Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Can you be a booze blogger and not have a drinking problem?

I knew this picture would come in handy one day
Veering away briefly from travelogues and product reviews, this week I’m giving you a sneaky (and probably slightly self-indulgent) peak inside the world of being a booze blogger. I have no idea if my experience is representative in any way of other booze bloggers (I’m thinking not, but wouldn’t want to assume I’m all that unique – you be the judge), but these are some things that I started thinking about and then tried to get down on a Word document.

Where am I and how did I get here?

So I’m ruminating this week on the difficulties of being a booze blogger – oh, poor me. Yeh, I know, it’s not actually hard or anything but it does raise certain dilemmas for a person like me who tends to think about stuff too much. All right, let’s think out loud and start on those two questions in the subtitle.

Where I am is a place where I spend quite a lot of money on alcohol and then write about it. What started out as a way to pass dead time – writing about something I had a burgeoning interest in – actually came to fuel that burgeoning interest. For some reason, though I didn’t have many readers at first (probably still don’t have that many), I soon felt obliged to keep writing and posting stuff on a regular basis. And if I was going to write about something, I needed something to write about. So I started spending more money on more expensive, exotic and unusual types of alcohol. I started taking part in activities that were alcohol related so that I could write about them. I started making alcohol a part of more activities, so that I could write about that. I realise that alcohol isn’t the most important thing in the world, you know. I also realise it can be very damaging and has ruined many lives. So do we need to talk about that?

We probably don’t need to talk about it too much (though I don’t tend to see booze bloggers acknowledging this issue), as long as one can keep a sense of perspective and operate within certain boundaries – such as not taking a hip flask around with you all the time just so that you can see everything through alcohol tinted glasses and create your own weekly Fear and Loathing serial. Do too much of that, and you’re an alcoholic. I have no intention of being an alcoholic, but I do intend to continue drinking alcohol. One day I’ll probably get bored of it. I get bored of everything eventually.

So let’s look at some of the issues that arise when drinking becomes an interest as much as a recreational or social pastime.

  1. funding the habit. A budget is needed, but people with a recreational or casual interest in booze might not face the same kind of difficulties a dedicated booze blogger does. They don’t have to consider that £70 bottle of scotch since for them, it’s all about drinking for fun. It’s good if it tastes nice, but are they looking for the pinnacle of distilled spirit? Probably not.

a typical supermarket visit
You, on the other hand are, and can’t get away from the fact that you are spending significant sums on booze for yourself – unless you’re getting freebies from distilleries and distributors (which I’m not – seriously, if you were in marketing, would you want to encourage the sort of writing I do? I doubt it). Despite the fact I’ve been doing this for a few years now, it remains an alien thing to me. I think that is left over from the time I’d buy a bottle of spirits for a specific occasion – to be consumed in one night or over a weekend. Back then I’d look at the [more] expensive spirits […in the supermarket] and think, who buys those? I didn’t even consider that they could be for me – or that there was an even more specialist market of spirits that you could order from the internet...

When you’re spending more signigicant sums on your booze though, it is more of an investment in long term enjoyment, and for some reason this makes it more acceptable. I do still get buyer’s guilt if I exceed a certain amount or if I decide to buy an extra bottle or two one month (though I think I’m starting to set my upper boundaries), but I do at least know that each bottle is going to last several months.

  1. when to drink. You have to drink (for the blog, not because you need it) and you want to drink (because the blog and booze are interesting to you), but you’re aware you can’t drink all the time – though I suspect there are some booze bloggers who do…

Ensuring there are days in the week that you don’t drink leads to having to designate actual drinking days – otherwise every day is a temptation that becomes tortuous. But having designated days, while amping up the anticipation, destroys the joy that being a spontaneous adult brings. But, alcohol is habit forming, so if I decide I want a beer after football on a Monday, I’m going to want one next Monday also, and I’m still going to want to drink on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s especially frustrating if you open a new bottle on Sunday, become intrigued, but then have to wait until Wednesday to sample it again. I don’t know how many people think about things like this, but when I ask around it usually turns out I drink more than most people. I don’t know what that means. There are probably far too many variables for that to mean anything. Moving on.

So, because I do drink quite a lot [let’s not sugar coat this – we’re all adults… though I’m not sure about YOU. You look young to me], I thought I’d look up the definition of alcoholism on the Wikipedia – you know, just to make sure. So…

One of the symptoms of alcoholism is “You spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects.”

Drinking and thinking about drinking are necessary aspects of being a booze blogger. Luckily, it doesn’t say “writing about drinking”. So if you are an alcoholic, you could just start writing about drinking, and that gets you off the hook…

The other alcoholism symptoms such as neglecting responsibilities (which I don’t do beyond having a very occasional beer at lunchtime followed by a lazy afternoon at work – and in all fairness, I’m just as likely to have a lazy afternoon without alcohol), using alcohol in situations where it is physically dangerous (you could argue that that is everywhere), experiencing repeated legal problems (presumably as a result of drinking, rather than being a crap lawyer), continuing to drink in spite of causing harm to relationships (this one is key, I feel), and drinking as a way to relax or de-stress – none of these are relevant to me, not even the one about relaxing or de-stressing. If I’m stressed or upset, the last thing I want is a drink. I drink when I feel good, not to feel good. SothatmeansI’mbetterthanyou.

On the final symptom, I do spend some time recovering from the effects of alcohol… because I do like to get hammered from time to time, and I do write about these incidences as a kind of gonzo journalism – but that makes it ok.

No, I don’t really go out and not drink, but I have done,on occasion. I just prefer not to. I do drink on my own, at home, but I don’t drink to excess on my own, at home. There is no chance for example, that I would polish off a whole bottle in one night – unless if was a one-off experiment for the blog (get that one in the notebook).

One thing I struggle to understand is how come alcoholics have to stop drinking completely? How come they can’t just have a few drinks now and then? Get slightly merry once in a while? That’s probably something you can’t understand until you are an alcoholic. So that looks good for me also.

I happen to have read what I’m going to call some alcoholic autobiographies recently – that is, autobiographies by alcoholics in which the alcoholism has been important, and the author has gone on to quit drinking altogether – these include Buzz Aldrin, Duff McKagan, Michael J Fox and Frank Skinner. I have to say though, in one case the subject just seems to be someone who likes to get smashed once in a while. The way it is presented, quitting alcohol altogether seems to be a bit of an overreaction.

At the other extreme, you have one subject who literally drank themselves to the edge of death, by drinking 10 bottles of wine a day (that is fucking impressive – even finding enough hours in the day to drink that many) – so quitting was clearly the best course. In one of the other cases… you just wonder whether they could have cut down a little bit. Or even a lot, just not necessarily altogether.

I don’t know, evidently I don’t currently have a drinking problem and I don’t really want one. I do have a bit of a nicoteine addiction – though I am largely in control of it. Many years ago now I stopped altogether – after a number of dismally failed attempts. A few months later though, I ended up buying a cigar on a stag do, and the floodgates opened – to an extent. The thing that works in my favour is that Mrs Cake doesn’t like me smoking, so I have a reason not to. If she wasn’t around, there wouldn’t be any such reason and I wouldn’t be able to stop myself taking up the hobby full time, but as it is I’m a very occasional smoker (but when I do smoke, it’s almost constant).  Alcohol has never been as addictive as that for me, but I suppose it’s only fair to assume that for other people it is.

Would my drinking habits be different if I wasn’t a blogger?

Interesting question that you thought of a mere few hours before your intention to post this blog, Neil. Where are you going to go with it? Well Neil, I’m hoping it will improve the post somewhat and lead me to making some funny jokes and observations that are sadly lacking from the rest of the text. So let’s find out.

Having had a micro-think about it, it’s almost impossible to say. I wouldn’t research booze so much, and wouldn’t know so much about it, though I probably would still be very interested in trying things and finding the pinnacle of distilled spirit – perhaps not quite so interested or dedicated to it, though. I expect I would probably spend a bit less on my habit and buy cheaper things more often.  I might still do booze tourism adventures, as they really give me something to look forward to and focus on, but I probably wouldn’t be as committed. Would I drink as much? Or more? Yes. I’d probably drink as much. Or more. Or maybe not… I wouldn’t have as many interesting bottles vying for my attention, so there might be less compulsion to dip into it midweek. I doubt it though. I’d just be able to enjoy it for what it is a lot more, instead of constantly asking myself how much I’m enjoying it and am I enjoying it any more or less than that other bottle.

If I wasn’t a booze blogger, you can be damn sure I’d need something else to get obsessed about and channel money towards instead of that vintage Japanese malt or expensive mezcal. That could be sport, video games, music, films… maybe I’d get around to writing a novel or a stand up routine. You never know, but I do generally need some kind of creative outlet, and for the moment at least, it’s the Drink it how you like it blog. And music.

your author may or may not be drinking from a hip flask on the bus
So how are you supposed to take all this? As a warning against expanding your alcohol interest into the sphere of blogging? Not that I mind whether or not you do. As a means of self-justification? Really, who (other than me) would be interested in this anyway? Well, no one, but it’s my blog and it seemed like an interesting thing to write about at the time. Perhaps not, but since you’ve made it this far, I’m going to promise you that next week’s post will be good. I’m going to look at my journey into parenthood from an alcohol-related perspective. I promise, after that, I’ll get back to writing about products, and deciding whether they are any good or not. In the meantime, think about the sacrifice I make for you every week, wrestling with my inner demons, drinking to [moderate] excess, spending money on alcohol that could be spent on… other things... It’s a hard life and you do what you can. It’s nice to have a drink once in a while… or, regularly though.


  1. Hi Neil,

    Just found your blog after doing a bit of research into Vodkas and stumbling across one of your article/blogs/word-things etc. ('A couple of budget vodkas' - TUESDAY, 30 JULY 2013).

    I've really enjoyed reading this as I am somewhat of a spirit lover, though rather less creative about it than yourself (I WILL tell anyone who will listen though!).

    I shall definitely enjoy returning.


    1. Thanks for visiting Will. I'm glad to hear you've enjoyed the blog. Keep enjoying those spirits.