As first-time parents who had been together over a decade before having a kid, my husband and I knew that our lifestyle would have to change to accommodate our new tiny human. But we were committed to going out to dinner and drinks, as we always have. And we did, for much of our first year with D.
Then, this happened:
It was time to switch to at-home happy hours. This move, however, came with new problems. Our other first-time parent assertion was that our child would eat what we eat. Aside from honey in his first year, our general approach has been to offer D whatever we’re having. To our delight, our two-year old has enjoyed super-spicy curry, truffled almonds, crispy seaweed, and a host of other things I wasn’t brave enough to try until my thirties. Our approach applied even to “adult” drinks like coffee and alcohol. D loves iced (decaf!) mochas, but a single sip is generally more than enough to convince him he doesn’t want beer, wine, or cocktails.
That’s why, a few months ago, when D asked for a sip of my husband’s candy-red Negroni, he of course said yes. When D fled the room, we weren’t surprised: the drink surely tasted much more bitter than its Kool-Aid coloring suggested. We were surprised when D ran back in wielding a straw, javelin-style, looking for a bigger sip.
We were okay scaling back restaurant dining. We were not conceding the Negronis. Of course, we could just tell D that there are some grown-up foods he can’t have, but we want to encourage him to view the world as his smorgasbord. But we also want our drinks to ourselves. Time & Oak’s Whiskey Elements have come to the rescue. These notched sticks are marketed as a way to take so-so whiskeys and make them taste better. But they can also be tossed into large batches of cocktails. One stick will make a batch of Negronis earthier in color and flavor, making them much less appealing to curious two-year-olds and more delicious for their parents.
It’s amazing that, as new parents constantly behind on grocery shopping and household chores, we didn’t think of aging cocktails sooner. Bottling cocktails in batches means that we don’t have to worry about missing ingredients or a pile of dirty shakers. We stock up on mini champagne bottles and bottle caps so that we can make a big batch whenever we feel like it. There are plenty of cappers out there, but home brewers seem to like the Red Baron, so that’s what we use too. The bottles aren’t super-easy to clean, so after we’ve used them they get repurposed as vases, toothbrush holders, and vessels for tiny ships until we recycle them.
Bottling our cocktails has also unleashed our child’s inner Bert, who is enjoying his new bottle cap collection.
While D plays with his bottle cap alphabet, my husband and I get to follow one more of the goals we set as delusionally ambitious soon-to-be-parents: make time for our partnership. Our at-home happy hour gives us a daily time to focus on the couple we were for the decade before D came along, and who will be sitting alone at the table again a few years from now, when neither his parents nor their cocktails will be as exciting as friends and toys.
Stephanie Loomis Pappas is a professor turned stay-at-home parent committed to debunking all of the bad parenting advice on the internet. She started snackdinner.com to remind Googling parents that whatever they’re doing, they’re doing just fine. You can find snackdinner on facebook @snackdinner and instagram @trysnackdinner.