I just finished two fingers of the first bourbon I ever drank: Jim Beam. I remember drinking it for the first time when I was 10 or so. I didn’t drink very much and I didn’t drink it on purpose. I grabbed the wrong glass and thought it was iced tea. Luckily, there wasn’t much left in the glass which meant my entire head didn’t burst into flames, only my throat.
I also remember my parents giving us very watered down white wine for Christmas or Thanksgiving. The amount was barely enough to make the bottom of the glass wet.
All this has me thinking about one of the quirks of life that amazes me to this day: the way our tastes change over time.
As I became a teenager, I would try an alcoholic beverage that was called “beer”, more specifically Coors Light, and that pretty much meant that I wouldn’t be a huge fan of beer until a trip to England when I was at university. Mind you, I would drink beer, but it was mostly an alcohol delivery system, not something to be savored.
Dark beer eventually gave way to screwdrivers (orange juice and vodka) which gave way to Bloody Mary’s which, for reasons I still don’t understand, gave way to straight vodka, scotch and bourbon. (I’m guessing lack of money was involved and remembering that Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar liked straight vodka because it didn’t taste like anything which probably got me to try it.) I’m still not a fan of mixed drinks, especially sweet ones. I’ve slowly developed a taste for wine, despite unfortunate adventures with kosher wine and things called Mad Dog and Night Train.
Now, here in Japan, I’ve rediscovered beer and become an amateur sake snob.
I had a similar journey with tea. When I was a kid I remember putting enough sugar in a glass of iced tea to have a centimeter of undissolved sugar at the bottom of the glass. I remember gagging the few times I drank unsugared tea (that’s “unsweet tea” to those of you from the U.S. South). Now, though, and I don’t know why, tea is the only thing I can’t drink sweet. When I was in Albania I used to horrify the Albanians, for many reasons actually, but especially for drinking hot tea without sugar.
Finally, there’s coffee–blood of life. The first coffee I ever tasted was a gruesome concoction of non-dairy creamer and artificial sugar. When I started drinking it at university, I ordered elaborate coffee drinks such as the double espresso, double double chocolate, double mint-mocha at the Espresso Royale which were basically desserts served with the coffee inside to save on cup cleaning costs. A lack of money got me back into tea and got me to try something they called “Americano” which the coffee shop claimed was a regular cup of Joe. Then I saw them make it and realized it was just a shot of espresso diluted with hot water. After that I put aside that “Tea, Earl Gray, Hot” bullshit and all that water ruined nonsense and started drinking “pure” coffee.
As for Jim Beam, it’s smoother and sweeter than I remember. Of course, I haven’t had any since I was 10.