Musings from a year of (mostly) mindful drinking

It’s been a year of drinking responsibly, with the intent of learning more about liquor without getting hammered.

I’d like to believe that I’m in a good relationship with alcohol now. I still get drunk on occasion, but they’ve all been spent in good cheer and with great company. 

It’s a far cry from college, for instance, when parties saw me guzzling bottles with abandon. Or that time a few years ago when stress and a pessimistic outlook on life compelled me to drink at least four cans of beer every night, just so that I could quell the voices in my head and fall asleep. 

Ours is a relationship that only got better this year, what with the masterclasses and liquor events that deepened my relationship with various shots and spirits. Drinking on the job became an educational and transformative experience (and no, this isn’t the alcohol speaking—I am sober, only caffeinated, as I type this). 

With a clear head and a temperate disposition, I am saying cheers to 2024 with the following lessons and insights into drinking:

Drinking with the experts will change your outlook on certain spirits

A masterclass with agave spirits master Windi Tapawan.

One of my most outrageous decisions last year was saying yes to an agave spirits masterclass invitation. Those who know me and my drinking history understand that I abhor tequila (which is an agave spirit), but this is exactly why I agreed to go—I had never taken the spirit under the guidance of an expert. 

It’s a sentiment that Windi Tapawan, a certified agave spirits master and the owner of A’Toda Madre Mezcaleria, knows all too well. In her masterclass, she clarified that it was tequila mixto (spirits made with 51% agave and 49% sweeteners and other ingredients) that knocks people out. As she gave us glasses of 100% agave liquor, Windi assured us that, in moderation, we would be able to taste and appreciate the various flavors and aromas of the spirits without getting hammered. True enough, it was only in her masterclass that I got through six agave shots—tequila included.

In a tasting session, you don’t need to come in knowing everything 

Chie Gaerlan’s masterclass at

When we attended a wine tasting session led by’s Chie Gaerlan, she emphasized at the onset that there isn’t a “right” way of tasting wine. While there are steps to ensure a full appreciation of the flavors and textures of your glass (the five S: see, swirl, smell, sip, savor), there isn’t a strict, “proper” way of drinking wine. 

In her sessions, the wine educator also encourages guests to simply blurt the flavors or aromas that they identify in their drinks, even if those aren’t the actual notes present in their wine. “For instance, if they say that they taste guava, then I’d believe them. It’s part of creating that atmosphere of fun and approachability for our tasting sessions. They do not need to be intimidating,” she says. 

Expand your palate by eating a variety of dishes

To enjoy a variety of drinks, liquor experts encourage people to expand their palates and try out as many dishes and flavors as possible.

There is, however, a sense of satisfaction when you can properly identify and savor the flavors of your favorite spirits. Across the wine, whisky, and agave spirits masterclasses that we attended last year, the experts encouraged us to try as many dishes as possible in one’s lifetime. The logic here is that as you build a palate that has tasted a variety of flavors, you heighten the chances of identifying those notes, however faint, in your liquor. 

What then follows is an expansion of your tasting vocabulary as well. A “clean and fizzy” white wine can now be described as “mineral-like,” with hints of zesty citrus; a “strong and smooth” red could be nuanced further to identify notes of dark chocolate with a velvety finish.

Personally, it has been more satisfying to break apart the flavors and textures of whisky, which has been enjoying a resurgence in cocktails as a hip and refreshing component—a departure from its reputation as a gentleman’s (read: old man) drink. Brands like Johnnie Walker have also been more adventurous with their blends, with master blender Emma Walker recently introducing the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Umami in the Southeast Asian market. 

With drinking, part of the joy comes from your companions

Nothing beats the joy of drinking with people you are comfortable with.

As much as I dislike saying that the recent pandemic had its silver linings, the lockdown—for better or for worse—allowed people to deepen their relationships with alcohol, myself included. True, there were those who drank their worries and anxieties over the fear of the dire and unknown, and there were those who got to explore their liquor cabinets and became their own mixologists at home. 

However, Zoom drinking sessions and at-home bartending could never, ever replace in-person revelries that promise lively conversations and lasting memories. With every drinking masterclass and media event I attended, I got to meet new and familiar faces from the media and client side, enjoy the steady stream of drinks and stories, and taste special concoctions crafted by the best in the business. Take Singapore’s takeover of Poblacion last year, wherein the Lion City’s best bars partnered with Makati’s nightlife staples to offer signature drinks for a limited time only—that’s something that a “drink-from-home” set-up could never replicate. 

Drink and enjoy responsibly!

Whether you’re drinking something artisanal or convenience store-bought, moderation is always key to enjoying liquor.

Of course, liquor is best enjoyed in its full potential when consumed responsibly. Call me an aging uncle, but I’ve moved on from defining “fun” as “drinking until I can’t remember anything.” Nowadays, I’d rather enjoy a good glass of my favorite spirit with great company, enough energy to go home with a smile on my face, and just the right amount of drunkenness to enjoy a night of sound sleep.

The new lifestyle.