Enthusiasm Runneth Over

Diving 'Into the Drink,' a new column, to scratch that curiosity itch

Eat, drink, breathe, and sleep: all you need to do to get by.

The survival of the human race, a serious matter to most, necessitates all earthly inhabitants have access to these four actions. For us weaned adults, eating and drinking are conscious actions up for interpretation, often done in excess or for pure enjoyment.

As a classically trained chef and libations professional, I’m at my happiest investigating those greatest verbs of all time, eating and drinking. Doubling down on all that the food and drink worlds, nay, ever-expanding universes, have to offer is too big a burden for a mere mortal, but it is my great honor to take on drinking in this new column; everything I know and never knew I wanted to know will be explored.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American consumer commits 1 percent of his or her spending to alcohol, and that percentage has not changed much over the past 30 years. While we circulate this vast amount of money into the economy, aspects of our culture are shaped: The commercial implications are substantial, but I’m more interested in the personal.

Enthusiasm for libations is typically cultivated over time and experience. Most of us weren’t pleasantly floored by our first taste and, particularly in the United States, even saw alcoholic beverages of any kind as an unpleasant means to a pleasant end. I plead guilty. But something elicited a tectonic shift in perspective; for me, it was gin.

Particularly, Gin Xoriguer from Mahon, Menorca, in the Balearic Islands of Spain. I studied archaeology abroad in 2001 and this local product, a component of the popular pomada cocktail, changed my outlook.

But real talk: It wasn’t a $40 bottle of gin that changed the trajectory of my mindset; it was the magic of a beautiful Catalonian place and the people I shared those drinks with. It’s the way my heart warms over when I think about that joyous summer I spent digging up artifacts in the sweltering heat by day and sipping pomadas with my friends while we bebopped at the discoteca by night.

If you can tie a drink to a memory, you’re an enthusiast, too. Perhaps any Chianti reminds you of Sunday dinners with Nonna and her omnipresent fava beans, or a bottle of Amstel reminds you of the intense 48-hour layover you had in Amsterdam at the impressionable age of 20, or an intoxicating swig of the dark, sedimented bootleg case of beer the Marines brought to the ship from Baghdad when the war settled long enough to allow it reminds you of just how quickly your tolerance tumbles into a pathetic oblivion, or “we’ll take whatever ya got” soju reminds you of the many times you shut down LA’s Koreatown belting Journey into a microphone … or maybe that’s just me.

Did I prompt you to reflect and relish some of your moments?

A world map, obligatory for any world-traveling, mountain-climbing, culinary exploration-embracing imbiber, hangs in my apartment hallway. More importantly, a framed photo of the Iberian Peninsula hangs on my living room wall, not because I studied in the Balearics and not because of the solo adventures I treated myself to in Madrid, Barcelona, Porto, and Lisbon. I gaze at this and tap into the joy of the impressions the region made on my soul and the memories I’ve chosen to pair.

Some may call that drama, but I call it passion. The written word can only go so far: I assure you, my eyes are lit. Will you come aboard, add another dimension to your earthly culinary experience and appreciate these things too? I aim to empower the reader to understand the concepts in orbit around the ethanol sun. Demystifying the world of drinking, historically associated with snobbery, gives us the confidence to identify what we like.

Us seafarers refer to the water as “the drink,” and as a rescue swimmer, I’d jump in and get the job done. Now I dive “Into the Drink” with time to swim about tasting, backstroke amongst cultures, and ask the questions that arise. This mission this time; to learn, experience, appreciate, and share.

Amanda Burrill sees through an adventurous lens, typically focused on culinary and travel. Her education includes a bachelor’s in archaeology, master’s in journalism, culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu and wine, and fortified wine and spirits credentials earned while living in Paris. She is a U.S. Navy veteran, Ironman triathlete, high-alpine mountaineer, injury connoisseur, and ruminates on UnchartedLifestyleMag.com

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