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A Toast to 2017, and a Pledge to Drink More Creatively

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With just two weeks to go in what has been a not-so-great year, I've already got my eyes on 2017. All in all, though, I can't complain. Yes, we lost David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, and John Glenn — and here at home, we're still mourning eccentric small business owner Jerry Gibson and musician Clay Otis. We're saying goodbye to Obama's White House and, it seems, credibility, responsibility, and peace on earth. But 2016 had its high points: new coaches for the Grizzlies and the Tigers, wine in grocery stores, the arrival of Ikea, and the promise of Trader Joe's and Nordstrom Rack to come.

So, as I contemplate what to toast the end of the year with, I'm also thinking about the resolutions for the next year. Specifically, drinking resolutions. Very specifically, not quitting drinking, but drinking better in the new year. Here goes:

I pledge to drink more purple, in honor of Prince. South American wines, French Syrah, and California Merlot are all on my short list. On my iPhone, I've saved a link to a recent Forbes article listing the best 20 reds under $20. Thanks to wine writer Nick Passmore, I've got a shopping list that now includes the $18 Birillo Costa Toscana 2013, the $14 Domaine de L'Obrieu Cuvee Les Antonins 2010, and an intoxicating Greek wine, the 2013 Ktima Kir-Yianni from Yianakohori Hills. I can't wait to savor these selections while Controversy, 1999, and Purple Rain play on repeat.

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Speaking of iPhones, I also pledge to take more photographs while I'm drinking. Of wine labels, people. I'm not a fan of the drunk selfie. I'm also horribly embarrassed every time I stand in a liquor store and say, "It's got a bicycle/chicken/building/tree/face on the label" and expect the helpful clerk to point me to a particular bottle. Maybe I should use the last two weeks of December to download an app that will make remembering what I drink even easier.

I vow to spend more time drinking in bars rather than at home. Yes, I'll still make a kitchen gin-and-tonic after a long workday, but I also want to be more social. So many of my favorite "special occasions" restaurants — Bari, Acre, and Second Line among them — have beautiful bars. Likewise, Folk's Folly and Erling Jensen aren't on my monthly rotation, but they both have bars with limited menus and fabulous bartenders who make you feel like a regular even when, frankly, you aren't. Enjoying one specialty cocktail, and maybe an appetizer, takes less of a hit on my wallet, and I still feel like I've gotten a special treat.

I also vow to drink more local products: I've done well this year upping my intake of Memphis beer, but I need to shop more locally sourced liquor and wine. And I'm still kicking myself for spending the better part of a week in New Orleans in November and not picking up a bottle of Orleans rum. Learn from my mistake and remember to shop local when you're on vacation, too!

I want to promise that I'll take more vacations to visit "the source." Southern Kentucky and east Tennessee are close enough for a weekend of bourbon tastings. I need to take advantage of the weather this spring and get in my car and go! I've bookmarked the Kentucky Bourbon Trail website for inspiration. With a map, a trip planner app, bourbon history, and even a passport, they've gotten all of the hard work out of the way.

I would like to learn how to master some of my favorite cocktails, so that I can dazzle guests with a perfectly curled orange peel perched on a glass rim. I'd like to properly utilize my bottle of Angostura bitters, rather than add a dash or two to a glass of champagne and call it a cocktail.

Finally, I vow to drink smarter. So far, I've escaped 2016 without a major hangover, a trend that I hope carries over to 2017. I've been relieved to be able to rely on Lyft and Uber when I've known I was going out to drink.

Bottoms up! Let's make 2017 a good year.


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