When we lasted visited with funny guy David Vienna, it was back in 2015 when he was telling parents the world over to calm the fuck down. Literally. That was the title of his book, Calm The F*ck Down: The Only Parenting Technique You’ll Ever Need. Based on a viral post from his Daddy Complex blog, his book encouraged parents to stop freaking out about their kids, use some common sense and just parent. That was some really truly helpful advice there. Though his book had the unintentional effect of eliminating the parenting advice book genre as parents took Vienna’s words so much to heart, there was no longer a need for additional parenting advice books. (Kidding!)
Still, it’s not like Vienna could write another parenting book since he’d basically written a book assuring parents they didn’t need more parenting books. So he’s turned his comedic talents to another topic: home bartending. This is also known as Making Fancy Drinks When You’re Stuck At Home. As opposed to what I used to do, which was just pour vodka in a glass and hope it wouldn’t spill. I like his title better though, which is Drinks for Mundane Tasks: 70 Cocktail Recipes for Everyday Chores, published by Knock Knock. Recently, I had a chance to ask him about the new direction his writing’s taken.
Norine Dworkin-McDaniel: David, you’ve included cocktails for occasions not traditionally thought of as “drinking” occasions. Helping your kid with homework — okay, I will give you that one. But changing a lightbulb? Packing lunches? Making a doctor’s appointment? Has parenting gotten so rough or so boring that you’re looking for any excuse to day drink? Or are you looking for another way to express yourself as an artist and you’ve chosen booze as your new medium?
David Vienna: Let’s be clear, I need no excuse to day-drink. It’s one of the great joys of adulthood. That said, I’ve always been a fan of finding the right cocktail for the event—whether an office party or a night at the theater or a beach barbecue with old friends. Drinks for Mundane Tasks just brings that quest into the home. As for expressing myself, I’m a writer by trade and a drinker by hobby. This book seemed the perfect marriage of my two passions.
As a fellow parent, I definitely understand why you’d need a drink (or several … just leave the bottle) if you’re doing homework with your child, watching TV with your child, convincing your child to eat one more bite. But what are the unrealized benefits of having an adult beverage while you put your groceries away or change a lightbulb?
It’s simple. Cocktails make everything better. The act of creating a special drink—following the steps, cutting the garnish, measuring the ingredients—is akin to meditation. And then enjoying that drink while you complete whatever chore you’re doing turns it into a party.
You had me at “Cocktails make everything better.” Besides a bottle opener and a corkscrew, what are the essential elements of a well-stocked bar for parents?
A truly well-stocked home bar can drive you to poverty. So for parents who have to worry about paying for diapers or the soccer enrollment fee, let’s keep it simple. In the book, I suggest that the most important thing anyone can have in their home bar is some sort of citrus soda because it’s the ultimate mixer. Of course, that won’t do any good if you don’t have booze. Unless you’re planning on entertaining every weekend, just keep the alcohol selections to your favorites. (Aside from wine, our home bar mostly consists of bourbon for me, vodka for my wife, and tequila for when we’re feeling festive.)
If you’re feeling experimental and have some spending money, start with the basics: rum, vodka, tequila, whiskey, gin. Have some juices around, cranberry and orange are good go-tos. Bitters are also fun to play with when making up drinks. It also doesn’t hurt to look in the pantry to see what you already have, like horseradish, limes, hot sauce, olives, and sugar. All of those (and more) can be used to make a good drink great. You might want special cocktail glasses. They don’t have to be fancy, but it will help you avoid drinking a Harvey Wallbanger from your kid’s plastic Big Bird cup. Other than that, a cocktail shaker is important. And ice. Alway have ice. No one likes a warm margarita.
True that. Beyond a frosty margarita, here are five more cocktails parents can appreciate at under- appreciated moments of the day from Drinks for Mundane Tasks. As my grandmother would say, “L’chaim!”
Writing a To-Do List
There are a lot of things to get done and the best way to attack them all efficiently is to start with an organized list. It helps you order your thoughts, picture the various ways to accomplish each chore, and offers the divine satisfaction of crossing off items as you complete them. Yes, there’s nothing more gratifying than a well-written to-do list, except perhaps the Priority One. The fizzy tonic will make sure you stay focused, stay refreshed, and stay happy. Of course, if “Restock the bar” is on your to-do list, you may have a bit of a conundrum.
The Priority One
2 oz tequila
½ oz crème de cassis
1 oz orange juice
1 oz pineapple juice
Mix tequila, crème de cassis, orange juice, and pineapple juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a collins glass, and then top off with 7Up. On your list, check off “Make myself a good drink.”
Deciding What’s for Dinner
The eternal debate over whether to have chicken, fish, pasta, or a big salad often goes on so long, all parties end up just eating saltines out of the box over the sink and wondering where the night went wrong. Relax with a Leftover, which will inspire you to, at the very least, land on an entrée or, at worst, attempt that fancy bacon-potato-muffin recipe you saw on an Internet video.
2 oz vodka
1 oz crème de cacao
Mix vodka and crème de cacao in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and squeeze lime wedge into drink. Count the drink calories toward your meal.
Helping Your Child with Homework
That bachelor’s degree may have led to a nice job, but it doesn’t seem to do any good when dealing with your child’s homework. Seriously, what good is your education if you can’t figure out one darn algebra equation? With the help of a refreshing Solve for X, you may not come to the right answers, but you’ll undoubtedly come to an answer. And even if you’re dead wrong on all of them, it’s your kid getting the bad grade, not you.
Solve for X
2 oz bourbon
1 oz lemonade
3 oz orange juice
1 dash salt
Mix bourbon, lemonade, orange juice, and salt in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into chilled sour glass and garnish with lemon peel. Don’t let your child see your calculator.
Wash, dry, fold, stack, repeat. The janitor cleaning the gym locker room doesn’t see this much underwear. And where did all those single socks go? The pile of freshly washed and dried clothes may put a wrinkle in your day, but thanks to the apricot garnish of the Lost Sock you’ll get plenty of iron. Now, the steps are wash, dry, fold, stack, sip, repeat.
The Lost Sock
2 oz rye
1 oz dry vermouth
1 dash angostura
Mix rye, vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain into a martini glass, and garnish with apricot. Consider leaving the laundry until tomorrow.
Changing a Lightbulb
The last tug on the lamp chain proved fatal. The brilliant flash, followed by darkness signaled the death of the bulb. And though the new moody tone of the dim room could be a nice change, it seems impossible to blindly navigate around the low coffee table without suffering bumped shins or worse. On your way to grab a spare bulb, stop by the kitchen and whip up a Thomas Edison. Named for the man who gave us modern lighting, the bright taste of the cocktail will shine a light on any task and will even make a bumped shin feel better.
The Thomas Edison
1½ oz whiskey
1½ oz gin
1 oz lemonade
1 tsp grenadine
Mix whiskey, gin, lemonade, and grenadine in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a sour glass and garnish with a lemon wedge. If reaching the light requires a ladder, maybe hold off on the cocktail until you’re done.