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No Thanks
“I didn’t think I had that much to say about straws, but it turns out I really do.” Chris to Conor, 2pm Friday (or: still writing after deadline).


Advanced Water Purification (with Christopher Trepky)
I don’t want to talk about drinks today; I want to talk about straws. Straws. You have been warned, and if you stop reading now, no one will blame you…

Very well, then.

Straws are ubiquitous for the social drinker and, like glassware and any number of other things, can add or detract from a drink. As I am of mind to consider the home-drinking experience holistically (to the presumable head-shaking of anthropology professors-past), let’s examine briefly the role of the straw through its various iterations. Unlike an anthropologist, though, I intend to reach a prompt and judgmental conclusion, so press on — I’ve actually got a point to all this.

Firstly

As a rule of thumb, a straw goes ‘round the glass a few times before landing unceremoniously on the bar. Unless you have an elbow injury, save yourself looking like you miss your mother and bring the glass all the way to your mouth. Here comes a listicle.

Straw Types

The Cocktail-Stirrer Straw

These are the 6” little red or black jobs that come with short cocktails and convenience-store coffee creamer. They are useful for stirring your tequila sunrise but are too short and narrow for good sipping. Why an agitation tool comes as a pair of tiny straws I do not know, but it would be a service to humanity if these were replaced by simple swizzle sticks. If you decide to pin them aside with your forefinger while you tip your glass to your mouth, take care not to poke yourself in the eye like a drunk idiot. I say stir and discard immediately — for safety if not dignity.

The Good Ol' Plastic Straw

Now we’re talking. Bendy or straight and in your choice of colors, even! This is a straw that does its job well: cheap, disposable, functional. Tacky? Well, definitely not elegant, but it fulfills a need and there’s no shame in that. I use them infrequently, usually for “silly” drinks when I’m hosting larger groups.

The Fast Food Straw

A wider version of “the good ol’ plastic.” Straws like this have no place in respectable drinking. Oh, you’re playing Edward 40-Hands while dressed as a clownfish? Come on, man…

The Wine Bottle Straw
Exactly what it sounds like. Cheeky but not hilarious and for some reason I suspect popular with grade school teachers. A couple of these taped to a bottle of wine can add a nice twist to the standard “thanks for inviting me over” gift, I suppose, but definitely a novelty without broader purpose.
The Paper Straw
Not a fan of paper straws — I find them jarringly dry compared to the liquid they convey. It’s upsetting. I suppose maybe if I was drinking some sort of rustic tasting punch or something in the fall, with the dry leaves rusting along the ground and whatnot? Anyway, they get soggy after not too long, so what’s even the point of them?

The Julep Spoon

This is a metal straw with a spoon scoop on the end, usually silver-plated (like a julep cup). Why? Well. It’s great for stirring as your julep melts, but it also allows the sipper to keep from dumping shaved ice all over himself. Back in the days before good dental hygiene (and plastic), a straw also kept ice away from sensitive teeth. I own a small set of these and I will attest that not only do they look nice in a tall glass or julep cup, drinking from them is quite pleasant, particularly in the summer. Plastic is unsightly and an insulator, but a silver-plated tube gets a little frosty and feels cold to the lips on a hot summer day, delivering the perfect stream of cold liquid to the tongue. I would not have thought it, but the experience is unbelievably refreshing, especially outdoors in the heat, and it definitely adds to the drinking experience for tall “cooling” drinks (not just juleps, I mean).

These can be found new, but there are many fantastic vintage sets to be found on eBay. Highly recommended. Highly.

Cautions & Considerations

DO feel free to use a straw in anything iconically served with one. Pina Colada? Why not. Old Fashioned? Not so much.

DON’T use a straw in drinks that are not homogenous. There are reasons that egg white went into the shaker, and one of them is that foamy head on the cocktail. Same reason you don’t drink beer with a straw.

DO use a straw if you are trying to preserve your mustache or lipstick. Or both. No judgments. Sometimes necessity trumps elegance.

DON’T use a straw with hot drinks. You will burn your tongue by accident. You will. Burn. Your tongue. Don’t do it.

DO use a straw if you want to get your guests drunk. What? Yeah. People drink faster when there is a straw in their drink — most just can’t leave it alone, so they (unconsciously) keep right at it. Try it sometime.

DON’T be the guy who ridicules someone drinking from their cocktail stirrer, just like you wouldn’t critique another man’s tie in company. Lead by example. Drinking well, like dressing well, is an enjoyment, not a competition. That said:

Drink well.

-Chris

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