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Ruth: Dad, Johnnie Walker Black blanch at son's choice

As a parent, I've always tried to lead by example. For example, I like to drink.

So you can only begin to imagine how disheartening it was to learn for all those clinking ice cubes around the house over the years, so little knowledge apparently rubbed off on that kid whatshisname living down the hallway.

For Zeus the Younger's 25th birthday we decided to treat the lad to dinner at the recently reopened Floridan Palace Hotel, beginning first with cocktails in the famous Sapphire Room watering hole, which began serving Tampa's alcohol needs in the 1920s.

As he settled into his seat at the bar and ordered a Johnnie Walker Black cocktail, I felt a small sense of pride. I had taught the grasshopper well, I deluded myself into thinking.

Then I glanced at the glass set before him. What in heaven's name was that concoction? Plato the Younger — and you have no idea how it pains me to write this — had ordered a Johnnie Walker Black and (oh, the horror of it all) Coke.

Malt had to die for this? And I was paying for it?

Shame swept over me. Where had I failed so miserably as a parent? Perhaps if the Bombshell of the Balkans and I moved down a few bar stools maybe no one would notice he was with us.

Shortly after I turned 21 I found myself at dinner with my father. When the waiter came around to collect the drink orders, I proudly announced I would be enjoying a Cutty Sark and water that evening.

"The hell you will," my father responded looking over his half-lens glasses with the all the disappointment as if he had just discovered I had voted for a Democrat.

But I'm old enough to drink, I protested.

"I know that. But if you're going to drink booze, drink good booze," he sighed, turning to the waiter. "Bring him a Dewar's." You have to admit this was better fatherly advice than being taught how to rake the leaves.

There are only three ways to drink scotch: straight up, with water or with soda. Okay, maybe with a straw if you're in a hurry. But mixing Johnnie Walker Black, which is a wonderful scotch, with Coke was like making a wine spritzer with a Chateau Lafite Rothschild. This was like putting ketchup on a filet mignon at Bern's Steak House. This was like spreading caviar on a peanut butter sandwich. Some things simply aren't done.

This was a crime against distillery.

Obviously Socrates the Younger had fallen in with the wrong crowd. I began to fear he was hanging around with people who put ice in their beer and mix Boodles gin with Mountain Dew. Perhaps an intervention was in order, a sort of reverse Betty Ford Clinic where patients are taught HOW to drink.

Clearly the first line of defense against felonious hoochery is the responsible saloon keeper, who should feel well within their rights to refuse to serve anyone who orders scotch and anything that would make my father (who was quite familiar with the Sapphire Room), Richard Burton and/or the members of the Algonquin Round Table spin in their graves.

I wanted to send Aristotle the Younger to his room to think about managing to offend the entire civilized drinking world, not to mention the one who was picking up the bar tab. Unfortunately, he doesn't live at home anymore.

This much I've learned.

The next time, Epicurus the Younger comes over to the house for dinner I don't have to worry about hiding the liquor. It's the Coke I need to lock up.

Ruth: Dad, Johnnie Walker Black blanch at son's choice 11/21/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 1:45pm]
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