So-Called Classy Drinks That Aren’t Classy At All

Sometimes a drink is just a drink: you order it because you enjoy it, or simply because you need to get drunk. But other times, when you find yourself among people you wish to impress, your drink can become a statement. You order it with the hope that those around you find it sophisticated, and decide you’re a little bit more interesting than you actually are—and with the right choice, that might even be true. However, aside from the fact that getting drunk only looks good at frat parties, if you do it with the following drinks, it won’t look classy either.

Pinot Grigio

There’s no denying the pleasure of a glass of chilled white wine when you’re in the mood, and it’s equally hard to deny that a glass of wine looks like a classy option, especially on a table covered in pints of beer. However, if the wine you select is a Pinot Grigio, you might not be making the impression you think you are—because Pinot Grigio is the Bud Light of wines. Now, there’s nothing (necessarily) wrong with ordering the Bud Light of wines, so long as you understand that any sommelier—or indeed, any drinker with half a clue about wine—within earshot will instantly make several assumptions about you, and none of them will be positive.

Like Bud Light, there are only a couple of reasons for ordering Pinot Grigio: it’s usually cheap, and you know exactly what you’re going to get. Unfortunately, as usually happens when you order something cheap and predictable, “interesting” stays behind the bar. So next time you feel in the mood for a palatable buzz that doesn’t come from a beer, by all means order a Pinot Grigio, but the only way to make it look anything like a classy choice is if you’re wearing cowboy boots and a dirty wife beater when you do.

Stella Artois

Stella Artois is from Belgium, which obviously makes it an import, and thus slightly more expensive. It also has a name that sounds amazing when spoken with a French accent, and that red-and-gold label just drips class … or rather it would, if it had any. Just because something is imported, and costs a bit more, doesn’t make it classy. In fact, in the UK, Stella (as it’s usually abbreviated) is also known as “wife beater,” because it reportedly makes people a “little crazy.” Of course, that could just be because the people who drink it the most also tend to drink a lot of it, and get into fights when they do, and there’s nothing classy about that.

As with any of the drinks we’re discussing today, it’s possible to achieve a degree of class by virtue of contrast, and so if you turn up to a frat party where the usual chiller filler has some variation of “light” in the name, then Stella is going to look real smooth—at least, until the first punch is thrown.

Martini

If you order a martini, and it has anything other than gin or vodka, vermouth, and an olive in it, then you had better be a drunk bride-to-be on her bachelorette party. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with the cocktails that get labelled as martinis — some of them might even be tasty — but they’re most definitely not martinis. It’s actually still up for debate whether a real martini should even contain vodka. That James Bond drank it that way was intended to be a roguish break from the norm, displaying his international playboy credentials. And if even that variation is in question, then you know anything else is just a trashy attempt to imbue some second-rate gin or vodka-based cocktail with a bit of class-by-association. But, since any class the drink possesses resides exclusively on the menu, any attempt to order one instantly becomes tasteless—which is probably more than you can expect from the cocktail.

Champagne

Not so much a drink as a tradition, the always recognizable “pop-fizz” is now an inescapable addition to any vaguely formal event. And since the cost of a bottle of “champagne” has, for a long time, been well within the reach of the masses, anytime anyone feels like classing up their party, they can easily splash out and add the appropriate sound effects. The thing is, though, that’s all it really amounts to in the end. Anyone who says they actually like drinking champagne is either lying to try and appear sophisticated, isn’t talking about anything real people can afford, or is already really drunk before they crack open their favorite vintage.

This isn’t even about whether it’s Champagne (big C), or champagne (small c), or any of the endless versions that basically amount to sparkling wine, but the fact that any drink that depends upon special effects and theatrics to seem classy is trying way too hard. Not to mention the fact that since every man, woman, and dog is now inclined to crack open a bottle on the smallest whim, any class that action once held has been diluted to the party equivalent of three exclamation marks at the end of a text message.

Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker falls under that category of liquors Americans like to call “scotch,” but in Scotland it’s just called whisky. Johnnie Walker is a mass produced “blended” whisky, as opposed to a single malt. By blending different whiskies, the producer can control the flavor and maintain it across batches — that way, the customer always knows what they’re getting, and what they’re getting is the sweet taste of compromise.

Blended whiskies were actually illegal in Britain before 1860, and it’s no surprise that Johnnie Walker produced their first blend five years after that. All of their products are now named for the color of their slanted label, i.e. Red Label, Black Label, etc. because it’s easier to say Red Label, than Lagavulin or Auchentoshan, especially when you should have stopped drinking hours ago. Johnnie Walker Red Label is actually intended for making mixed drinks, and to make things easier for their customers, they even offer it premixed in a can—and if that doesn’t give you a clue, nothing will.

If you really want to look good drinking Scottish whisky, order a 12-year-old single malt, straight up, no ice, with maybe a little water to open up the flavors. On the other hand, if all you really want is a whisky-flavored coke, feel free to order a Johnnie Walker. But that Red Label is definitely a red flag, and you won’t look classy waving it.

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