COVID-19 is here, and as a result, much about the American drinks landscape has changed dramatically. Yet with a bit of preparation and thought, it’s still possible for many of us to have fulfilling and enjoyable drinking experiences at home, whether by taking the time to learn more about wine, or mastering the art of home bartending, or just by more fully rounding out your glassware collection. A homebound life doesn’t have to be one without great drinks!
That’s the topic for this week’s VinePair podcast, where Adam, Erica, and Zach offer their suggestions for how to fill your time, and your glass, when you’re stuck at home for the foreseeable future.
Listen online or check out our conversation here:
Adam: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Erica: I’m Erica Duecy.
Zach: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the VinePair podcast. And Zach, I hate to start it off on sort of a somber note, but we did…Erica and I wanted to sort of tell you how bummed we were to see today that, I guess Tom Douglas restaurants are shutting for the foreseeable future. I know that’s where you’re the wine educator, I know it’s getting a little more dicey in Seattle with Coronavirus right now so I hope you’re doing OK. I wanted to sort of check in on you, made sure we showed you some love and heard how you’re doing.
Z: Thanks! Yeah, boy you know? It’s been…It’s been an interesting few days, and well, of a week really. I have to say I was sort of afraid and then eventually kind of reconciled to the fact that this was gonna happen before the announcement was made. Just to give everybody, the listeners, a sense, company-wide was down somewhere between 80-90 percent over the last week from where we normally would be.
Z: And no business can really afford to operate in that kind of space and very few of them are set up to operate when you are dealing with no business. You know no one’s coming in, no one’s ordering dinner, no one’s getting drinks, no one’s getting a bottle of wine. You just can’t do anything. You can’t pay people, you can’t keep the lights on. I guess by the time you all hear this we will have done our last services the night before, Sunday night the 15th and we will be closed for, from what I’ve been told the plan is a minimum of two months, and a lot of what happens after that is dependent upon what happens in Seattle and what happens in this country and what is going on. I am certainly hopeful that after that two-month period or some amount of time, that some or all of the restaurants reopen but no one at this point can know and it’s gonna be…something is gonna have to be different. I just, I don’t think it’s gonna be like, ‘Oh, back to business as usual!’ I mean, that would be great but I’m not gonna pretend like I think that’s all that likely. Kind of starting off on a ‘down’ note and we do have some ‘up’ coming, I promise. But for all of the people who are listening to this who are in the industry either directly working in restaurants and bars or working on the distribution or supply side, you gotta be careful. From a public health perspective, but also from a personal and financial perspective, like nothing, at a minimum this is going to be a disruption and I don’t know that the extent that things in Seattle are closing down will be a country-wide phenomenon. We all see what’s happening in places like Italy and you know it’s just hard to know at this point what will happen and you know you’ve gotta be as best you can – prepared and it’s rough ‘cause this is an industry that for the most part doesn’t have a ton of people in it who have you know robust savings accounts and lots of options so I would at least try and if not. I know there are a lot of people who are hopefully going to be looking to support and protect the particularly vulnerable people in the restaurant and beverage industry, I guess is what I would say. And I hope that my fate is not your fate but it’s important to all try to come together when we can and this is a challenge that we’ve not faced, certainly not in a long time. How are you guys, I’m sick of talking about myself?
E: Good, good. You know, we’re hanging in there. I mean, I have to say in New York we’ve seen restaurants kind of emptying out. In a lot of cases and some restaurants even closing down for an indeterminate amount of time. I did wanna mention for all of our friends in the industry, and anyone who’s interested in really understanding how the coronavirus is impacting the drinks industry, that we do have a live blog up on VinePair.com and we will be tracking up-to-date, up-to-the-minute breaking news there. The URL for that is VinePair.com/coronavirus-drinks-industry. And we’ll have a link for it on our home page as well so that you can find it and stay up to date with what’s happening around the country and around the world.
A: It’s really crazy. So I think, to not dwell too much on the specific virus since that was the topic that we talked about last week, but instead sort of talk about what is happening now to most of us, which is social distancing. Right? So this idea of trying to stay home as much as possible. So with that, we thought we’d talk this week a lot about consumption at home and a bunch of you know advice for getting through all of this. Because I think one of the biggest things that we can sort of miss when these things happen is that connection of being able to go to a bar and have a really nice drink and treat yourself, and I do think that the consumption will continue to stay probably high during this. Especially because even when you look at what is being closed by counties who are enforcing these mandatory closures, stores not closing are the liquor stores and the grocery stores. Where you can buy beers, wines and spirits. So I think a lot of people will still venture out of the house once in a while to re-stock up as they’re staying at home. So one of my thoughts first was, sitting across from me is someone who wrote a cocktail book. So I’m thinking Erica, what is your advice for people who are trying to make simple cocktails at home? Like what should you have on hand if you’re preparing to start staying at home for a prolonged period of time so that you can whip up some cocktails that you are used to normally drinking out at a bar?
E: I mean I’d say one of the best things to do if you are gonna be stocking up for the long haul is get some of the staples. So you know if you are a Negroni drinker, you can also transfer that into a Boulevardier or a tequila Negroni or any drink in that template. So the template for a Negroni is three equal parts: gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. You swap out the gin for one type of whiskey or another. If you like rye, or you like bourbon, swap that in for the gin. If you like tequila, swap in tequila and then keep the equal parts of Campari and sweet vermouth. So that is a type of cocktail that does not require citrus, does not require you running to the grocery store to try to stock up. I think other classic cocktails that don’t require citrus or a lot of other kinds of fresh ingredients — you’ve got Martinis and Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. So I think you know look to the classic cocktails or to the ones that don’t require a lot of fresh ingredients if you’re gonna be at home for a long time or stock up. As you’re going to the store and getting ingredients, you know a bag of lemons, a bag of limes can get you through a lot of cocktails.
A: So basically, a bag of lemons, a bag of limes, maybe a sweet vermouth and a dry vermouth.
E: And a couple of the core spirits.
A: And that’s it?
E: Yeah, and I think that’ll take you pretty far.
A: Bitters too?
E: You gotta have bitters. Angostura for sure but Regan’s, Fees you know all of the other orange bitters if that’s what you’re into. But you know I think there’s also, you’re gonna wanna look to some cans, you may want some bottles of wine. I’d do some stocking up now, I’d say before there are shortages, before there are mandatory closures in place, it’s probably a good time to go to the store.
A: Zach what are you gonna stock up on, man?
Z: Well, not wine because I’ve been spending my last 15 years stocking up on wine, so I think we are pretty good at my house thankfully. But I actually think, to Erica’s point, I actually think it’s a great opportunity to, if you are the kind of person who doesn’t wanna completely forego fruit in your drinks or you are not someone who likes just pure spirit-forward cocktails it’s a great time to think about doing stuff like, you can make syrups, you can do some infusions. And frankly lemon and lime juice freeze pretty well. I would say fresh is best. But you know we’re probably gonna be in a situation to some extent where we can’t let best be the enemy of good. So if you are gonna go buy those bags of lemons and limes you can always juice them and freeze some of the juice, I like to use ice cube trays, ‘cause it works. Super easy just to pull out a small amount. You can control portions real easily that way. And having that kind of stuff on hand will make it easier to make if you are a Margarita drinker or wanna have a Greyhound or something, you can still have those drinks to some extent. I think that the biggest thing for me that I was thinking about in terms of what I want to stock up on, the easiest thing for me to think about is, now is a great time if you can, go buy some cans or bottles of beer from your local breweries that are around you. They’re probably not hurting the way restaurants are but they’re probably not doing great themselves and that’s a product that you know you may not be able to find in your local grocery store, not as easily, and you’re gonna appreciate having some nice beer on hand if you are in your house for a couple of weeks. Whether that is voluntary or not. And there’s a lot out there, most parts of the country you should have a craft brewery or two near you. They probably have product that’s like I said, in cans or bottles. Growlers work but their shelf life is pretty limited, so stuff that’s packaged a little more might be a good idea. And again, you can devote a little bit of time and resources now to making sure that you can still have a little bit of a drinking experience at home, even if it’s not the full range of options that we’re used to in our day-to-day.
A: Agreed, agreed. I would just encourage everyone who is drinking at home to practice moderation. So I think one thing that can happen a lot when any of these things happen is, we tend to drink more than we normally would ‘cause we’re like, ‘Yeah! It’s the weekend!’ and I think in this case, this will last much longer than one or two snow days will. And having the snow day parties or the hurricane parties or whatever, probably not the best idea here. Also just because, not to be the biggest downer but you wanna keep your immune system up somewhat, right? So give yourself a fighting chance. So Erica, what other cocktails would you recommend people make, and what glassware should they have on hand?
E: Yeah, for all the classic cocktails I’d say that I typically go with a rocks glass or an old fashioned glass, and that’s really because I’ve got kids at home. So sometimes you know those Zalto glasses or the big coupes or martini glasses….
A: Did you just throw out that you have Zalto glasses?
E: I do love my Zaltos. But those are for when those kids are in bed. So yeah, for any type of classic cocktail, I mean at home I’m not going for an up glass. I mean for a martini OK, yes I’ll do it. But for a Manhattan, it’s a little controversial, but I do love a Manhattan in an Old-Fashioned glass with a big piece of ice. One big piece of ice. How I’ll do it is put it in a stirrer glass and cool it down over some ice, and then pour it over that big piece of ice. I can nurse that for half an hour and be totally happy, not too much dilution, it’s my favorite cocktail.
A: That is awesome. But I also do love that we just uncovered that you’re bougie.
E: Wait, is that a surprise to anyone?
A: It’s just like, she just casually, like…’Well my Zalto glasses, I don’t bust those out, you know, unless the kids are asleep’.
E: Only one casualty so far.
A: Dude I don’t have Zalto glasses. Do you have Zalto glasses Zach?
Z: I do not. We have some nice Riedels that we were given as wedding presents but no Zaltos as of yet. I find them, they’re almost too delicate. Even though I know they’re actually pretty sturdy. They’re so thin, I don’t know, I just worry that they’re gonna crumble in my hands.
A: Yeah, Erica do you put them in the dishwasher?
E: I do not. I hand wash them. And is it weird if I say that my husband is not allowed to use them without permission?
A: He’s not? OK, OK. Now I find this even weirder. ‘Cause we’re gonna get super personal here but like, your husband is a very skilled artist and potter who makes some of the best dishware, and you don’t trust him to touch the Zaltos?
E: They’re so delicate!
A: That’s so good. How many do you have, like four?
E: No, I’ve got six. No, five after the casualty.
A: I mean they are, they are beautiful but yeah like…So Naomi, my wife, is all about just throwing it in the dishwasher. So we have Italesses, which are like nice — they’re from Italy — but they’re like Zalto ripoffs for sure, and I don’t care if they break, and we sell them on VinePair.com in case you’re curious. And then we have a set of glassware that we must have gotten for our wedding. I’ve always wanted Zaltos, but I’ve always thought I’d break ‘em.
E: They break.
A: They break. But then like somms, that’s all they use so….
A: Anyway, super tangent but I love that we just got into glassware like really hard core. I’m glad that I also have my rocks glasses ready to go for whatever I wanna drink. Zach, what cocktail are you gonna make now? ‘Cause since you said you’re not gonna drink wine, since you have a lot on hand already?
Z: Well, I will be drinking wine, but when we do opt for cocktails, you know I think Erica’s Manhattan idea is a good one. We drink a lot of Manhattans or Manhattan variants at home ‘cause that’s generally my wife’s preference is whiskey-based cocktails. But you know I’ve been really thinking like, this is gonna be an opportunity for me personally to maybe play with, I don’t know how it is for you guys, I have some bottles that have been kicking around my house, my bar for longer than I care to admit. And it might be an opportunity for, frankly for lack of anything else to do, to play around with trying out what I can make with like, Calvados and stuff like that. ‘Cause I just don’t generally open or opt for those spirits when I’m having people over or my wife and I are just having a drink at home. But you know at some point I probably should drink that and it might be time to do a little research on some Calvados-based cocktails or other spirits like that. You know Aquavit, I’ve got some bottles of Aquavit that frankly were given to me and I’ve never really even touched but you know it might be a drink everything kind of moment. Not all at once I should say, but you know it might be the time to start kind of figuring if I can put some of those spirits to use, so it may be an experimentation period.
A: I do think it’s definitely one of these times where it’s just like, time to open that bottle.
A: You know like, what else are we doing?
A: You know if we’ve gotta be home and you’ve been saving a bottle, you might as well open the bottle with the people that you’re stuck home with. We’re also big fans of like…if you are home, we have some friends that maybe have to be stuck in their apartments alone. We’ve told them they can come to us. I think that’s what’s also freaking people out a lot, it’s just this idea that you could be by yourself.
A: For the next few weeks, which is really shitty. So yeah, if you have friends ask them to have you over. Maybe bring them some alcohol and just hopefully stay with them. ‘Cause yeah, these are crazy times guys. These are crazy times.
E: Yeah, I think that isolation…the mental health impact of that is probably gonna be pretty extreme in some cases. I mean, that loss of a social dynamic, I’d say I go out to restaurants, bars, five nights a week. Like what do I do?
E: Not to mention those kids at home I mean, come on, three weeks at home with some kids? I may be doubling up on cocktails a little bit.
A: Or giving them cocktails so they fall asleep.
E: Exactly! You know, like mother’s little helper. But what are we gonna do with all of that time? I mean I think yeah, get creative. I mean some side projects. Like, are there any long writing projects that you wanna do, maybe now’s the time to start.
A: Maybe brew beer?
E: That’s a good idea!
Z: Oh yeah, that’s a great idea! I hadn’t thought of that, but one I had thought of was… and then sort of to come back to this idea of being prepared. I think a really good thing for some people to think about doing is, talk to friends, family, whomever and maybe you all go and buy six or 12 of the same bottles of wine and maybe you can’t all get together to drink them. Whether that’s for safety sake, or just people are in various parts of the country, but there’s no reason you can’t have an online wine club. And I think it would be really fun to, like I said, buy six or 12 of the same wines as a few friends or family members and maybe every… one night a week, or a couple nights a week you do some sort of video chat and you open the wines and you taste them and talk about them. And that may be more fun to do in person but for the time being, I think it is a really important thing to mention that, like Erica was saying, you know we are all in, I think all three of us are… because of our own dispositions and what we’ve done for a living, we may be more impacted by that lack of social contact than some. But I think everyone is going to, to some extent, need to communicate with and interact with, even if it’s digitally, with people outside of their family or roommates or whomever they happen to live with. And a sort of an online wine tasting group could be a fun way, or beer tasting, or whatever, you know whatever the drink of your choice is. Could be a really fun way to at least have some of that socialization but do so in a way that also is more prudent given the current state of health.
A: I have to tell you that’s another good idea you came up with.
Z: Two for two! Yes!
A: I know it’s like two for two in 2020.
Z: It’s so not my year in so many ways, but in this very specific way it’s been my year.
A: I know you had the rosé for Valentine’s Day and now you’re coming up with this video chat wine tasting and I’m like, “Damn, Zach’s got some good ideas I wish I had.” I wish that was my comment on the podcast.
Z: Well you know the bad news for you is that I edit these, so if it was the other way around you could just play with the audio, but you folks are gonna get the honest truth here which is that it was my idea.
A: Were gonna be like “Ahh, Zach.” But yeah, I mean that’s a great idea, I love that. ‘Cause I think that is the one thing that we’re gonna miss and then I really do think, to reiterate, please when this gets done – hopefully sooner rather than later – be ready to go out and support the people who are gonna have to reopen quickly and try to save their businesses. ‘Cause it’s gonna be a little dicey for a few weeks as we try to navigate what this whole thing is. And look, I think the best thing that could happen out of all of this is that we all do follow protocol, and you know it’s not that bad, and then a bunch of people start saying, ‘I told you so,’ ‘we told you it was never gonna be that bad, we told you it wasn’t gonna be a big deal.’ Like that’s actually the outcome we want, the other outcome. We don’t wanna be proven that it’s gonna be bad. So like, let’s all do what we need to do so that the outcome is, ‘I told you so.’ Cool?
Z: Yeah, cool. That seems like a good idea.
E: Sounds good.
A: With that, let’s end another edition of the VinePair podcast. Hopefully next week we’ll be recording again, but if we are all social distancing, we will figure it out for you, our fine listeners. ‘Cause you know you definitely need this podcast in your life while you’re social distancing. But yeah, thank you again for listening so much and we will see everyone right back here again next week.
Z: Sounds great!
A: Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair podcast. If you like what you’ve heard please rate us or review us wherever you get your podcasts. It really helps people discover the show.
Now for the credits: The Vinepair podcast is produced by myself and Zach Geballe, and is engineered by Nick Patri. We’re recorded out of cloud studios in Seattle, Washington and also in our New York City headquarters. I’d also like to give a special shout out to my co-founder Josh Malin and the rest of the Vinepair staff who help us conceive of the podcast every single week. Thanks again for listening.