The Religion of Alcohol

“I’ve been hungering for the feeling of devotion. Like real, pure devotion,” said 30 year old New Yorker columnist Jia Tolentino, in a recent interview about the economic factors that shape millennial insecurity. Touching on a number of issues that have affected my generation and the “millennials” that followed—the lack of organized religion as the anchor of a community, the recreational use of mind-altering drugs, the fear surrounding technology and whether any of us will have a job in ten years—her most poignant words (the ones quoted above) captured the essence of what I believe drives the intense and often devout level of geekery in this day and age: the absence of God.

Not that I’m religious, mind you. Certainly not in the Christian sense. If anything, I think I subscribe to the tenets of Buddhism, believing that suffering is what unites us and peace is what will save us. But that casual communion to an offhand belief has never satiated that innate part of my humanity that longs to believe in something. And I don’t think I’m alone. The growing lack of allegiance to any spiritual philosophy in our modern society has left a hole in a number of hearts, and today people will cling to almost anything with a zeal generally reserved for…well…zealots. Adherence to a belief system is engrained in our DNA. Devotion is something we crave. Without religion, man will search for it elsewhere.

In order to be devout, however, one must fully commit to an ideal. In order for an ideal to exist, there must be a concept of perfection. Perfection is what wine and spirits enthusiasts are constantly seeking: sublimity in a glass. Therefore, you can see exactly why alcohol lends itself to such devotion. Like most religions, there is a great deal of opinion about the road one should take toward virtue, and it’s exactly that variance that allows for feelings of superiority or grandeur concerning the road we eventually choose. To sin is to stray from the righteous path, and despite the words of Jesus (something about casting the first stone) nothing makes religious people happier than pointing out the sins of others.

In the holy world of boutique alcohol, devout bartenders are priests. A passionate retailer is the shaman. A pious producer can be the messiah. The purer the intentions, the more hallowed the hooch. Once we flagellate ourselves for the cheap booze we’ve consumed in our youth, we can be born again—baptized under a shot of sustainably-farmed, ancestrally-produced wild agave mezcal. I christen thee: agave nerd. Now go forth and dedicate yourself to the cause. Educate the world of its swill-suckling evils. Stand on thy soapbox and preach of the pot still, of the 53 gallon barrel, and allow no man to dilute thy vessel with ice nor water. Deliver the sermon from the mount, and speaketh of how that mount has the absolute best fucking terroir in the region. Superb drainage. Dry farmed with no irrigation.

Are you still hungry for devotion? Or have you now found your true calling?

-David Driscoll