After downing your fair share of trashy drinks in the year following your 21st birthday, enlightenment is reached when you understand that drinking is more than getting drunk. You discover that it’s a crucial aspect of lifestyle, and, for self-conscious youngsters just beginning to explore the back bar, it’s also an expression of your deepest inner character and the mature, complicated, grown-up drinker within. Or so we thought.
Now we know that specific drinks don’t make us seem older (or younger, for that matter), but laughing at our own embarrassing cocktail choices is definitely a sign of maturity. So without further ado—brace for epic blush—here are the most embarrassing drinks we thought made us seem mature at 21 but really just showed our age.
“I used to drink scotch on the rocks all the time, which, when it came to disguising my liquor sophistication, fooled everyone—except the bartender who would always correct me when I'd order 'Jim Beam Black Label scotch on the rocks.'” — Kevin Schlittenhardt, Managing Editor
“A hotel bar in my college town used to host Martini Night every Thursday, so I'd get all dressed up with a group of my friends and go have a couple drinks off their Martini menu—which I now understand should have probably been a red flag (there's only one true Martini!). I'd usually start out with a Vodka Martini because they were ‘cool’ or ‘classy’ or whatever, but then I'd give into my less refined tastes and go for a Sour Apple Martini or Lemon Martini. No regrets.” — Anna Archibald, Senior Editor
“The Midori Sour. People didn’t really know Midori, and the fact that I ordered something that wasn’t a Vodka Cranberry or Rum & Coke made me seem like I knew more about drinks. And when my friends tried it, a lot of them liked that it was sweet and you couldn’t taste the alcohol. I realize now that it’s basically candy and tastes way too sweet.” — Mai Nguyen, Social Media Coordinator
“I went out for my brother's bachelor party with all of his friends. Mind you, they're all in their mid-30s, and I was 23 at the time. This is when I just drank cheap whiskey and cheap beer. We went to a fancy cocktail bar, and the only drink I knew at the time was an Old Fashioned and I thought drinking one would help me fit in. I had no idea how strong it was—I was in for a rough time. All of his friends had a couple cocktails, while I struggled to get down just one. Needless to say, for the rest of the night, I drank cheap beer, while my brother and his friends laughed at me.” — Mark Yocca, Illustrator
“I used to stomach horrible Martinis made with total swill plastic bottle liquor (because that's all I could afford and didn't know any different) and expired vermouth (because refrigeration is hard). Couldn't figure out why I didn't like them, but I knew they were a fancy adult drink. I assumed there was just a certain liquid threshold I had to pass and then I would acquire the taste and be a full fledged Martini-drinking adult. I was so confused when I drank my first decent one.” — Nicholas Mancall-Bitel, Editorial Assistant
“Oh man, I was totally a Martini gal! But not a real adult Gin Martini, I'm talking about the pink, green and yellow versions of yore. They were sweet, strong and I totally hated them, but I liked the way a Martini glass made me feel bougie, so I stomached them anyway.” — Amanda Gabriele, Senior Editor
“I have a couple. One, I was out at a ‘fancy dinner’ with a friend’s parents who were in town. I ordered a dessert wine because I thought it sounded classy, and the dad was like, ‘Woah, mature.’ When I drank it, it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever had, and I had to pretend to like it the whole time including when he ordered me a second.
But THE WORST experience I had was when I was trying to train myself to like Cognac. I was on an airplane and the man next to me was this sophisticated super well-dressed man (all Thom Browne) and he ordered a Cognac and I said to myself, ‘I wanna be like him when I'm his age.’ So I ordered the same and just couldn't handle it. When he went to the bathroom I mixed it with Diet Coke and chugged it. I tried it a couple times privately in the comfort of my own home and every time I still could not acquire the taste.” — Matthew Kelly, Photographer
“I went home to meet my boyfriend’s parents for the first time for Christmas, and they asked me if I drank Martinis, and I was like, ‘Of course! I LOVE Martinis!’ I had never had one. So at dinner the first night I met them, his mom made a measuring cup full of Martinis, basically a pitcher. She poured one for me. I took one sip, had a coughing fit, and had to admit that I had never had one before. I absolutely hated it and asked for a white wine instead. Classy!” — Zoe Barton, Audience Development Manager
“Peartini. I used to go to this shmancy library-esque bar in Boston and order their signature Pear Martini, made with pear vodka and garnished with blue cheese-stuffed olives. It was delicious, but at its heart, it was just a dressed up Appletini. I would sit in the bar's giant, high-backed leather chairs, nosh on the free spiced nuts, drink this drink and feel like the most grownup and sophisticated person in the world—especially because many of the other customers were older gentlemen in business suits. I'm guessing they weren't drinking Peartinis, though.” — Justine Sterling, Executive Editor