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Ah, señorita liquorista

Calling someone who loves alcohol an ‘alcoholic’ is similar to calling a food lover a glutton.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2010 01:33 IST
Girija Duggal

Who am I? It is an existential dilemma that I’ve faced several times over the last couple of years, ever since I started writing on alcohol. “You are an alcohol lover, right?” ask some people. “She’s a liquor connoisseur,” others sweepingly state. A dear friend (you know her as the City Crib-ber, Damini) takes wicked delight in introducing me to complete strangers as an alcoholic, leaving me red-faced and stammering to explain exactly what she means.

Neither of these nouns, nor others such as ‘boozer’, ‘alcohol junkie’ or the euphemistic ‘social drinker’, defines either me or several of my acquaintances. Unlike those who quaff pegs of alcohol just to get a high, I like to linger over my drink. I like to sniff and swirl and try to appreciate its finer nuances, and read up on its history. And I love sampling small batch, craft alcohol, made by people who treat the process as an art. So you can understand why it was of utmost importance for me to find a word that accurately described Who I Am.

A quiz among friends who find themselves in a similar situation and a quick Google search turned up creative alternatives. ‘Epi-quaff’ is how one fellow describes himself on a blog; ‘cocktalian’ is another’s term of choice. ‘Boozinger’, ‘boulevardier’ and ‘alco-connoisseur’ were other terms I came across. Alas, all lacked the punch that I was looking for; a simple word that beautifully packed the whole gamut of definitions I have described earlier.

So you can imagine my delight at coming across a word that just about hits the nail on the head — Liquorist. Lou Bustamante, former marketing manager for the American St. George Spirits company, suggests the word in an article in Drink Me Magazine last week. He makes a very valid point — that calling someone who loves alcohol an ‘alcoholic’ is similar to calling a food lover a glutton.

Bustamante’s suggestion is already gaining support on the Web — the popular food website Chow.com predicts that it’s “going to go big”, and on Facebook, there’s already a community called the Church of Southern Liquorist.

It’s interesting to note that this is not a new coinage at all, having made an appearance in English-language books as early as 1800 in Maria Wilson’s The Complete Confectioner, Or, Housekeeper’s Guide. In 1829, Thomas Gill used it in Gill’s Technical Repository. The only difference is that it originally referred to those who make and/or sell liqueurs and spirits. Bustamante is merely repackaging the term.

While I am happy with his suggestion, I’d like to put forth a similar, but more exciting, alternative — Liquorista, the Italian root of the english term. It’s jazzier and sounds much cooler when you say it out loud, doesn’t it? I get instant confirmation even as I finish writing this column, when another dear friend acknowledges me as señorita liquorista.

Ahhh. Peace at last.