Dave Barry: Drinking Rules
The best-selling author and notorious funnyman shares his pet peeves, including loud bars, pertinacious drinkers, and brown spirits.
I’ve heard you are a big beer fan. “I like beer a lot, but I’m not particularly knowledgeable about it. I just drink it! There was a time when being a beer snob in the United States, which I was, consisted of not drinking any light beer. Your idea of a good imported beer was Heineken because that was pretty much all there was. Now it’s like Disney World for beer. Every single bar seems to have a million. I don’t really discriminate. To me, most of them taste pretty damn good.”
Your new book is Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland. What is Florida’s unofficial drink? “I live in Miami and I would say the one that’s closest to having some authenticity to it here would be the mojito—if it’s made by actual Cuban people in a Cuban restaurant and not just [with] some mix. I like mojitos.”
As a longtime resident of Miami, do you think the city’s bars have gotten better or worse? “I think definitely better. In general, the mixologist thing that’s here, as it is everywhere else, is kind of overdone. Like I’ve never understood when people say they want a vodka drink and they ask for a vodka and cranberry juice, but they’re really specific about what vodka it has to be. I think those people are being very pretentious because once you mix the vodka with cranberry juice you can’t tell if it’s vodka or ethanol alcohol. It’s just going to taste like cranberry. I think the bars are way more sophisticated than the customers, as a rule.”
You are often on the road promoting your books. What do you like to drink at a hotel bar? “Two things. One is I will just have a beer. And almost always I’ll ask, ‘Do you have a good local beer?’ And I’ll take whatever they give me and if they don’t I’ll get a Stella or a Heineken because I know what that’s going to taste like. I will sometimes drink a vodka gimlet if the bartender is good at [making them]. I love vodka gimlets, maybe too much. I could drink four or five easily.”
Do you have a favorite local Florida brewery or distillery? “There’s a bar near me in Coral Gables, it’s in a strip shopping center and it’s called Titanic. It’s been around a long time. They brew their own beer there and they have for 30, 40 years. But it’s just a good local bar. It’s the kind of place you wouldn’t know where it was if you didn’t know where it was. I’m a big fan.”
Is there a type of alcohol that you refuse to drink? “I won’t drink gin. When I was 19 years old and an intern in Washington, D.C., I was staying with a friend of my family. On the way home, we stopped at somebody’s house and they just sort of ignored the fact that I was 19. It was all grownups. I drank maybe five gin & tonics and then I threw up all night. So that was gin for me. I’m not a big fan of anything brown, like Scotch, bourbon, whatever. None for me. I don’t get why people like it. It tastes like something you’d use to refinish furniture. But I know I’m wrong. People have been drinking those things forever. It’s manly and sophisticated. I just don’t like it. Give me a vodka gimlet with a parasol in it. I don’t give a shit.”
Is there a cocktail you would retire from bar menus? “I am not going to ban anyone else from drinking anything. But I can’t stand when people use the moment of ordering a drink to demonstrate to the bar in general how much they know. I think the bartender should be able to pull out a red flag and throw it. ‘I’m sorry. You’ve taken too long demonstrating your knowledge of single malt Scotch. You’re out of the bar. We can’t have you here. Other people are just trying to just order drinks.’”
What is in your liquor cabinet? “It’s really unsophisticated. I would say that 90 percent of my liquor cabinet consists of things that somebody gave me. Which sometimes ends up going to somebody else’s house.”
What kind of music do you like to drink to? “Quiet. I’m old. Now you’ll hear my rant. I can’t stand bars where they play loud music all the time. I don’t know why they do it. You look around and people are shouting at each other. But apparently there’s some reason to do this. Maybe because they figure that if people could actually hear each other talk, they would realize that they’re not saying anything that interesting.”
Dave Barry is the author of dozens of books, including his latest, Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland, which comes out Sept. 6. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his newspaper column and the New York Times once called him “the funniest man in America.”
Interview has been condensed and edited.