Not to get all sappy, but to say my grandfather has been an inspiration for me would be an understatement. A member of “The Greatest Generation,” this is a man who lived through the Depression, graduated from Stanford, fought as a Naval commander in the South Pacific, ran a successful newspaper business that stretched up and down Washington state and has rarely—if ever—missed a cocktail hour.
Unfortunately, as he served in the Navy, this was not my grandfather’s plane—but I am sure he’d approve.
Maybe I move in the wrong circles, but the tradition of cocktail hour seems to have gone the way of smoking indoors and showing your appreciation of a female colleague’s good work with a firm pat on her behind. Which is why I have always relished the visits to my mother’s parents house which invariably included mandatory 5:30 alcohol consumption. It effectively forces informal personal interaction and has the obvious added benefit of making dinner conversation all the easier an hour later. These were the times in college when I would, with increasingly flushed cheeks, explain the various classes I was taking and be told that I should really read the paper every morning; that it was a shame the young people didn’t keep up on worldly events any more. It was there, too, that I learned how to make the basic cocktails and was able to sample a much wider variety of booze brands than my humble income would allow. Needless to say, I loved it.
My grandfather recently celebrated his 95th birthday. We had a big party the night before with a variety of guests—friends and family, young and old—and booze was plentiful. My grandfather, aged though he may be, was still the ultimate host and in a proud display of his long time enthusiasm, got up after dinner wearing a kilt with drink in hand and made a wonderfully succinct and largely humorous toast, with personal quips and recollections about each of the many who were present. Later, the night’s revelries pushed on, even as the older half of the crowd made their exit. A small contingent of us made our way to a local club and danced while male go-go dancers gyrated onstage. Upon returning to the house, and after filling a cooler with beer, we all jumped in the heated outdoor pool and eventually—and quite enthusiastically—watched the sun come up. Did I mention this started out as a 95th birthday party?
The next evening we held his official birthday dinner, with cocktail hour taking place, this day, at the restaurant. And what, fellow Enthusiast, does a 95-year-old man with the last name McClelland order, pre-meal, after about 80-plus years of cocktail hours? The same thing he’s drank for as long as I’ve know him—scotch on the rocks. I’ll be damned if he hasn’t found the secret to eternal youth.
Cocktail Hour photo courtesy of Hawk914, flickr.