Last week my lovely bride forwarded a news story of vital interest to me and to the world at large — the best scotch whiskys for under $35. Given the shocking rise in scotch prices over the last few years, even a non-scotch drinker like Melissa could appreciate that kind of hard-hitting reporting.
But then the comments… oy, some of the comments.
A quickie post about some stuff you might like to drink without having to spend too much money quickly devolved into a single-malt penis-measuring contest, with 15-year-olds everywhere, if you know what I’m saying.
So there I was, trying to slip into a relaxing weekend, but instead getting raked over the coals for daring to recommend a blended scotch or — heaven forbid! — mention a scotch-based mixed drink.
I know scotch drinkers can be fussy about their favorite booze. I know this because I am one and can be. But this business of cutting off your nose to spite your tongue — has anyone really thought this through?
Look. I love ribeye. If there’s a God and if God is a meat-eater (of course He is!) then I’m as sure as Hell that ribeye is what God eats. Ribeye has a perfect balance of tenderness and flavor you can’t get from any other cut. And that’s true whether you spend eight bucks on a middlin’ supermarket ribeye, or blow a week’s wages on a 24-ounce Kobe-style monster — the ribeye’s awesomeness is only a matter of degree.
My favorite ribeye is one cut two inches thick, seasoned generously with Maldon sea salt flakes and Tellicherry black pepper, allowed to sit in the fridge for 24 hours to soak up the seasoning, seared to a perfect crust on cast iron over lump charcoal, then finished slowly with indirect heat to just a touch under medium rare. I serve that up with my World’s Second Best Caesar Salad™ and a bottle of Cab or Zin we can’t afford to drink too often (but do anyway).
Now then, if I were some sort of ribeye purist, I would insist that ribeye is the only cut of beef to eat and this is the only way to eat it. And then I’d have to go a step further and insist that everybody do it my way, lest I sneer at them with Ribeye Purist Disdain.
But is that any way to go through life?
As a ribeye purist I’d have to forego the homey goodness of my wife’s beef stew — made with love from first thing in the morning when she browns the cheap-ass stew meat, until serving up sloppy ladlefuls at dinnertime. I’d have to give up grilling burgers on the weekend. There would be no more New York Strips, done up in a cast iron skillet on an autumn evening and dripping with my wine & garlic à la minute sauce.
No more tartare loaded up with cornichons and peppery orange zest.
No more oversized bowls of tái nạm at Pho 777.
No more prime rib slathered with Jazz Shaw’s homegrown horseradish.
No more adding too much paprika to the stroganoff.
No more steak frite.
No more carne asada tacos with the grease running down my arm.
No more crispy bits on dry-rubbed short ribs.
No more triple steakburgers at Steak ‘n Shake.
No more Texas-style chilli.
No more of my Dijon & Worcestershire-marinated flank steaks.
No more spaghetti Bolognese.
No more throwing an aluminum pan full of hobo stew on the campfire.
No more of Melissa’s Hollandaise because there’s no more tenderloin to pour it over.
No more jerky.
Oh, Lord — no more jerky?
I’m sorry, but I just can’t live like this. The ribeye might be God’s gift to beef lovers — but to the exclusion of everything else?
No, a thousand times, no. There are too many tasty cuts to choose from, and too many mouthwatering ways to prepare them. Some cuts are cheap and tough, and require love and care and time to make them tender and bring out their shockingly deep flavors. Wagyu-style cuts are so densely marbled that you can overcook them in a matter of seconds. And there are countless cuts and methods in between.
So it is with scotch.
Sometimes you want to sit in an overstuffed armchair, sipping at and discerning the nuances of a single malt just introduced to you by a good friend. Other times the occasion calls for taking two ounces of a cheap blend, and gently stirring them over ice with a half ounce each of dry and sweet vermouths, adding two dashes of Angostura bitters, and straining the result into a martini glass garnished with an overlong lemon twist. And sometimes, hell, sometimes you grab the first empty barstool at the nearest bar and plead, “Whisky, whatever you’ve got, and make it a double.”
So drink — and eat — what suits you and your mood and the company you’re keeping.
It’s simple, really: Eat, drink, and be happy.
With the emphasis on “happy.”