On Thursday, May 10, the New York Times ran an article by Kara Newman in which she looks back at her first experiences pouring drinks. Newman is a self-described “Writer, Author, Tippler,” and the Spirits Editor for Wine Enthusiast. She is also the author of the forthcoming book, The Secret Financial Life of Food.
Newman begins her story with an introduction to life as an intern at a New York magazine company in the early 1990s. While she loved the magazine life, she was less fond of interning:
I hated being an intern. My main duty was replying to writers who’d submitted articles, typing form rejections on beautiful letterhead stationery (and yes, on a typewriter, though it was one of the few left in the office). So when a new assignment arrived, I was relieved. For the two weeks around Christmas, I would sub for the assistant to the magazine’s editor in chief, who was a powerful man in his mid-50s, an arbiter of taste and my boss’s boss’s boss. I was scared to death of him.
One of her most important duties became pouring Scotch for this arbiter of taste:
I was to set a glass on the marble countertop, pour two fingers of Scotch (I still remember the regular assistant saying, “just pour it to here,” though I never recalled where “here” should be), add two ice cubes and place the glass on a coaster on the desk, to the right of the editor’s right hand. And then I was to leave, without conversation. I think my first time I backed out of the room, half-bowing, as if visiting the queen of England.
Looking back at her experience pouring Scotch as an intern makes Newman regret lost opportunities:
It’s a strange twist of fate that I would become obsessed with libations and liquors, including Scotch, and would go on to write about them for magazines. No one can change what’s past, but I’d love to dash a few drops of knowledge on that girl with the shaking hands, rattling the ice across the room. I’d tell her about the beautiful Japanese ice spheres she’d one day see in her glass — they wouldn’t rattle quite so much. I’d show her how to swirl a Scotch like wine, and enjoy the wafting aromas of caramel and smoke, rather than furtively dipping her nose in the glass, then rearing back from the knife of alcohol like a startled horse. I’d tell that girl who wasn’t so brazen as to swig a single mouthful to pour herself a dram.