The bar's that way...
You had a rough day that included some "feedback" from your boss. You finally got that proposal to put vending machines in the staff break room approved. You got in an epic argument with your significant other and, in a show of just how angry you are, have decided to sleep on your own lumpy couch. Your toddler is blowing snot bubbles. Bottom line is you need – no, you deserve – a drink. Don’t get me wrong; these are all fantastic reasons to imbibe. But I assure you nothing makes you feel like you have straight up earned your right to get liquored like a solid workout.

To be honest, I’ve only very recently learned this myself. This is because, up until only very recently, the idea of working out made me dig deep into the darkest depths of my excuse-making capabilities like my life depended on it, and the last time I actually did something that involved running or weights or a sport was waaaay before I could even reach the bar, let alone legally drink. For the longest time, I actually had the metabolism to back this aversion to athletic endeavors up. I was the kind of girl who would go shopping with my other skinny friends and say things like, “Whoa… these are all mediums? Everything here is going to be WAY too big on me. Aren’t there any double zeroes in this place?” super loudly while tossing my hair and reaching into my bag of McDonald’s.

But lately I’ve felt a little…soft. Not fat. Just…not thin. On one particularly harrowing day, I went to put on what I thought of as my “fat jeans,” and could barely get them over my thighs. I then broke the zipper clean off on the next pair I frantically tried to cram what I was increasingly viewing as “my huge ass” into. As I crumpled into a pathetic, blubbering mess on the floor, blowing snot bubbles of my own and reaching for my sweatpants, I knew. I could no longer shovel chicken wings and beer into my piehole at alarming speeds without consequences. And trust me. I panicked.  

I wasn't exaggerating.
I feel the need to preface this whole story by putting something out there. My husband, Tim, is an athlete. And I don’t mean some jock who goes to the gym and does bicep curls while grunting in the mirror. He’s the kind of athlete who, on his first try, ran a 2:40 marathon and then went straight to the bar for a marathon of an entirely different sort. He came in second in his first 50-mile race and did it in less time than it takes most people to run 26.2. He can clean and jerk grown men and then be the last man standing in a knock-down, drag-out bar fight. At about 3% body fat, he’s legit.

Fortunately, he’s never imposed his lifestyle on me, especially given my passion for food and wine…and food. But it’s pretty tough to start feeling soft when the love of your life has nothing but 90-degree angles on his body. So, on a desperate whim, I decided to run.

On my first day in the gym, I ran one mile and I wanted to die. But I felt proud, mostly because I didn’t projectile vomit after. In fact, I felt like I still had something in me. When I called Tim to let him know the good news, he responded with an encouraging “Get the fuck out of here.”

His unique way of showing support aside, I vowed I would do it again… in a couple of days. I then showered, took extra care doing my hair and makeup, donned a super cute outfit and headed to my office. Feeling suddenly like Giselle Bundchen, all tight and ready to get the phone call letting me know when my Sports Illustrated photo shoot was scheduled, I sipped my ice cold generic Pinot Grigio and was overwhelmed by how incredible it tasted.

I didn’t think much of it, but, after a few days of walking like I’d just had a colonoscopy with a fire hose, I was ready to try this running thing again. And then again. And then the following week. I also started doing sets of pull-ups. And weighted squats. And bench presses. I mastered the plank, and felt no shame walking into my apartment and posing down my dogs WWE-style as they watched in embarrassed horror.  

I still didn’t fit into my fat jeans. I didn’t really look any different. Aside from a newfound ability to take a full breath of air, I didn’t really feel any different either. But I couldn’t shake the strangest sense of satisfaction. And then it dawned on me. For the first time ever, I was actually earning my wine every night. For the first time ever, there was no guilt as I downed two pints of beer while furiously typing out blog posts. You better believe I deserved it after all that hard work I just put in at the gym.

And it went downhill (or uphill, I suppose) from there. I began running faster, harder. Grunting as I finished my third set of ten. Flexing unabashedly in the mirror. I also began truly believing that I was running for a cause. Some people run for Chrohn’s & Colitis. I was running for happy hour. Nay, for my liver! I was going to start accepting a whole new kind of sponsorship!

As in all great things in life, the law of diminishing returns eventually reared its ugly head. While I may have earned that post-workout glass or two, I’m not sure this new sense of entitlement was meant to be extended to another two glasses and a round of shots. I began to feel sluggish going into my runs. I couldn’t actually get through those two miles without breaking into a walk.  My formerly productive writing frenzies were turning into meandering Facebook sessions and goddamn it I still wasn’t fitting into my fat jeans.

And so I landed on a middle ground with myself. Working out a few times a week didn’t mean also going on a “well-deserved” bender a few times a week. But it did mean I was able to find renewed appreciation for something that had become both work and a luxury I took for granted every night – and I am actually not referring to my husband here. I started to truly savor that first sip of wine that is poured while preparing dinner. It somehow just tasted better after a workout. And this realization allowed me to really think about what I was tasting and ponder why it was so delicious, or refreshing, or comforting. Maybe that beer was just a little bit colder today, or that Super Tuscan just a little bit more luxurious thanks to the extra $5 I spent on it. But the combination of sensations – of pride in what I had done, and passion for what I was doing – made me feel on top of the world.

Whatever your virtues and vices might be, have faith that the two can always be mingled with great results, and are far more closely related than you might think.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have some magnums of Chianti to lift…

When I’m not working from our “Upper East Side Location” or my “Home Office,” I like to work from what we refer to as the “West Side Branch” of Champagne and Hotdogs – AKA Lansdowne Road

Lansdowne’s tagline is “Drink Like a Champion Today,” so we obviously consider this place a second home.

They have half-price drinks at happy hour, which is virtually unheard of in Manhattan, home of the $18 cocktail ($2 off from 5-6, every 9th Tuesday falling on a leap year!), 50-cent wings on Monday and a fun little lunch special that includes a sandwich and a draft beer for under $10. They also play mid-90s alternative music and have free WiFi. It’s the Devin version of a cozy coffee shop, minus the barista snobbery, small-business-owner clichés and caffeine jitters. I have been spending an increasing amount of hours here each week ever since my neighbor, whose WiFi I may or may not have been stealing, ever so inconsiderately upped and moved.

While my mother would likely to take this opportunity to ask me if I have a drinking problem (true story), I am taking this particular workday to answer the age-old question – is wine at a bar bar a no no?

Normally, I opt for light beer at this establishment – especially while working. There is something about several frosty mugs of Bud Light that allows one to dance the line between carelessness and creativity so gracefully. But today, in the name of wine social science, I have ordered a glass.

It’s almost impossible not to feel like a total d-bag ordering wine at the fratty, sausage-fest-y, “do-you-guys-kinda-smell-barf-too?”-y kind of place you frequented in your early- and mid-20s, when you were a totally down-to-earth girl who just wanted to watch sports and hang with the guys, and really wasn’t looking for commitment either…or something. It’s also a well-established fact that the odds of finding a decent glass of grape juice at a place called The Blarney Stone or anything starting with a “Mc” or “O’” are as great as successfully hailing a taxi during rush hour in the rain.

But, being the wine professional that I am, sometimes I really just can’t stomach one more beer or Irish car bomb. I need wine and I suspect I’m not the only one. So I thought I would compile a few guidelines to keep your bar wine-buying as risk free as possible.

  1. Stick to white.  A crappy glass of white is bad, but it’s definitely the lesser of two evils when compared to a crappy glass of red. White is also stored in the fridge, which will slow any oxidation down considerably, and hide any old or cheap flavors.
  2. Stick to simple. An oaky Chardonnay gone wrong is going to taste a hell of a lot worse than that handle of Pinot Grigio they’re pulling out of the bar fridge. I’m not talking a top-shelf white Burgundy that can probably hold up after being opened a few days if stored properly. I’m talking that sweet, vanilla-laced cheap Chardonnay that you’re going to find at most bars. Trust me when I say that stuff isn’t fit for an episode of “Intervention” when it cost $3 per Liter.
  3. If you must go with red, stick to the familiar. No matter how badly you would like to try a glass of Zweigelt at your corner pub, don’t. You’re far better off ordering a Cabernet or a Malbec. Chances are, these are the most popular choices and are therefore the least likely to have been sitting on the bar – open – for a week at a time. You know that cloying, raisin-y taste you sometimes get in wine? That’s because it’s been open and exposed to air. Just like that Rioja you ordered at O’Malley’s the other night. And, if there’s one thing more ridiculous than ordering wine at a bar, it’s sending wine back at that same bar. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve done it. But I am still in therapy over the mocking I received as a result.
  4. Own it. You ordered that wine. At 3AM. With your chicken wings. Knowing those girls at the end of the bar drinking Michelob Ultra are laughing at you. Raise your glass to them, toast in their direction, and mouth “Yes. Yes, I did.” Then steal their boyfriends.
I’ve never actually had a glass of wine from Lansdowne, but I wanted to test my theories. Not wanting white before my husband gets home (let’s just say I apparently have a bit of a “crying problem” when I drink white wine during the day), I ordered a glass of the Cabernet (as opposed to the Pinot Noir – don’t ever order this in a bar. Seriously. I will explain later, but for now, take my word for it). I honestly have no clue what the make or model of this wine is, but it looks like this.

Stemware and situation can go a long way. If it had been served to me in a different setting (say, fireplace, fluffy couch, cigar, Nina Simone and a Bose surround sound) in a Riedel glass, I may have swooned. But it wasn’t. And I know I’m at a bar. But, I can – and did – confirm that the bottle was freshly opened, and I truly wasn’t disappointed. It was no Chateau Margaux, but it was palatable. Pleasant, even.

And let’s be honest. After a few shots of tequila, you probably don’t really care what the hell you’re imbibing, now do you? I know I don’t. You’re busy watching some college football team score a touchdown and trying not to look too awkward when you high five his friends. I never did manage to master that skill. Thank god I could always bury my face in a glass of bar Merlot.