DINAH SANDERS / The Art of the Shim

Monday, September 23, 2013 - 7:30pm



Why on earth would anyone ever want less alcohol in their cocktails?

At first the very idea seems counter-intuitive. Doesn’t ‘less booze’ defeat the whole purpose of drinking? But that assumes that the goal of drinking is to get drunk. If it were, cocktails could be judged, at best, inefficient. In truth, they are something far better.

A great cocktail is a fleeting jewel, a sensory experience that is inherently transient, but sublime. Chosen with careful consideration of the drinker’s mood. Ordered with delicious expectation. Prepared with great attention -- the observation of which is no small part of the pleasure of the drink. Presented beautifully. Small enough to remain at its proper temperature and dilution to the last drop. Containing enough alcohol to set it apart from other beverages and elevate the present moment.

If the goal of drinking were to get drunk, cocktails would never be the best route! Instead of treating ourselves to good company, pleasant surroundings, and fine ingredients, we could just stay home, buy any old cheap rotgut, drink it straight from the bottle, and achieve our aim (while accelerating our respective ends, no doubt). But that’s not why civilized people drink.

We drink to connect. The connection made is not only with our fellows -- be they on our side of the bar or serving us across it -- but with our senses and our sense of self. To drink a cocktail properly is to say, “We are here now, together, you and I.” Such a simple thing, but so vital when our attention is often elsewhere. Perhaps that is why cocktails are a product of the modern world. As our ability to escape our present surroundings has grown, we’ve needed a ritual to bring us back.

The Art of the Shim is a celebration of being able to fit more drinks into an evening without getting stupid, sad, or sick. Smart drinking doesn’t require giving up cocktails or alcohol entirely, nor must we resign ourselves to a monotonous diet of simplistic, syrupy concoctions. Fans of sophisticated beverages can switch into a lower gear without giving up everything they love about cocktails. In brief, this book advocates . . . More drink. Less drunk.




Currently self-employed as a writer, Dinah Sanders holds degrees in History and Library Science. She put these skills to work on cocktail history and taxonomy. Her first book, Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff, explored letting go of what doesn’t make life awesome.