Last month, I attended a swanky prix-fixe dinner in Manhattan where each of the four courses was meant to be shared between every couple of diners. I didn’t think much of it until the second dish appeared, a mixed-tomato salad, garnished with a two-bite strip of halloumi. Now, I am fully accustomed to the small-plates restaurant culture that has become the standard-bearer of sophistication, but I still felt a straightforward indignity that I was expected to portion a single piece of cheese on a salad meant for two. Sharing is caring, but not when you’re splitting atoms.
Consider a freshly prepared lump of nigiri, handed to you right from the chef’s hand. Even if you really loved the person sitting next to you, you would never surrender a nibble of perfect fish topping, because it would render the experience null. If you wanted to share, you would just give them the whole piece of sushi, because there are certain experiences that cannot be divided without being destroyed.
My radical opinion is that this distinction applies to all drinks as well.
I’m not the only person who has taken a recent interest in preventing communicable disease. Despite headlines stating that we are no longer in an emergency, some of the COVID-era boundaries have stuck with me as being kind of nice, and now that I am in the habit of contemplating someone’s exposure to foreign breath and spit before hanging out with them, I can’t swap sips as freely as I once did. A glass is a single-person utensil that you mark up with your fingerprints and whatever substance greasing your lips. In the case of wine, you intermittently raise the utensil to your nose and breathe in and on your beverage.
It makes sense that by trying your friends’ drinks and offering your own, everyone can briefly experience more without committing to the accumulated alcohol and bar tab. I blame drinks for being too interesting, too strong, and too expensive. But such is a vanity that cheapens things and potentially breeds disappointment with your own order.
Because I write about wine and spirits, I regularly taste things in flights of six or more, and it's actually exhausting to process so many experiences in a significant way, and I remember how much worse it was when I was first starting out. It's hard to enjoy anything unless I’m on my own time and can focus on the complete pleasure of the thing that I chose.
After a decade of working with booze, I have a gift for knowing exactly what to order, and I know you want to try it. But please. Going out should be abundant, easy, and carefree, and it’s no big deal to not share a drink. Focus on your own. Savor it.