My great-grandmother, Therese McGinnes Austin, was not one to shy away from a cocktail. It was common, even up until her death at age 94, to have some form of apertif each night - usually scotch and water, no ice. But I will always remember Grandma and her bottle of Wild Turkey on holidays.
See, in her day, if you drank before 12 noon you basically were an alcoholic. So, on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day, she'd be seated at the dining room table, with her old-fashioned glass and bottle looking at the clock waiting for "High Noon" as we laughingly called it.
Grandma was what people used to call a "pistol" (in New York there is another term used - "a real p*sser") - funny, witty, would not shy away from a bawdy joke or two, and was always surrounded by family, friends and fans when she "held court."
Now that I look at it, what she was doing was "storytelling." Not all of the stories involved family memories or things of days gone by. But she has been the source of many of the items included here and I learned of them during these impromptu get-togethers.
In my family no one ever got sloppy, or weepy, or angry when they drank especially on holidays. But being an Irish household, Grandma always had a "wee nip" available. She also used to say "if it weren't for whiskey, the Irish would have conquered the world." She knew "her people" as she called them.
And even when travelling, Grandma would pack up the "bar" - a medium sized valise which turned into a bar with a place for bottles, glasses, and all the fixins. She once told me that years before, when you went to a hotel, you packed up the bar before you got in the car. Some hotels didn't serve liquor or when they did, the charge for room service to bring up a bottle of cheer was way too much money. Thus, have bar, will travel. Grandma was a practical woman after all. And all this from a woman who spent most of her life in the only dry town in the county where I grew up (and still dry since 1933).
Now we always have a laugh over this tune, The Twelve Daze of Christmas, and think of Grandma. While she was never anything like Fay McRay who sings the song, everyone knew that a bottle of scotch or Wild Turkey would be an appreciated gift for her at Christmas.
Click here to hear The Twelve Daze of Christmas.