By Jim Laughren
You’ve seen them, we all have. Walk into almost any restaurant these days and you’re bound to spot two or three right away. In bars they’re hard to avoid. A glass of beer on one side of the table, a glass of wine on the other. What’s wrong, you think, that two reasonable, seemingly normal human beings can’t find common ground in something as simple and straightforward as their choice of beverage? Behold, the unfortunate cross-drinking couple.
You may know some of these people (you may even be part of a cross-drinking couple yourself). But take heart; there is hope. It comes down to both parties making a serious effort to “see” things through the other’s amber- or red and white-tinted glasses. There is a way out of the morass of “But I love beer” and “Why can’t you be more adventurous and enjoy a glass of wine,” though both parties have to give a little.
First, note the “I love beer” comment. Admit it, my friend, a very self-centered attitude. Don’t you care what someone else, i.e., your significant other, might love? Is it all about you? If so, you have bigger problems than cross-drinking.
And you, on the other side of the table. “Why can’t you be more adventurous?” A low blow. Impugning one’s character because they’re stuck in a beverage rut seems rather harsh. So what do you say we try a little experiment?
There’s a good chance that when your partner has tried your drink of choice, it’s simply been the wrong choice. We all have unique palates, our own set of taste buds and flavor preferences. If you’ve had the wrong drink forced on you, it was very likely… yucky!
So Step One is to assess your honey’s preferences in other food and drink. Do they like rich and hearty, or have you noticed a preference for light and delicate? Given the choice of cheese ravioli with a light butter sauce or meat ravioli with a heavy red sauce, which would he or she pick? Does your squeeze like strong, black coffee or is a medium roast with cream and sugar more to his or her liking? See what we’re doing here? Before booze even enters the equation, you’re more likely to succeed if you know each other’s basic preferences.
Step Two is a mutual agreement to at least try the other’s preferred slurp. Not their exact drink, but something in the same category. If your counterpart loves a thick steak with mushrooms and a big dollop of blue cheese butter, it’s unlikely that a sweet Moscato or a lightweight Pinot Grigio—your two favorite wines—will appeal to their palate. Someone who favors big flavors and rich food is more prone to enjoy a full bodied red with pronounced tannins and alcohol.
On the other hand, if your partner loves sweets and prefers lighter fare, it shouldn’t take a genius to realize that a monster Cabernet Sauvignon or Brunello di Montalcino is a downright dimwitted choice. Always be sure there’s a side of common sense on the table.
And that cheese ravioli, grilled fish in lemon sauce, chamomile tea loving partner of yours should never, ever be served an Imperial IPA that you think is the best thing since sliced rump roast. How about a tasty Hefeweizen instead, or perhaps a Belgian Dubbel with its malty sweetness and little or no bitterness? A much more reasonable match.
Now that you’ve narrowed the range of possible food and friend matches, and can offer some realistic choices for your better half, let’s move to Step Three. Which is… a simple agreement that one night you’ll be a beer drinking couple and the next you’ll enjoy the pleasures of wine. It’s still incumbent on you, brewmeister, to select a proper beer for your sweetie, but if you pick right, chances are high that she’ll drink it and enjoy it. Especially with the tables being turned the next time you’re out and about.
And you, too, lover of things vinous, recommend to your accomplice-in-the-good-life something appropriate to his or her proclivities and you’ll find yourselves enjoying a fine glass of wine (or beer) together much more often than you ever thought possible. Cheers!
About the Author
Jim Laughren loves wine. And has for a very long time. He’s a wine collector, former president of a Florida-based wine import and distribution company, and founder of the consulting firm, WineHead Consulting. He holds the designation of Certified Wine Educator and has conducted hundreds of teachings, tastings and training sessions, and has visited wine regions throughout North and South America and Europe, and hopes to get his bones to Greece, Australia and New Zealand while he’s still young enough to drink without dribbling. We’ll see if he makes it!