I turned 21 in Europe, which was somewhat anti-climactic. After years of anxiety about “being carded,” my passage into American adulthood felt no different from the four previous months I had spent legally buying alcohol in France. I had a small celebration on the beach, where friends drank wine and champagne and we all headed home before 2AM. A few people made jokes, asking me with mock sincerity what alcohol tasted like, but otherwise, life went on as usual. It was only after returning to the US that I began to notice some differences. For one thing, no one thinks my ID is real; I chalk it up to being short and being way more tan than I was when my ID photo was taken, in February 2007.
And then there are the little things, like Connecticut liquor laws, which haven’t changed much since the days of the Puritans.
My brother, Alex, left about a week ago to chaperone little kiddles at a camp in California, and I wanted to make him some brownies to take on the plane. The original recipe was for bourbon and brown butter brownies, so I put “bourbon” on my grocery list and didn’t think anything of it.
First I stopped at Trader Joe’s. Nothing. Then I tried Whole Foods, where I found lots of local organic micro-brews, but still no bourbon. I assumed that these two stores were too classy or something to sell hard liquor, but figured that they must sell whiskey at Stop & Shop, which stocks practically everything. Still no luck. When I came home, I mentioned to my mom that I couldn’t find bourbon at any of the grocery stores in our area. She looked at me like I was crazy, then reminded me that in the US, hard alcohol isn’t sold in grocery stores, only in liquor stores (in France, hard alcohol is sold behind the cash register at most, if not all supermarkets). But she graciously offered to stop at a liquor store to pick some up…only to discover that liquor stores here close at 8:00 PM. Thanks for nothing, Governor Theophilius Eaton.
So I had to improvise. I was wary of substituting scotch or Canadian whiskey for bourbon, as the taste is much stronger and might make the brownies taste bitter or sour. But, we did have an old bottle of my grandpa’s Kahlua (which has a really cool label), so I used that instead for more coffee-flavored Kahlua brownies. Needless to say, from scraping the bottom of the pan, I can report that they came out deliciously.
As for my inexperience with buying booze stateside, stay tuned for further episodes, like the first time I see the price of wine here (in France, wine is heavily subsidized, and you can buy a bottle of cheap wine for less than a bottle of juice).