’m more interested in, but the allure of a great cocktail hasn’t lost its appeal. I’m an amateur, and that’s why I’m writing this blog — as a record for what I like and how to make it.
*This is a bit of a trick question, since martinis should always be stirred.