The Discriminating Lush

To drink often and to drink well: such are the dual pursuits of the discriminating lush, the drinker whose eyes rise toward the top shelf, who eschews Schlitz tallboys and whisky from the well in favor of the sophisticated, the rare, the premium, and the pricey. The unrefined boozer — the barfly, the professional — prizes quantity over quality, makes his medicine from boilermakers and Boone's, fervently and without joy. Not so our discerning imbiber.

And though this drinker favors the high-end and small-batch, there's a decided lack of snobbery. It's not about snottiness — to each his or her very own poison of choice! — it's just about standards. And as we enter the dark season, some lines from the Greek lyric poet Alkaios echo: "Damn the winter cold! Pile up the burning logs/and water the great flagons of red wine;/place feather pillows by your head, and drink./Let us not brood about hard times . . . Drink deeply, drink."

Below, a few suggestions on gifts to intoxicate the sophisticated drinker.


| $3.78 | People disagree about how a bottle opener came to be called a "church key." Some argue it was an act of defiance when Prohibition ended, an old-fashioned fuck-you to the religious organizations that banned boozing in the first place. This model is as basic as you can get: traditional, functional, no needless bells and/or whistles. It's a basic building block in any drinker's life. You don't need to be showy when you're cracking open a bottle of BrewDog's End of History beer ($765), at 55 percent alcohol, with a bottle encased in a taxidermied stoat carcass. No matter what you're opening, this church key'll help unlock the door to God.


| Show the discerning boozer in your life that you're up on beer trends with a sixer of 21st Amendment's Back in Black IPA. More and more craft breweries are foregoing fancy-pants bottles (stoat notwithstanding), and opting instead for the trusty can. "There's something so wonderful about drinking a great beer out of a can," says Federal Wine and Spirits' Nate Shumway. Located in San Francisco, the 21st Amendment brewery took inspiration from Paul Revere for this brew — rebelling against the British-style IPA, they "embraced the more aggressive American version." Upscale cans for your upscale drinker.

Federal Wine and Spirits | 29 State Street, Boston | 617.367.8605 |


| Understated and elegant, this lovely specimen — handcrafted by British company Alchemy — is kidney-shaped to slide into your pocket, no problem. According to the company web site, Alchemy "belongs to the time-honoured body of master craftsman, 'The Worshipful Company of Pewterers,' who were granted a Royal Charter in 1474 by King Edward IV for the legal manufacture of pewterware throughout England," so tippling with this flask also means tapping into some pretty serious history as well.

Leavitt & Pierce | 1316 Mass Ave, Cambridge | 617.547.0576 |


MORTLACH 70 YEAR OLD | $21,000/750 ML
| It's the oldest bottled single malt whisky in the world, and according to Joe Howell, the manager of Federal Wine and Spirits, 21 grand is a steal: "They could've priced it at $100,000." The appearance: "sun-bleached polished mahogany," the Gordon & MacPhail site tells us. The smell involves wax and fruit, a thread of smoke, Madeira cake, flaked almonds, whin flowers. The taste: dried figs and tobacco notes, planed hardwood, light sweetness turning to pleasant sourness, with soot at the end. "I had one man in here taste it," said Howell, "an accountant. He said he thought Jesus had just gone down his throat."

Federal Wine and Spirits | 29 State Street, Boston | 617.367.8605 |

— Nina MacLaughlin

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