This weekend I was treated to a blast from the past. We invited friends over for dinner, and one couple arrived bearing a bottle of Baby Duck.
For those unfamiliar with Baby Duck, it’s a ‘wine’ that was introduced to Canada in the early 1970s: fizzy grape juice with lots of sugar, some alcohol, and a generous dollop of successful marketing. Oenophiles may recoil in horror, but the truth is Baby Duck was part of the formative drinking years of an entire generation.
The friend who brought it this weekend confessed that she drank Baby Duck for the first/last time at a party long ago where she singlehandedly polished off one and a half bottles… and has never drunk it again.
So many people had their first disastrous drinking experience with Baby Duck that the name became a bit of a joke. As the victims fled for the bathroom, stomachs heaving, a sardonic cheer would go up from the rest of the revelers as they scattered to provide a clear path: “Baby, duck!”
My very first drinking experience was as a young teenager, maybe fourteen or fifteen. One day our family departed the sticks and went to the Big City for a family visit, and my city cousin took me out for Chinese food.
Imagine the importance of this event in the life of a backward young hick! I’d never had Chinese food. And my almost-grown-up cousin (she had a driver’s license and a car…!) was taking me out, just the two of us, like adults. And when we got to the restaurant, she casually ordered us each a Singapore Sling! (Even though we were both too young to drink I guess we looked close enough – we didn’t get asked for ID. Times were simpler then.)
My parents had both come from non-drinking households, but they figured the safest way to protect their kids from dangerous rebellion was to introduce the concept of responsible drinking. So they had already explained the concepts of alcohol and intoxication, and every now and then they drank a glass of wine with dinner while we were growing up. They didn’t make a big deal of it, but we understood that alcohol was an adult thing.
So I was wildly excited by the grown-up meal… and I was afraid I’d get drunk and embarrass myself. I still recall how yummy the almond chicken was, and I still recall wondering if I was drunk yet because I didn’t feel any different after one cocktail that was probably mostly fruit juice.
Needless to say when I went off to university a few years later I discovered that you’re not actually drunk until you’ve consumed seven Zombies (three kinds of rum, apricot brandy, and fruit juice) a couple of Brown Cows (Kahlua and cream) and then topped it off with a couple of warm beers that nobody else dared to drink. (Gee, I wonder why…?)
I’ve been blessed with a cast-iron stomach and a lightning-fast metabolism, so that night I staggered home laughing all the way and fell into the dreamless slumber of the just and the intoxicated. My drinking buddy at the time wasn’t so lucky – she spent the entire night talking to Ralph on the great white telephone and silently cursing my oblivious snores.
I think she’s forgiven me after more than three decades, but she’ll never forget.
Anybody else remember their first drinking experience? Or prefer to forget it?