God bless the vodka gimlet: On giving up hard liquor and becoming an "annoying wine guy"

Hand me a cardigan and a stemmed glass. My body just can't take it anymore

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published May 8, 2023 3:00PM (EDT)

Gimlet cocktail (Getty Images/DenisMArt)
Gimlet cocktail (Getty Images/DenisMArt)

God bless you, vodka gimlet, and may you continue to deliver peace and joy to all you encounter. 

In an aggressive attempt to punish myself for aging, I recently vowed to end my toxic relationship with hard-booze and become an extremely annoying wine guy.

Not a quiet "sip my drink lonely in the corner" kind of wine guy, but the loudest most annoying type of wine guy anyone could imagine. The kind of wine guy who wears cardigans year-round and gets a little too excited during cheese conversations, "Is that Manchego I detect?" I'd yell at its sight as if I picked a winning lottery number.  Already, I don't like my new wine guy self, but alas, it must be done.  

This isn't a cry for help; I am not an alcoholic, or at least no one has ever called me one. Though full transparency, the way I determined I wasn't one was based on the drunk people that float in and around my friend groups. They take shots, I don't. They drink with lunch, I don't. They throw up at restaurants, I don't. They allow people at the bar to send them multiple rounds out of respect, while I decline when it surpasses my standard limit. Or at least I do most times–– I think. 

And this small uncertainty is one of the reasons why I must become a wine guy. 

"It's so-so oaky," I can hear myself saying. "I can just feel the region wafting through my pores!"

I was already a vodka drinker, but the worst kind of vodka drinker.

But before I become the kind of annoying wine guy who wears a silk scarf tied around his neck, accessorized with high-fashion loafers or mules and quality denim –– I must first praise and give proper goodbye to the vodka gimlet. 

Dre with the dreads was the person who gifted me with the concoction that changed everything. I was already a vodka drinker, but the worst kind of vodka drinker. The vodka drinker who wore stained tank-tops under leather jackets and ordered like, "Yo sis, let me get an Absolute-double with cranberry," or "Gimme a vodka and OJ when you get a chance, bro! And no, I don't care if the OJ you use is Sunny D, even though I don't know what Sunny D actually is! Bro!" 

And I'd sip and sip my disgusting drink, enjoying the burn or at least I thought. Enter Dre. 

Dre had just moved to Baltimore from upstate New York. He was a relatively smooth fellow with a laid-back demeanor who was always as pleasant as he was curious. Dre was also the first mixologist I ever met. 

"You try this," Dre would say, "Let me know if it's too much mint." 

"It's kinda minty," I'd reply, "But give me two more free drinks so I can be sure!" 

I was an undergrad student and new writer months into my nonexistent career. My money was funny, hilarious actually, and Dre would make all of the classics with his twist, allowing me to try them for free. Eventually, he became so popular that the restaurant he worked at asked him to develop the cocktail menu and of course I was right there to sample it.I tried so many samples during those development days that I often missed class. Well, every class except memoir. 

Memoir requires some drinking. 

Some days I'd give Dre some of my writing, and he would critique it the same way I'd critique his drinks. Dre was more kind with his suggestions than me, maybe because he wasn't from Baltimore and was excited to learn from the history tucked into my essays. We became brothers in ambition, and as Dre rose as a sought-after craft cocktail expert in town, I started publishing essays. 

"A yo, I am traveling a little bit right now for these readings," I asked Dre on a slow night at his bar, "And I'm struggling to find one go-to drink that any bartender can make, even me." 

"Gimlet," Dre said, "I noticed that you are a citrus guy, so a Gimlet." 

"What's in that?" I asked.

"Well, the main ingredient is gin…." 

I stopped him right there. Gin and me never really mixed–– me plus gin equals a collection of wild tales that involve me falling out of a second-story window and landing on a pissy mattress with springs poking out. Me plus gin involved me being in a bar fight, and hitting the guy that was fighting with me as an ally, and then there's the unthinkable. Something that I would pay top dollar to disappear, dancing. Gin gave me, a guy with two left feet, the confidence to dance in front of people, an act that should be illegal. So no, hell no, I would never commit to gin." 

"You could do it, vodka!" Dre laughed, "A lot of people enjoy it with vodka even though Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette used gin as its origin." 

"Who?" I laughed.

"Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette," Dre continued, "Back in the 1800s, the British Navy was being picked apart by scurvy, and the good doctor figured that adding some special sauce [gin] to the vitamin C would get the troops more excited about taking their medicine." 

Why am I running toward my annoying new reality? Because gimlets beat my ass.

Dre continued telling me more alleged origin stories as we downed three gimlets back to back. I will continue to down that drink for years–– going from watering hole to watering hole in city to city, allowing bartenders to introduce me to their variations of the legendary cocktail. People around me even begin adopting it as their drink, not only because it's delicious but also simple to make and includes a few simple ingredients.

I was hooked on those fresh lime gimlets, but have since decided to become a "My wife and I are doing a wine tasting next Tuesday with the Stevenson's" type of annoying wine guy. So why am I quitting? Why am I running toward my annoying new reality? Because gimlets beat my ass. 

Turning 40 worked a number on my insides.

The positive buzz that once accompanied gimlets has died and resurrected as late morning and throbbing headaches. I used to champion gimlets because they didn't give me hangovers, but now they have the same effect as drinking Hennessy or Remy straight.

So I'm choosing to end our relationship, embrace my annoying wine guy reality, and happily  pass on this beautiful drink to the next generation of youngsters who have the stamina to enjoy it.

Dre's Vodka Gimlet
1 servings
Prep Time
1 minutes
Cook Time
0 minutes


2.5 ounces of fresh lime juice

3 ounces of vodka or gin, or both

A few drips of simple syrup 




  1. Dump all ingredients into your fancy cocktail shaker, use the blue-collar-two-red-cup-strainer technique, and serve it chilled. 

Bartender's Notes

Rose's lime juice is a deal breaker for me–– you must always use fresh lime or completely abandon the drink. Rose's kills the drink. If you order a gimlet and they offer you, Roses, then you should leave the bar, maybe even the neighborhood, because that is ridiculous as it is gross.

By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a writer on the HBO limited series "We Own This City" and a professor at the University of Baltimore. Watkins is the author of the award-winning, New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America”, "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope" as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new books, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," and "The Wire: A Complete Visual History" are out now.

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