Matthew Latkiewicz is a monthly columnist for New York magazine’s Grub Street, where his articles are among the site’s most read, commented upon, and shared. He has written about drinking for many publications, including McSweeney’s and Details. Check his site at youwillnotbelieve.us. Matthew’s new book, You Suck at Drinking, releases this week. We got to talk with him about his life in liquor. Follow all week for his exclusive drinking lifestyle series for The Dapper Style.
The Dapper Style: When and where did you get the passion for adult beverages?
Matthew: I got into wine for awhile when I was in my early 20s. I don’t remember why exactly. I think maybe as a way to distinguish myself from the way a lot of 20 year olds drink. I used to do that in college. Show up to a keg party with a bottle of wine; I was that guy. But anyway, at 23 my wife and I opened a cafe in a small town in MA called Montague. We served beer and wine and I got a lot of exposure that way, exposure to both the things I really enjoy about booze and the stuff I find incredibly annoying like wine speak and the weird reverence people can develop for alcohol.
The Dapper Style: Where do you live and work right now?
Matthew: I live in Oakland, CA. where I work as a writer and creative director.
The Dapper Style: When you order a cocktail right now, what is it?
Matthew: A shot of cheap whiskey and a can of cheap beer. I know that’s not a cocktail, but that is what I drink 90% of the time now. After over 10 years writing about alcohol I’ve drank my way across a large landscape of wine and craft beer and adventurous spirits and I’ve settled on the shot and beer. It’s a perfect combo and can be found at any bar in America. I’m like the Siddhartha of booze. I’ve traveled the lands and now I’m happy to just sit by my river in peaceful drunk enlightenment.
Okay, but fine, if I order a cocktail it will be a Negroni. It is nearly impossible to do wrong and very easy to do right. At home, I drink gin martinis up with a twist.
The Dapper Style: What is a current trend in cocktails and/or liquor?
Matthew: I’m not a big trend guy as a writer (see above answer about cheap whiskey and cheap beer). What interests me about drinking is the culture and the ways in which people incorporate drink into their lives. I’m not really concerned whether sherry is making a comeback or there’s a move toward savory flavors or whatever. It’s not that I think that stuff isn’t worthwhile, but it isn’t what I enjoy about drinking. I care more about bars—the places we drink—than I care about cocktails.
In terms of bars, I am noticing more and more bars that combine quality cocktail craft with dive bar spirit. This is wonderful. As far as I am concerned, dive bars are the only true American bars. Which is not to say that cocktails bars or craft beer bars or whatever other kinds of bars aren’t great places, but in my opinion dive bars carry the true spirit of a bar. They are the Platonic ideal. So being able to go to a place that feels like a dive bar but can make me a Vieux Carre? Awesome.
The Dapper Style: What is an upcoming trend in liquor?
Matthew: More and more micro-distilled American spirits. The laws around distilling are finally changing in some states after getting all f’ed up because of Prohibition. We are still near the beginning of a great moment in American made spirits.
The Dapper Style: What is something a guy can order that is manly but will impress?
Matthew: The only things a guy should avoid ordering in my opinion is light beer and vodka sodas. I’m probably being a jerk about it, but those just don’t seem like real drinks to me. They make it seem like the person is trying to avoid drinking. If you’re worried about the calories in beer, drink whiskey. If you don’t like the taste of alcohol, don’t drink it. Other than that, order whatever you want and be confident about it. That’s what impresses me, someone who is having a good time and doesn’t care what I think about their drink.
If you don’t know what to order, order a Sazerac.
The Dapper Style: What is your personal clothing is your style?
Lumber sexual. I’m embarrassed to be a current cliche, but I am a cliche.