Hearing in paired: Vodka

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Some people feel and taste colors. Other people associate feelings with sounds. Me? Well, I drink in music. In this blog series, I pour myself a glass and pair 10 sips to 10 songs. Today, I’m drinking vodka and it tastes like female vocals accompanied by a hi-hat that won’t quit. 

It is nearly impossible to separate vodka from Russia. One can’t help but conjure up images of a snow-covered Moscow bar whose patrons are burly men in ushanka hats pouring themselves shots of Russian Standard on an endless loop.

Yet, it was the Poles that came up with vodka, some say even as early as the 8th century. Truth be told, there’s nothing inherently Russian about vodka because it can be made anywhere from anything as long as it’s distilled at or above 190 degrees, and bottled at no less than 80 proof. Even the world-famous vodka Smirnoff is owned and produced by a British company. And Stolichnaya “Stoli”, you know the vodka formerly distributed by PepsiCo, is bottled in Latvia for St. Petersburg’s sake.

But there’s no use arguing about it. Russia is to vodka as vodka is to a morning-after filled with regret.it-should-be-part-of-russia

Perhaps that was my initial attraction to the drink. I grew up watching movies like Red Dawn and Rocky IV, and under the influence of a hyper-conservative, Reagan-loving, Cuban father, the Soviets were the clear and present enemy. So what better way to rebel against him than to drink like Gorbachev.

My underage drinking was limited to screwdrivers because they were inconspicuous when carried around inside a Tropicana bottle and when I turned 21, I just kept ordering the same thing because I didn’t know better. Until I met my vodka fairy godmother.

I don’t remember her name. I don’t even remember whose mutual friend she was. But all I remember was that the knowledge she imparted would forever change the way I drank.

Not only did she teach me how to squeeze myself between patrons and garner the attention of the bartender, but she also, and most importantly, taught me how to order a “big girl” drink with “big girl” mixers, and to always state which brand of liquor I wanted in my cup. “Don’t let them choose for you. It’s your drink!” she screamed in my ear.

And I did. I picked a vodka that I could pronounce and loved it from the moment I set my lips on it. Since then, I’ve drank it every which way, on the rocks, in a Lemon Drop shot, mixed with Red Bull or cranberry juice or tonic, but never again with orange juice. Because, she said, in all her late-twenties wisdom, I would need to save my stomach lining for the joys of Mimosas at brunch. And boy was she right.

In her honor, I’ve created a playlist to match the first 10 sips of a delicious vodka soda with lime – made with Ketel One, of course.

Sip 1 – There is XXXX (Within My Heart) by You Say Party! We Say Die!

The bitter first sip of my vodka soda tasted like a familiar chord progression with an ominous tone. It asked, “Will this end with me soaking in a bathtub with my false eyelashes glued to my cheeks?” Similarly, this song asks a simple question: When the morning comes, will I be able to move like a human being? Those aren’t the exact lyrics, of course, but you get the picture.

Sip 2 – F-cking Boyfriend by the bird and the bee

My palate no longer felt attacked by the vodka. Instead, my second sip tasted sweet and fun, just like the jam session on the xylophone. To add to the fun, my language became increasingly profane in every unnecessary way, as in the title of this song.

Sip 3 – Love Me Like You by Ella Eyre

The party had made its way from my mouth to my body. The third sip had me swaying my hips and narrowing my eyes, as if I had a soulful voice coursing through my veins. My heartbeat was as mis-matched as the dub-step beat, but I was experienced enough to know that I wasn’t having a coronary, I was just having vodka.

Sip 4 – Deceptacon (DFA Remix) by Le Tigre

My feet involuntarily tapped to the music and my mouth insisted on smiling against my will. Also uncontrollable was the speed of the words coming out of my mouth and the volume at which I was oversharing my personal information. Just like Kathleen Hanna I was high-pitched and ready to rock.

Sip 5 – Another Case by Uh Huh Her

The urgency in which the tom-tom drums are pounded throughout this song perfectly fits my sudden need to finish my drink as soon as possible. The fifth sip brought me to the halfway point of my first drink, which was when I knew it would not be the last one of the evening.

Sip 6 – Alligator (Holy F*** Remix) by Tegan and Sara

A new found confidence washed over me. Like this steady beat, I was completely at ease and became preoccupied with making sure that people (strangers) felt comfortable. “Are you having a good time?” I asked everyone who would make eye contact with me.

Sip 7 – Warm Water (Snakehips Remix) by Banks

It was at this sip when I discovered I was terribly sexy. Banks’ voice is like butter and I was the bread…or maybe the vodka was melting the butter. Not to worry, this feeling, like this song, soon passed.

Sip 8 – Birth In Reverse by St. Vincent

Like the sudden up-tempo surge of this song, the eighth sip opened the door to antics and all around silliness. Things that normally weren’t funny were now really funny. Not whatever funny. I mean, really fucking funny.

Sip 9 – Kanye (Louis The Child Remix) by The Chainsmokers

I momentarily put my drink down to express myself through dance. Dancing while drinking requires an easy chorus that can be loudly sung (preferably while holding up your arms), as well as an easy beat that allows for exaggerated movements.

Sip 10 – Walkashame by Meghan Trainor

My walk of shame was when I took my last sip while heading to the bar to order my next vodka soda. Every cartoonish note of the saxophone and the stereotypical bongo beat was perfectly in line with my anticipatory shuffle as I waited to be called on by the bartender. “Ketel One and soda with lime,” I said with the stupidest of grins.

Cheers to you vodka fairy godmother. Wherever you are.

Below is a full list of the 10 songs for my 10 sips:

Click if you missed my music parings for whiskey and/or gin.

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One response »

  1. Going out drinking with you must be quite an experience. I now await your associations with Máximo Extra Añejo Havana Club, now that President Obama has kindly allowed us to bring it back with us from our visits abroad.

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