Last call for Proof blog

About four months ago, the opinion section editors at the New York Times launched Proof, a blog covering, in their description, “Alcohol and American Life.” Several weeks later, just before Christmas, I was asked to contribute to the blog; now, as we’re edging into spring, Proof is serving last call, and the final (for now) contributors post has just gone up.

Contributing to Proof has been one of the most positive, and most bizarre, experiences in my writing career. My initial post on Christmas Day led to a profile in the (now departed) Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a one-hour call-in show on the local NPR affiliate (along with a gazillion hits to this blog). It, and my two subsequent posts — one on the level of cocktail geekery surrounding drinks such as the Old Fashioned, and the other on my personal approach to alcohol — also sparked nearly 1,000 comments (and perhaps more — comments on my third post were shut down less than 24 hours after it went online), more than most blogs receive in a year. Most of those comments were thoughtful and supportive; many took well-considered positions that challenged my own; and others were downright hostile and abusive (and I fared better than some other contributors). One commenter from Iowa even saw fit to spam me with e-mail abuse about promoting alcoholism, while appending the message with promotional materials about her investment firm — which begs the question, considering the state of the economy, which one of us is screwing the country more?

From the beginning, Proof was an odd mix of recovering alcoholics and satisfied imbibers. Maddening to many — myself included, at the beginning — and frustrating at times to every reader, Proof nevertheless managed to push contrarian issues in front of those of us long comfortable with our own perspectives. And as a contributor, Proof encouraged me — “forced” is too strong a word — to take a long look at my work, my hobby and my day-to-day behavior as it relates to alcohol, and to think about what I do in a larger perspective. Sappy and maudlin? Perhaps — but valuable, nonetheless.

Anyway, my last post to Proof is now up, as part of the larger Last Call roundup. Asked to write about one night in my life as it relates to my current relationship with alcohol, I could think of no better topic than the place that has helped my education and understanding so much in recent years, along with the person who has helped me better understand not only the beauty of well-made booze, but how to think about it and talk about it without being a pompous ass (or at least no more of one than I was before).

If you’ve come to this blog from Proof (and you’ve managed to read all the way to the end of this post), I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to check out my blog, and discover a little bit more about the world of craft cocktails. One favor I ask: please join the conversation in the comments section here, and let me know who you are and why you’re here — and if you have the time, please click on a few of the links to other cocktail blogs, listed in the right sidebar; these are all wonderful people, and you’ll find a welcome place at any of these blogs. At any rate, thanks for stopping by, and thanks to Peter and the folks at the Times for giving me the chance to contribute to Proof.

7 Responses to Last call for Proof blog

  1. So sad that Proof is going away. I really liked reading your collective work there and was always amused when the comment section blew up (although I usually stopped after the 3rd page of comments).

    In response to your recent column, I too am faced with this problem — especially since I push myself to write about new cocktails and usually don’t just rattle off a name of a favorite. In moments when there is nothing new on the menu (or in the case of the menu-less bar Drink), I sometimes solve the problem by sending back the question, “So what have you been working on (or excited by) lately?” It not only allows me to see new drinks before they appear on the menu (as well as help shape the drink to get it to that point) but it also gets me out of ruts — both in liquor choice and drink style. Plus it can open up a dialog where the bartender’s and your tastes find a good meeting point.

  2. I too will miss Proof–I only recently found it–thanks to a friend who sent me you ‘Why and How I Drink’ piece. Which I loved, and hope many people read.

    My husband and I have followed a similar path in regards to drinking around our kids. They’re now 22, 19, and 16, and I think it’s worked well. When my oldest was 17 she went to her first party where kids were drinking. She came home disgusted. I think she assumed there would wine, and maybe some lovely cocktails there. Malt liquor with cranberry juice to wash it down just wasn’t something she was interested in drinking.

  3. As always, the vitriolic hatred aimed at anyone who posted on ‘Proof’ astounds me, as though the very existence of the blog encouraged everyone to reads it to throw moderation out the window, get plastered, and ruin their lives.

    I will miss your thoughtful and well-written posts, Paul, but I will not miss the angry backlash from people who can’t get past their prejudices to see the reason and responsibility it takes to be a working adult who carves out some free time to write about cocktails and honor a historic American institution. That might be a bit hyperbolic but then again, so are the commenters! 😉

  4. I am sad to see you lose an outlet for some beautiful articles. I can only hope that it means we get more of you here.
    Cheers Paul

  5. I found Proof via The Cocktail Chronicles via MxMo via Jeffery Morgenthaler via OBG. . . I too, hope it means that we get more of you here.

    Not often enough – living in the Oregon desert – am I faced with the “drinking problem” you encounter at the Zig Zag. This is why I find myself here, reading, or online trying to order bitters that I can’t find in town.

    Keep up the fantastic writing.


  6. Sad to see NYT throw in the towel so early.
    Reminds me of the network TV execs that would cancel shows before it really got its momentum. 4 months is a quick hook.

    I just discovered your blog, so I will bookmark it.


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