A guide to winter drinking

A guide to winter drinking

Drinking in the winter is serious business, especially in places where people regularly bandy about terms like “cold snap,” “polar vortex,” and “snowpocalypse.” Seasonal alcoholics everywhere convince themselves that winter drinking is as much a means of survival as it is an enjoyable way to spend an evening, alone, crying about the people who no longer love you. It seems as though every winter follows the same formula: you buy a few strong beers, you glom together some brown sugar and margarine and have a terrible mug of hot buttered rum, you think about making egg nog from scratch before you decide it’s too much work and just drink brandy from the bottle. If this somewhat describes the way you deal with your seasonal affective disorder, you’re not alone, but there is a better way. Also, don’t get me wrong; you’re still technically alone.

The first step in successful winter drinking is cleaning. Your efficiency doesn’t have a fireplace and we both know that no one is going to come walking through that door anytime soon, but a clean apartment and shampooed hair are sometimes the only things that differentiate having a nightcap from a drunken wallow in filth and sadness. Everyone who lives in a frozen moonscape understands the importance of cuddling up with something that will help warm an evening, but the winter isn’t going to get any easier if you keep waking up under a pile of dirty laundry. When you and your living quarters are clean it feels good to pour some Rumple Minze into hot cocoa and settle in with a nice murder mystery. By contrast, getting hammered amidst your squalor creates an opening for the putrid smell of dirty dishes to start loudly reminding you that no one else is going to wash them.

The style and quality of booze you consume is a crucial consideration when trying to ignore that the outside is actively trying to murder you. You are not yet a homeless person, regardless of how strongly you feel that no one wants you around, therefore you have no excuse for drinking anything that comes from a plastic bottle. It is difficult to quantify how different you’ll feel pouring yourself a neat tumbler of Templeton Rye from a well-stocked liquor cabinet instead of pulling a bottle of Windsor out of the freezer and giving up for the evening. The cold lends itself to all sorts of new ways to get tossed. Spike some mulled cider with Applejack and live action role-play that you’re a pioneer, waiting for your family to return home from the general store with hard candy and leather. Mix yourself up a coquito, an ethereal Puerto Rican eggnog that will force you to contemplate how you’ve gone so long without it in your life, like the first time you got a smartphone or an IUD. Spurn the American microbrew trend for a few days and buy some Belgian Christmas ale, a style that has been perfected over hundreds of years but is still strong enough to knock you out before you start thinking about texting your ex.

The only thing as essential as drinking to surviving a frigid winter is gaining weight. It’s an annual rite of passage for anyone who lives above the Mason-Dixon line. Do yourself a favor and go to Whole Foods and get about ten pounds each of stew meat and ground beef, and $40 of canned vegetables. You now have all the ingredients you need for about ten sizable batches of beef stew and chili. This is the most affordable and seasonally appropriate way to avoid amassing a mountain of pizza boxes and half eaten frozen dinner trays. If you feel like starting down a dark path, pair a good stiff drink with Hot Pockets and observe how quickly you spiral into an oozing pile of despair. For the vegetarians out there, two words: bread and cheese. Four words really: artisan bread, expensive cheese. Get after it; pack on the pounds. You own sweaters and have absolutely no one to impress, possibly ever.

Call your friends. Winter drinks are commonly prepared in large batches, presumably to be shared with multiple people. No one should consume two quarts of egg nog by themselves, regardless of how many days it takes, and you know that once you open the second bomber of barley wine you’re already twice the legal limit, not that you have anywhere to go. You’re clearly going through some shit right now and offering alcohol is a surefire way to get people to come over and listen to you while they drink, because your problems are boring. Winter is a time to huddle next to the people who somehow still care about you, get drunk, and complain about how much you hate where you live. You’re going to get through this–the winter, everything else, but the less you remember the better, because you have to do this again next year. It gets cold, and everyone leaves you.

Shane Hawley