Death to the Pickleback and Other Drinking Resolutions

Eating and drinking for a living is fraught with all sorts of hazards. Like pickleback shots. And generally overdoing it. A handful of professionals look back at 2014 to determine what they absolutely won't (and will) do again.

Here we are again. Somehow, another calendar year is nearly behind us and a fresh one twinkles on the horizon. And while January 1st isn’t all that different from December 31st—except for an 89 percent chance of hangover—there is a little bit of magic and hope to be found in a perceived clean slate.

This time last year, I asked my fellow drinkers what they vowed to give up in 2014. While most everyone had their minds focused on eating kale and giving up cigarettes, I was more concerned with resolutions of the drinking kind. I still am, but before we dive into a new batch of regrets and resolutions, let’s quickly review.

I can say I upheld my end of the bargain—as with most resolutions—to some extent. There was definitely no getting drunk on planes and I actually enjoyed a Margarita on a beach somewhere, although I can’t say shots were entirely scarce. And, sadly, the building of a champagne tower still eludes me. So, let’s tack that on to this year’s to-do list and try, try again for no more shots.

In other matters of over-indulgence, this year I vow to not open up all my​ good wine while I’m hosting a party and we’re already seven bottles in. Speaking of seven bottles, how about we just open two or three and savor what’s in our glass? I want to remember the goodness with my mind and not my Delectable account.

Those are my resolutions; simple, yet elusive. As for our fellow drinkers below, if everything goes as planned, we’ll be exploring new drinking territory, not sabering champagne near pets, making more punch, drinking less picklebacks and realizing our livers are not as they were in our youth. Good luck to us all.

HANNAH HART | Author, My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking and Going with Your Gut

I’m hard pressed to think of anything I regret while drunk, except for writing my book outline on a piece of cheese. I’ll never do that again. In 2015, one of my goals is to come up with a signature cocktail that includes a feather quill.

ROSIE SCHAAP | Drink Columnist, New York Times Magazine; Author, Drinking with Men: A Memoir

I resolve to stray more often from New York City for great drinking experiences. Sure, we’ve got some pretty terrific bars here of all kinds—even if the death of the dive bar seemed grimly symbolized and hastened in 2014 by the loss the Subway Inn, some gems remain—but many of my best drinking experiences in the past 12 months happened elsewhere. I’d welcome another flight of chicha de jora at La Picanteria in Lima, Peru, or another afternoon of superb coffee and cocktails at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Hodges Bend.

And while I love a good delicatessen as much as I love a good bar, it’s revolting when a bar smells like a deli. So I’m saying a little prayer that 2015 will be the year that sees the pickleback disappear.

FREYA ESTRELLER | Co-founder, Coolhaus and Ludlow’s Cocktail Co.

I vow to never, ever throw up on a wine tour ever again. I’m too old for that shit. I also vow to never drunk Tinder on behalf of my friends. I’m married and can’t help living vicariously through my single friends.

This year, I hope to bring our all-natural, craft cocktail Jelly Shots to the masses before I get pregnant at the end of the year. Not sure about being the preggo jello shot lady. Cute or not cute? Could go either way.

BRETT ANDERSON | Food Critic, The Times-Picayune 

My three-month-old baby’s gestation and arrival pretty much put the kibosh on any interesting drinking in our household. Can’t say I regret it, but I do occasionally grow wistful (as does my wife, I think it’s safe to say) for the days when we were regularly wide awake and ordering another round at 1 a.m. I used to have a black belt in that.

JOY WILSON | Blogger, Joy the Baker; Author, Homemade Decadence

I’ve had far too many picklebacks and bourbons in 2014, and really, my liver can only take so much neon green vinegar. In New Orleans it seems you drink anything and everything that is set in front on you. No pretense or shame. This coming year I’m hoping to drink exclusively from champagne coupes. No one has ever ordered a pickleback in a champagne coupe.

CHRIS YING | Editor in Chief, Lucky Peach

I will not drink a single beer in 2015. I mean, what is the point of a single beer? It doesn’t taste as good as three beers taste, or pair with food as well as a glass of wine, or, hell, water. I don’t exert enough physical energy at my job to get the same satisfaction of a single frosty beer at the end of the day that, say, a roofer does. So when I drink next year, it will be with the express purpose of drinking enough to be tipsy—probably outright drunk a few times. Let me be clear: I don’t mean that in an unhealthy, alcoholic way. I plan on reducing my alcohol consumption with this resolution. No more unhappy, unwanted single beers. I will not drink a single beer in 2015.

And finally, like my friend Dave Chang, I’m definitely not drinking one single super hoppy quintuple IPA or high-gravity scotch ale or coffee stout. In this case, I don’t mean that I won’t drink just one. I mean I won’t drink any. Give me the cheap swill. That’s for me.

RAY ISLE | Executive Wine Editor, Food & Wine 

First resolution: No more attempts to get someone at an airport bar to make an actual cocktail. The result is always despair. Second resolution: Resist the urge to go out for cocktails, no matter how sublime they may be, after lengthy wine dinners. That way madness lies. Third resolution: Give away my massive Pappy Van Winkle collection, it’s just a pain in the neck storing all those bottles. Oh, wait—that’s right. I don’t have a Pappy Van Winkle collection. Well, dang. I guess I’ll just just resolve to drink more champagne on weekdays, then.

JORDAN MACKAY | Wine and Spirits Writer, San Francisco magazine; Co-author, Secrets of the Sommeliers

I have few regrets about 2014 aside from enabling friends who have become so restrained when we get together that they insist we meet for tea, coffee or a walk and not a drink. I also need to make a point of drinking more deeply from our wine cellar—there’s nothing more tragic than a wine that dies, neglected, in its own house.

In 2015, for my health, I need to frequent more bars. That’s only because I have such an abundance of booze at home that I have trouble summoning the motivation to go out and drink with the people. I suppose I should drink more beer that isn’t pilsner. It would be also a good idea to reintroduce myself to caffe corretto (the original, tasty and tasteful vodka and Red Bull). And, in general, more digestivi.

BESHA RODELL | Restaurant Critic, LA Weekly

Less of? I think I’m going to skip Tales of the Cocktail this year, which may not sound like a big resolution but will actually probably diminish my annual booze intake by about 45 percent and shame quotient by about 80 percent.

More of? This year I will make more punch. Which means having more parties. I’ll try to buy wine by the case because it’s fun and cost effective and is much more shocking when you go through a case in a week than if you just buy a bottle or two every day and don’t notice that you basically spend all your expendable income on booze. And I’ll continue in my quest to get people to drink better wine.

DAVID LYNCH | Owner and Wine Director, St. Vincent

I have lots of regrets, but here’s my biggest: Our local restaurant reviewer/gatekeeper visited us recently for a checkup, on a night when the place was packed with wine geeks—including numerous reps with their wheelie bags, from which I sampled liberally. I’d like to think my near-hammered-ness lent flair to my service, but perhaps I shouldn’t have bellowed that hale and hearty goodnight to the critic—by name—as he left. Hospitality baby!


In 2014 I drank more sherry than probably any other human being has in the last 100 years. I justify this by maintaining, without evidence, that fino sherry is a natural antibiotic similar to penicillin. Once again, I relearned that after a long night at a bar hailing a cab from the middle of the street is never a good strategy no matter how bad you need one. I also discovered and that I drink at least twice as much wine when I hang out with pregnant people than I would in any other circumstance. Not sure what that’s all about, but I blame them. Less pregnant people in 2015, please.

Things I will do more of? I will drink more Barolo, more craft beer, drink on more rooftops, beaches, boats and any other outdoor place where Piña Coladas are served, year-round.


Regret is a word that sits next to the box of Alka-Seltzer the morning after an episode of mixing drinks. Wine, a cocktail, that pint of beer; I am not a college student anymore. This is a charade I need to leave behind in 2014 along with that day Kim Kardashian broke the Internet. This year also taught me that it’s a really, really bad idea to saber wine bottles if you’re even remotely accident prone, and especially in the direction of a beloved household pet.

I vow to try to fall in love with sherry in 2015, even though I think it smells like my grandfather and pirates, and drink all of the Negronis after 3 p.m, which I can still justify even though I no longer live in New Orleans.

ROBERT SIMONSON | Author, The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail

Regrets: I passed by a London pub with a sandwich board outside that read “Large Jug of Pimm’s, £15,” and I didn’t go in.

Hopes: I’ll overcome my natural disinclination to ever visit Texas to check out what seem to be the ridiculous number of good cocktail bars that have opened up there over the past two years.

CHARLOTTE DRUCKMAN | Food Writer and Author, Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen

This was the year I discovered amaro, specifically this, which I gave to my friend Melanie Dunea as a gift and then immediately wished I hadn’t because I wanted it for myself. I should probably regret every extra glass of amaro I tacked on. But I don’t. I regret giving Melanie that bottle, though.

Next year I want to learn everything I can about amaro and I want to drink more of it, too, without regret or hangover. I also remain committed to trying every vintage of this.

BOBBY STUCKEY, MS | Co-owner and Wine Director, Frasca Food and Wine and Scarpetta Wine Company

What I regret doing? “Boat racing” a line chef that is 20 years younger after a long Saturday night of service. (This practice involves two people seeing who can drink a beer the fastest.)

What I want to do more of in 2015: Take a moment to open something great with my staff when they don’t know it’s coming.


I don’t know who I’m kidding buying wine by the bottle. When I find something I like, I’ll go back to my neighborhood wine store every day for a week to get the same bottle, and they look at me like, “Girl, who are you kidding?” I have no idea where I’ll put it (again, who am I kidding?), but I’m buying wine by the case in 2015.

SAM CALAGIONE | Founder and Owner, Dogfish Head

My resolution for 2015 is to drink beers only from indie craft brewers. I’m a beer geek and not a beer snob and in the past if someone gave me a can of lager from one of the international brewing conglomerates, and there weren’t any choices available, I would drink it. But this year I am going try and drink only true indie craft beers.

JORDAN SALCITO | Wine Director, Momofuku Group

In 2015 I want to visit a wine region to which I’ve never been. This has been a goal I’ve somehow managed to maintain for the past several years, and I find it’s an incredible way to keep alive that sense of curiosity that pulls people into the wine industry in the first place. On a similar note, I want to return to Burgundy to visit friends and family, and to deepen my understanding about the region, its stories and its wines.

CHUCK REECE | Founder and Editor in Chief, The Bitter Southerner

This year I walked into a dinner event at the Southern Foodways Alliance’s annual symposium in Oxford, Mississippi, and was confronted by a large pedestal on which sat an old clawfoot bathtub. Said tub was filled with Jasper Crouch’s Quoit Club Punch. I’m guessing there were about 40 gallons of the stuff in there. Standing next to the tub was the man responsible for filling it: David Wondrich. So, my resolution for 2015 is really quite simple: Go to more places where Wondrich is.