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Punch Drunk

A bartender's life in Richmond.

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Quality Drinking

The JAger bomb. The Long Island iced tea. The $2 rail liquor special. We've all consumed our share of Red-Bull-laced crap and bought drinks for a song at certain dens of ill-repute. We've all been 21. Age, maturity and the bankroll are key when it comes to a person's drink predilection, and an entire generation of kids seem to be addicted to cheap, vomit-inducing concoctions such as the orange crush, or anything involving the $6 bottle of well vodka. It's a mind-set programmed by bars, advertising and peers. Drink cheap, drink now, drink often! Sometimes it's not the quality of the liquor in question, it's how much and how fast we swallow this swill.

There's no novelty when it comes to twentysomethings overindulging on liquids that could probably run a Prius. My grandfather has multiple stories about getting bombed on rotgut before being shipped off to World War II. What is new is that, with each successive generation of guzzlers, there's a perceptible shift in cocktail preferences and the ability to discern quality.

Richmond, while far behind New York or even Portland, shows signs of this new saloon counter culture; there's a noticeable uptick in bartenders specializing in mixology and bars putting more emphasis on quality cocktails. It's not just Mummy and Daddy ordering Glenlivet and water anymore. Young adults are quickly finding their own consumption niche and the high-end liquor marketers know it. A case in point is the rise of the premium tequila PatrA3n among the 21- to 30-year-old demographic. Many bars charge $10-plus for a single shot and fledgling consumers barely blink.

Even in a recession, a drinking era focused on quality is beginning to emerge and this bartender believes that age isn't necessarily the deciding factor when it comes to one's libation of choice.

Of course if you've seen Shockoe Bottom on a Saturday night, you would vehemently disagree with me and understandably so. My advice is to remain oblivious to the power-drinking JAgerheads and seek out a bartender who can introduce you to something new, a drink that fits your style, a cocktail that can be sipped and enjoyed rather than chugged and forgotten.

Don Draper Recommended Cocktail: The old fashioned (rye whiskey, or my personal fave: Woodford Reserve bourbon, bitters, water and a sugar cube): In a rocks glass, muddle the bitters and water into the sugar cube. Almost fill the glass with ice cubes and add the bourbon. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry. Try it professionally mixed at the not-quite-secret Richmond speakeasy, the Mint (in Julep's after 11 p.m.), with local mixology king, Bobby Kruger.

Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback consumes and slings drinks at a number of local establishments. He also writes a surly blog at www.jackgoesforth.blogspot.com. Find him on Twitter @jackgoesforth. Have a question or comment for the bartender? E-mail: bartender@styleweekly.com.

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