For a while my main hobby was mixology. Mixology, in case you didn't already know, is the practice of mixing alcoholic drinks. This is what bartenders do for a living, and this is why many bartenders must attend - you guessed it - mixology school before they become bartenders.
I'm not really sure what got me interested in mixing drinks. When I first came to Taiwan I wasn't a big consumer of liquor, though I have always been fond of gin. I couldn't stand whiskey for the longest time, and it wasn't until I tried some of the single malt scotches that I developed an appreciation for it.
Whatever got me interested in mixology, I remember buying my first book about mixed drinks when I lived in Hsinchu 新竹. From that point on I was visiting every liquor store I came across, in search of any brand of any liquor that I hadn't already tried. I realize that this makes me sound like a major alcoholic, but I was really quite moderate in my consumption. I was happy just to taste a new liquor, and I wasn't trying to get drunk.
After a few months of careful purchases, I had a pretty good selection of liquor in my house, all housed within a wooden shelf behind my living room TV. I had two kinds of gin, several kinds of whiskey, tequila, two kinds of vodka, bottles of wine, and a considerable selection of other spirits such as triple sec, creme de menthe, midori, and so on. The bottles looked very pretty in my living room, especially when we lit the candles.
I'd like to think I got pretty good at mixing drinks. To this day I can make a bloody mary from memory, without resorting to a mix. In my time as an freelance bartender, I probably made dozens of screwdrivers, old fashioneds, and margaritas for friends and acquaintances. One of my favorite things was making a "new" drink for someone, and having them enjoy the results.
Sometimes my Taiwanese friends would grow very intimidated in the presence of my liquor cabinet, but once I made them a drink or two everything was understood. It really wasn't about getting drunk for me. I just enjoyed mixing drinks. Mixing these drinks at home was also much cheaper, and I tended to enjoy a higher quality of liquor. If you've ever looked at the labels used in most Taiwanese bars, you'll know that what they're offering is the cheapest option available.
After moving back to Taichung 台中, I carried my bar with me. At one point my bottles covered an entire huge table in our little apartment, and when mixing drinks I actually had to think about what brand of liquor to use in a particular drink. Friends, aware of my new hobby, started giving me bottles, and the whole thing got kind of crazy. After a while I managed to pare down my collection, but it took a lot of willpower and polite refusals to do so.
Getting rid of all the liquor made my life less complicated, but I do miss my liquor cabinet at times. It was a nice conversation starter, and a nice way to break the ice with new friends. Perhaps one day I'll amass a similar collection, though nothing, I hope, so dauntingly large as what I had in Taichung.
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