Douglas McCaffrey attacks snobbery and leaves no survivors
I’m not a snob. At least I don’t think I am. My tastes do tend to run towards the expensive end of the market though. I certainly wouldn’t buy an inferior product when there is an affordable premium option available as an alternative. However, by the same token, I wouldn’t drop a couple of hundred Queen Elizabeth fun-bucks on a bottle of whisky. I would avoid the dubious pleasure of ‘Vodka’ brand vodka, which was once responsible for second degree burns on the face and neck of two college-mates. (I do not have the time nor the inclination to recount that tale. It is suffice to say that vodka does not lend itself to fire-breathing and if you do feel the need to attempt it, a snowdrift may end up being your best friend.)
I don’t understand alcohol snobbery. Why would anyone deny themselves the thrill of a new experience just because of a drink’s reputation? I suppose it’s my willingness to embrace new things that stops me from seeing a ‘purist’ point of view. I have drunk and eaten and smoked my fair share of consumables in my time and I feel my palate is wiser because of it. This of course means I have tasted some truly awful things (Egyptian whisky anyone?), but I do not allow this to restrict me from trying new things.
A perfect example of this is Stella Artois’ ‘Cidre’. I recently purchased a few bottles to try it out. I was intrigued as to how a predominantly lager producing company’s foray into more fruity territory would pan out. Upon trying it I discovered it to be sweet, refreshing and pleasant when served over ice (as suggested by that obsequious prick on the advert. DO NOT get me started of Stella Artois adverts. “Un Stella Artois FOUR, sil vous plais?” Surely you mean ‘quatre’?).
My friends were incredulous. “Stella cider? Christ, Doug if you wanted to experience domestic abuse why don’t you rent a copy of Nil by Mouth?” I was baffled that none of them wanted to try it out of simple curiosity. The stigma of Stella Artois’ undeserved reputation as some sort of Popeye style fightin’ juice had made their minds up about a product they had yet to actually try.
As it happens Cidre is merely OK. Although it’s nothing to shout from the rooftops about, it tastes of apples and has a very sweet edge to it that some folk will really enjoy. It certainly isn’t in the Frosty Jack league of gut rotting tramp fuel. Put simply, if I was passed one at a party I wouldn’t go home and fetch my soapbox.
Like most snobs, booze snobs are insufferable bores who spout their opinions and proclamations at the smallest hint of provocation. Riding around on their high horses, fuelled by their own smug sense of superiority, they will de-cry and denounce ‘inferior’ products and speak to their patrons as if they were moon faced simpletons, incapable of making their own decisions. I genuinely dislike people who foist opinion. Foisting an opinion at me is like poking a particularly sarcastic bear. No good can come of it.
I had an encounter recently that sums this type of unthinking snobbery. The last occasion I visited a certain bar in Leeds (that will remain nameless lest the actions of an individual ruin the reputation of an otherwise excellent establishment), I was in a warm, agreeable mood. I had been bar hopping for the best part of three hours when I arrived. I felt the sudden urge to switch up to something different.
I had been drinking Guinness for the previous few rounds and decided I wanted something a little more sugary to take the edge off the richness of the Guinness and to perk me up some. I confidently strode to the bar, scanned the spirit selection and plumped for a Wild Turkey and coke. The barman then did an incredible thing. He said to me, his customer, the person he was supposed to be serving: “No, you can’t have that with coke. You will ruin the taste”.
Now as a former Pub/Bar Manager I know that having a laugh with the punters is key to keeping people coming back and spending money. The above statement delivered with a wry smile or hint of sarcasm would have been a great way of doing that. A gentle chastisement, perhaps, a bit of harmless banter that could make the difference between deciding to have another for the road or not. I am well aware that adding coke to a spirit will dilute the taste, and that some people don’t like that. A bourbon and coke could be perceived as a ‘girly drink’ (a ridiculous notion, I know women that could out drink John Wayne. My mother, for example, drinks whisky like it’s going to be banned). That’s OK, tease me if you want, ask me if I want a tampon with that. It can all lead to a great atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the statement above was made with an accompanying look and attitude that made my fists itch. The guy just stood there with a world weary expression that belied his lack of years (the man was practically a foetus) and waited for me to change my mind. He fully expected me to throw my hands into the air and scream “Of course! How could I have been so stupid! You have shown me the error of my ways! How dare I order something I enjoy the taste of? How dare I order anything at all! Surely I should turn over all decision making to you and allow your vast genius to choose a libation appropriate to my mood.
I didn’t of course say this to him and nor did I hit him (the guy was maybe a touch over 10 stone and wearing his sister’s jeans. I would have vaporised him). Nor did I call him a fucking snob and walk out. Years of working in customer service has taught me that ruining somebody’s day over a minor issue is a dickish thing to do. With a herculean feat of self control I politely asked him to get me the drink I had ordered, and thanked him for his suggestion. He did so with all the grace and goodwill of a surly teenager that has just been grounded. I finished my drink and left. I have not been back.
I hope I don’t come across as melodramatic here, but I don’t intend to go back to that place for a long time. Snobbery has no place in a bar and certainly no place behind it. Regardless of whether you like the product someone has ordered or not, serve their drink and then suggest an alternative for the next round. It’s a simple pitch that works wonders when you are upselling. You look interested in the customer’s good time and they become more inclined to spend more money. If I had overheard such an exchange in a bar I was running, I’d have torn my barman a new arsehole.
We hope that Rum and Reviews does not come across as snobbish. Our aim is to give an impression of what a drink, smoke, pub or book is like (although anyone who disputes my claims about something is the worst sort of blasphemous heretic). It’s to help to pick that ‘something for the weekend’ purchase that can add a little sparkle to those precious two days a week you aren’t slaving in your office-cum-salt mine. Please let us know your thoughts on anything we cover, we’d love to hear them and we may even print them. As always, hit us up via the Twitter accounts @EstebanSemtex or @RumandReviews for up-to-date news and reviews.