Whether I’m writing or not, I love research.  Or maybe I’m entranced because it’s just as Robert Louis Stevenson said, “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”  In any case, I’m off on a ‘characteristically’ new adventure — learning about spirits.  No, I’m not delving into the modern trend in spirits with vampires and such, but rather indulging the traditional writerly spirits — booze.

By way of background, since I’m not known for my taste in alcohol, I set off on this adventure because I was browsing a sale email from The Teaching Company (I am known for my taste in Teaching Company courses).  I was looking at the history, science, religion and museum courses when The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails (pictured above), caught my eye. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “that’s different.”

I read the description, but wasn’t sure I wanted to make it a permanent part of my collection as the last cocktail I drank was in 1975 — a Tequila Sunrise which, I found out in this course, is just a tequila screwdriver with grenadine.  I also learned that Tequila is a place, and that the heart of the agave plant from which the liquor is distilled is called a piña (which has nothing to do with a piña colada).  My research is already paying off.

I bought two courses I wanted more than this one, budgets being what they are, but the idea of learning what many adults already know wouldn’t leave me alone.  I was pleased when I checked the library’s website to find that the course was there.  I put it on hold, and it arrived quickly.  I took about a week or so to get around to watching it, but once I started I found the episodes engaging and watched them all, yesterday and today.

The one downside to making the course “interactive” was tasting the spirits. I tried whiskey yesterday and even though I only tasted the liquid still clinging to a spoon I dipped into each spirit, it seemed that the flavor stayed in my mouth for hours after.  I was surprised at the pervasiveness of both the smell and taste especially since the whiskey I had was Canadian and not one of the peaty brands.

Despite the clinginess of the flavor, I wanted to continue my education.  My husband and I went to a liquor store and bought a selection of the tiny bottles of liquor such as airlines use.  I’m not sure if the clerk believed me when I said I was buying all those little bottles for research.

Not all the recommended liquors were available in sample-sized bottles — to get potato vodka I’d have had to buy a 3-pack of fifths — but there were more than I expected.  I was lucky in that I do like cooking with some liquors (Calvados in apple crisp lends a sophisticated depth to the homey dish, and Wild Turkey gives pumpkin pie new flavor notes) so I already had a selection to taste — the taller bottles in the photo are my cooking liquors.

As for the character research, I now have in mind a sophisticated gentleman as a supporting character.  I’m looking forward to finding out whether his coworkers appreciate his cocktail gatherings and dinner parties. He is probably also knowledgeable about wine. Luckily, that course is still on sale.