During Thursday evening’s Herculean effort to conserve ice throughout the lengthy and unexpected power outage, I started to realize just what lengths we as Americans go through to ensure cold alcoholic drinks. I would not fare well for long in Europe, where ice is minimal and beers are often served at room temperature.
Then I began thinking of how much money is spent on accessories for those drinks, and acknowledged what a huge industry alcohol actually is. And according to the statisticians paid to figure these things out, it’s an industry that will survive all economic downturns. No matter how bad things get, people, apparently, will always buy booze and cigarettes. That bodes well for places like Key West, New Orleans and Las Vegas.
I won’t comment on what, exactly, that says about our society’s priorities, but let’s think about this for a minute.
I pushed aside about 10 insulated beer coolies while reaching for a flashlight Thursday evening. Some are in the shape a bottle while others snug themselves around a 12-ounce can. All are designed to keep the frosty, adult beverage comfortably cold.
And then there’s the Chillmate, a nifty, little gadget that a cousin of mine actually invented and patented. It’s a plastic, gel-filled disc that fits perfectly in the bottom of a can coolie. They live in the freezer until the gel freezes and then get plunked into the bottom of the coolie, where they keep the canned beverage nicely chilled.
Let’s not forget the new Coors Light cans that turn blue when the beer is sufficiently cold, or the invention of insulated tumblers, which make life in hot climes much more enjoyable, as long as the double layers remain intact. (Note: These cups do not work as well after someone, say, drops one off their second-floor balcony and separates the two layers. Trust me, it’s never the same after that.)
We have even invented waterproof, insulated cooler bags in which to transport our frosty beverages. My dad’s enjoyment of the Jersey Shore beach at the end of his street would be minimal if not for these genius contraptions.
But temperature is not the only aspect of alcohol that concerns us.
There are some quality assurance concerns that come in the form of CO2 cartridges in the bottom of Guinness beer cans. There are also Heineken mini kegs that are said to offer the perfect pour and remain fresh for up to 30 days after tapping. Then again, I don’t know anyone around here who would take a month to consume what amounts to 14 or 15 beers, but who knows?
There is the Black-and-Tan spoon used to expertly layer the Bass Pale Ale and Guinness in a pint glass. (In an effort to avoid any snotty e-mails resulting from this column and you’d be surprised how many snotty people are in this world, let me now say that I KNOW not all Black and Tans are made with Bass, and many consider a true Black and Tan to include Guinness and Harp.)
In addition to temperature and quality, there are some downright silly alcohol accessories that serve no purpose other than to decorate a drink.
Have you seen those wine glass rings that are supposed to help you remember which glass is yours and which belongs to someone else. I don’t know how we ever survived without these. Besides, hasn’t everyone already figured out the strategy of when in doubt, claim the fuller glass?
And have you seen the blinking, fake plastic ice cubes they used to put in cocktails at certain ultra-hip, South Beach clubs that favor black lights and synthetic drugs? These can be a little disconcerting, to say the least, in addition to being completely worthless when it comes to keeping a drink cold.
Last, and pretty much least, let’s consider the hat that holds two drinks and features a straw from each drink looping down to the mouth. Maybe I’m just preparing myself for the spectacle of Fantasy Fest and Parrot Heads convention, but this is an excessive accessory, and a look that NO ONE can pull off.
Regardless of which toys we choose and what we consume, I was reminded the other night that ice is simply the most important – for mixed drinks and cold beers. Thanks for your hard work to restore the almighty power, Keys Energy crews. We on Simonton Street appreciate your efforts in the dark.
Mandy Bolen’s columns appear in The Key West Citizen
Mandy Bolen's award winning "Tan Lines" column appears bi-weekly in the Key West Citizen. Offering unique insights on life in the southernmost island and life in general, her wit and wisdom has been likened to that of a "female Dave Barry."