Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pour Me Something That Hurts

by Sophie


What's your writing beverage of choice?

When I'm working, I like to have something at hand. (As I mentioned early in the week, I'd be a great smoker. I have no doubt that if I could smoke prettily while I worked, my productivity would skyrocket. I'd even keep lipstick on all day just so I could leave trademark red smudges on the butts in ashtrays all over the house. And hell - you'd think with all that cash RJR and their ilk have been pouring into R&D all these decades, they would have managed to make the things healthy by now!)

Anyway smoking's out, because of the, y'know, health thing, so I start with coffee and segue into Diet Coke and stay with that combo all through the day. Only when the last word is typed at night do I switch to anything stronger.

That said, whiskey's my favorite way to end the writing day.

I started this habit two years ago at Left Coast Crime in Denver. Two weeks after that conference, I would receive an offer of representation from my fantastic agent, but I didn't know it at the time. What I did know was that the stack of dead manuscripts had grown painfully high, the stack of rejections even higher.

I decided it was time to learn to drink like a crime writer.

Should I be admitting this? Probably not. Ah, well. I lined up three fine scotches for a taste test (don't worry, I didn't actually drink them all - this was a tasting) and BAM, I was hooked. It didn't take me long to figure out that my taste runs to the rough-cut stuff - eh, the expensive ones, that is.

I can't resist the romance of it, either, of course. You probably know that in order to make single malt whiskey, you soak barley until it, uh, gets whiskeylike and then you dry the barley in peat smoke. They still harvest peat in Scotland using these terrifying-looking broad-bladed tools, and someday I'm going to go check out those bogs myself and see it in person.

My favorite whiskey is Laphroaig. One review of this whiskey said it contains notes of motor oil and creosote. I can't deny that's true; it's hardly subtle. Sometimes you take a sip and your throat literally closes up in protest.

My friend A came over once and said "Pour me something that hurts" - it was the Laphroaig she was thinking of. (It had been a long week.)

I guess I've stepped willingly into the caricature, but I don't even care. There's just nothing like that first burning sip - especially if I've earned it by writing well that day.

I'll close with a quote I like - I don't know who said it, and I don't really agree with the sentiment, but I like the way it sounds:

“What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for.”

23 comments:

Toby Tremayne said...

Magnificent - my three favourite drinks are the ones you have in that picture :)

Lagavulin is my favourite with Laphroaig a close second. I must admit I got into drinking malts because a character in a book I was reading was drinking Laphroaig :) When I tried it I loved it so much I started learning about malts, particularly the Islay ones. It's awesome stuff, plus it's fun to imagine the other great figures of literature and history who have enjoyed it too - one day I hope to be sipping it in my walnut and oak paneled library surrounded by thousands of books (some my own!)

Tobias Buckell is fond of Laphroaig as well - he was lamenting his empty bottle today on twitter.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks, Sophie, for carrying the flag so we 7CriminalMinds don't look like total pansies. Water? Chai? Puhlease. We need some hard whiskey drinkin' writers here!

I admit I have had days where I wanted to drink something that hurt myself.

Thanks for another great post!

Shane Gericke said...

I hear ya on symbolism, Sophie. My first day as a shiny fresh copy editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, I slipped a bottle of whisky into my desk drawer. It was Old Grand-Dad, and tasted like it had gone THROUGH old grand-dad before bottling. But I wanted my tough-guy symbol in place so the actual tough guys in the place--the grizzled vets--wouldn't figure out that at age 26, I didn't know nuthin about nuthin. I took a belt after successfully hitting my first deadline, but that was it; see above about going through grand-dad :-) The bottle sits on my desk even now, next to the toy truck with the "Sun-Times: The Bright One" decal on the side. Ah, Eighties advertising.

Three terrific choices in your Scotch. Another you might enjoy is Ardbeg. It's strong, and one of the smokiest ones around. I fell in love with the first sip.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Hey Toby, obviously, we are soul mates! Meet you at the bar? - though it's an expensive habits - i've paid as much as $17 for a slug of the laphroaig.

oh and last week i discovered there's at least one bourbon i like: eagle rare - which Kelli introduced me to. another pricey one, of course.

And becky - i was feeling like the bad kid in the back of the classroom. you guys are so virtuous, it makes me want to step up my game!

Sophie Littlefield said...

hey shane, i've heard of the Ardbeg but I don't think I've tried it yet - will definitely be on the lookout. I also like the Oban and then there's this one with a really strange name that I discovered with Julie in a little bar in Oakland...will have to ask her what that was...

and love, love the idea of young green you with your bottle!! My favorite description of rummy journalists has got to be denise mina. whenever she talks about those 80's wrecks spending the workday in the bar, i just want to transport myself there. not to drink but to observe and absorb.

Rachael Herron said...

It's too bad that I'm at work, and it's still the morning and I want some o'that.

Dan Krokos said...

I loved this post.

I finish off writing with a glass of Jameson or Macallan 12, depending on how poor I am.

Carla Buckley said...

Wow, Sophie, I am impressed, and slightly in awe of you. Okay, more than slightly.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Rachael, Dan, and Carla, I just realized how much I want to introduce all three of you to each other. It would be so amazing - three writers I admire who are completely different and all kick ass all over town. Dan, there's no shame in the Jameson's, we all gotta ride the tides of fate now and then. Better days ahead for both of us. The Macallan's a little smooth for me, but nice. Like for dessert or something. A little caramelly - is that a word?

Sophie Littlefield said...

And PS to Carla - holy smokes, happy release day, sugar! hallelujah!!!!

Chris said...

Count me in the Laphroaig camp, too. Though right now, it's the Arran cask strength I've been digging; delicious.

Have I ever mentioned, Sophie, that THE ANGELS' SHARE is pretty much entirely about whiskey? Well, that and small-town crime and ghosts...

Gigi Pandian said...

I love this image of you as the whiskey-swilling writer.

I always wanted to be a smoker, but it never stuck. I still have the feeling that my writing epiphanies would happen more often if I was at my desk with a cigarette in one hand and a whiskey in the other.

But for now I'm good with strong coffee and vodka -- um, not at the same time ;)

Carla Buckley said...

Sophie--you are so my BFF.

And how have I missed this blog? Look at who hangs out here! I love these criminal minds (did you know that is my very favorite show and I'm completely addicted? Ask Christy Reece. We belong to a 12 step group together.) Anyway, they're going to be sorry you let me in the door.

And the one time I tried Whiskey, I thought I snorted it right back up. Not my best moment.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Chris - I know in my heart that some day I'm going to be holding THE ANGELS SHARE - the book - in my hands. Now i'm even more intrigued!

Gigi :) no surprise there, girl - you're a total smoker-who-doesn't-smoke, just like me. and i did think it over for a minute but i believe you are right, no good can come from mixing coffee and vodka.

Carla, it's all nice folks here! I'm wondering if maybe you just haven't had the *right* whiskey yet? I used to practically hurl whenever I drank a whiskey/coke (says something about me no doubt that I kept trying). Tell you what, let's give it a try this summer! We'll get Andy to pick up our tab.

Jane George said...

I learned the difference between whisky and whiskey in Tonda Fuller's Gentleman's Tipple seminar at the 2008 Beau Monde Conference. What would the gentleman of 1812 England be drinking? Fabulous stuff. And tasty!

If you ever want to try the opposite of something that hurts, give 8 Seconds Canadian Whiskey a try. Caramel smoothness! But I like the Scottish smoky stuff too.

My writerly drink is absinthe, but that's another kettle of mythology entirely. I indulge in the tame storebought stuff, although I do have a rather sinister looking bottle of homemade absinthe on my counter. I think I prefer to keep it unopened, it's much more mysterious that way. I'd hate to have my fantastical illusions shattered when it turns out to taste like mouthwash.

Chris said...

You know, one of the drunkest nights I ever had involved coffee and vodka. Terrible, terrible idea. And all of you non-smoking smokers? No idea how you pull it off. I quit years ago, and every once and I while, I want a cigarette so bad I can freakin' taste it.

Shane Gericke said...

Carla, you snorted it back up? Ouch! That must have smarted something awful!

Sophie Littlefield said...

hey jane darlin'!! I actually always misspell whiskey (i believe that American stuff has the 'e' and the rest doesn't? is that right?) It's gotten to be a habit i can't shake.

I'm completely intrigued by the home-made absinthe. sounds illegal to be sure and tempting as heck.

"8 Seconds" is a great name though.

Eric said...

Yep, it's the American stuff with the 'e.' Having had the very great privilege to have been there, observing, at the bar at that fateful Left Coast Crime, I am pleased to see that the habit has stuck. It is a fine habit, indeed.

Joshua Corin said...

"Pour me something that hurts" may be my favorite quote of the week.

Laura Benedict said...

All the cool writer chicks drink Scotch whiskey--but on the rocks only in the summer!

Have you heard on the radio about that fake cigarette thing that's supposed to taste and look like a cigarette, but only releases steam rings? I so want to try it. You would be a gorgeous smoker. I always tell my kids that smoking really is cool, but that it gives you bad breath, yellow teeth and smelly clothes. I'll lie about Santa Claus, but not that. xoxo

Sophie Littlefield said...

oh Lauara I MUST find that fake cigarette! And I always tell my kids that all kinds of bad stuff is cool: tattoos, piercings, smoking, drugs, cutting class, promiscuity, etc. etc. etc. I have found that this has turned them into a pair of straight arrows. They look like a J. Crew ad from the 80s, proper as can be...

Jen Forbus said...

Someone had one of those fake cigarettes at Murder & Mayhem this past November...can't remember now who it was, but that's immediately what I thought of when you mentioned your lipstick rings. Although a nice white pen might work, too. You're a writer, Soph, use your imagination! Or, of course, we could get you some candy ones! ;-)

I'm a light weight when it comes to drinking. But people have commented when I do drink I grow even more quiet than regular. That's not always great for me. I surely couldn't drink as I write my blog posts. They're such a mess when I'm not drinking, can't imagine when I am drinking...and lord it takes me forever. I couldn't possibly slow it down any more.

This is a fun question this week. Sorry I'm late getting over. I've been working hard on my highlight of Craig this week.