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I know that I’ve been intimidated by a restaurant wine list in the past. There is a lot of pressure to make a smart choice that everyone at the table will enjoy, whether being a business setting or just dining with friends and family. In Professional Drinking: A Spirited Guide to Wine, Cocktails, and Confident Business Entertaining, Jim Schleckser shares his knowledge and experiences on how to ace these and many other situations.
Schleckser opens with what it means to be a Professional Drinker and how his live experiences led him to become one. Schleckser has a rather unique background among wine book authors. He is the CEO and managing partner of Inc. CEO Project, a company that provides advisory services to the CEOs of fast-growing companies. Years of corporate business experience and a growing interest in wine, including becoming a Certified Sommelier, led Jim to becoming a self-proclaimed professional drinker. A professional drinker is essentially someone that can handle social situations where people are consuming alcoholic beverages with ease. He or she is the person others look to for beverage recommendations and is trusted to pick that perfect wine at dinner. The driving motivation here is around business-focused gatherings, but the knowledge easily transfers to other social settings.
After Schleckser shares some of his history, he moves on to some basic etiquette and tips on how handle oneself while drinking. Much of the book is focused on wine, but an introduction to beers and cocktails serves well to round out things. I did learn a few things that helped me close gaps in my knowledge of beer and classic cocktails. I am sure that I will use the tips on how to pick cocktails.
While Professional Drinking is not set out to be another introduction to wine book, it does offer lots of good info to help level-set readers. Schleckser covers the Noble Grape varieties, the winemaking process, old world versus new world wines, and the major winemaking regions of the world. I found the chapters on the wine business at restaurants and distribution particularly interesting.
Schleckser shares a wealth of practical knowledge by walking readers through beverages over the course of a restaurant meal. He covers everything including the right way to get input from restaurant staff, wine and food pairings, decoding a wine list, how to read your dining companions interests in wine, as well as the fine details of beverage service. By pulling all of this together one is well equipped to order wines that will make for a great addition to a meal helping enhance the meal for everyone at the table.
Schleckser continues by bridging the restaurant experience to collecting and enjoying wine at home. Professional Drinking gives lots of useful information on to how to pick wines to expand one’s palate, how to find older vintages of wines at reasonable prices, how to acquire hard to find wines, wine clubs, and proper wine storage. Purchased some wine you are eager to share with friends and family? Schleckser provides insight on entertaining with wine at home, from how to host a small group wine tasting to planning for a larger party.
I found Professional Drinking to be an enjoyable and insightful read. Schleckser has a conversational writing style that made me want to keep reading, and he doesn’t get bogged down in details that can make some wine books laborious reads. Professional Drinking truly delivers, as I feel like what I learned from this book will give me more confidence in being the “go-to wine guy” among many of my friends and coworkers.