Looking for someone to wax romantic over the ghosts of cocktails past? Then move your ass out the door-- and take Frank, Dino, and Sammy with you. Hoping for a connoisseur's selection of the region's finest microbrews and white wines? Well, people in hell want ice water, but that doesn't mean they get it. Hard liquor is the topic, and the harder the better. Hard liquor without any apologies, excuses, or disclaimers for the benefit of AA, MADD, or the SPD. Mix it, muddle it, or slug it neat--hard liquor is the answer, and the question... well, I forget the question. But the point is that hard liquor gets magical on your ass. Think about it. It solved that shyness problem, didn't it? It doesn't take balls to stand on a table belting out Eddie Money's "Two Tickets to Paradise," it takes lubrication. So you'd been meaning to apologize to someone for years. Who cares if it was liquor that finally helped you get there? Being drunk doesn't make it any less true. Hard liquor liberates the truth.

Some people swear by other inebriants, but let's be realistic. Wine is for effeminate graduate students, and beer is the unmistakable hallmark of a soft mind and belly. It's a special kind of person who likes booze; he's the type who recognizes the hypocrisy of being labeled an alcoholic by someone who drinks a case of Coors a day. She's the kind who's comfortable drinking alone, but who can also entertain her chums with a few tricks--like setting her finger aflame after dipping it in Rumplemintz, then lighting her cigarette with it. Admit it, that's hard not to respect.

Sure, stunts like that can be dangerous. But that's what real drinking is all about. Jägermeister could have gasoline in it for all we know. With every sip, booze hounds hurl themselves toward the abyss, and only occasionally tipple off their bar stools into it. This fearlessness is rooted in freedom of choice, which is why you'll never see a Citron martini bottled by Anheuser-Busch. Free of the confines of beer and wine (which all taste suspiciously the same), the wide, wide world of liquor allows drinkers to mix and match--for color, taste, or level of toxicity.

Personal freedom is severely limited in the tavern. With only a menu of beer, beer, and more beer to order from, it's little wonder that pubs are among the most boring places on earth. Lounges are infinitely more inviting, because at least they give the impression of making an effort. Yes, the rolled red vinyl seats may sport the occasional crack. Agreed, the ceilings are burnt yellow from years of smoke. And true, the printed mirrors are smudged with fingerprints, the carpet is five years overdue for its date at the dump, and the wallpaper embossed with half-naked women with cigarette burns on their nipples is... well, disturbing. But even in its faded glory, the lounge stands head and shoulders over the never-ending tedium of a tavern's wooden tables, wooden floor, wooden walls, and its beer-guzzling clientele's wooden lives.

Lounges make an effort and, similarly, hard liquor requires an effort. It requires an acquisition of knowledge and vocabulary. It requires manners. But the payoff? A potential mate who drinks liquor will always be chosen over the beer-swilling dullard or the snobbish wine drinker. The "highs" one gets from different liquors are so filled with subtle nuances that one could happily spend a heroin-free life exploring them. And with hard liquor, the conversations are snappier, the bartenders more respectful, and whatever sadness one is trying to forget blurs more easily into a wistful hope for the future.

For even when life takes a nose-dive for the worse... well, at least you're not drinking beer. Imbibing booze denotes a maturity that's been hard-won. People look and think, "Now, here's a person who's been around the block a couple of times. Here's a person who's put away the childish toys of youth and is now an adult." (Other adult activities include purchasing a bed instead of a futon, taking a cab to the airport instead of asking friends, and bringing a bottle of Maker's Mark to a party--and leaving it.) Hard liquor is a just reward for a hard life. Got an easy life? Go drink a wine cooler, you big baby. The rest of us work our asses off and deserve a drink that's as hard as we are... and as smooth... and as warm.

So here's to the lovers of hard liquor everywhere; the bartenders with the long pours, the lovers in the booth touching fingers over gin and tonics, the daytime drinkers waiting for their next big shot--alcoholic and otherwise. You know who you are. Keep the stool warm; I'll see you after work. Or maybe before.

Wm. Steven Humphrey's favorite drink is the Swabbie (Captain Morgan and 7UP).