"We need to have a party for Sammy," my fiancée told me, stroking our mutt's disconcertingly soft fur.
"Uh, why?" I love our dog as much as a man can, within the strict parameters of the law. But hosting a pooch party seemed like a flimsy excuse to get plastered— and I don't need another reason to get intoxicated. "It's the first anniversary of Sammy's adoption," she said, gazing into his saucer-like brown eyes. "And he's in his forever home."
"So you're proposing a dog birthday party?" I replied, shuddering visibly. She nodded. I shuddered again. This wasn't a conversation; it was an instruction. "You do realize we're becoming the people we once hated?" I told her. Dog birthday parties are a wan imitation of a toddler's b-day bash, like having sex with a plasticized love doll. (Only thing sadder than doll intercourse: cleaning up afterward.) She chose to ignore me, instead dashing off to her computer to Photoshop a jaunty hat onto a picture of Sammy.
Ladies and gentlemen, how did it come to this? As recently as three years ago, I threw parties featuring a rocking horse topped by a lunch-meat saddle and a yak sculpture dispensing white Russians from its udders. I helped build a backwoods shack in my living room (filled with a TV broadcasting midget porn, mind you), and sent guests sledding down my stairwell into a mattress spray-painted with grammatically incorrect obscenities. Now, my honey has hoodwinked me into hosting a party for a creature that licks the phantom spot where his manhood once dangled.
"What type of party should we have?" she wondered. Because I have a heaven-sent gift for alliterations and puns, I had just the answer: "Sunday, Bloody Sam Day. We'll serve oodles of bloody Marys and mimosas." Her eyes lit up like Times Square at 10 p.m. "That's perfect. You should take care of getting all the alcohol." Sigh. Idea man, pack mule—in my world, they're one and the same.
To procure the booze, I headed downtown to Warehouse Wine & Spirits (735 Broadway, betw. Waverly & Astor Pls., 212-982-7770). At first glance, the claustrophobic store seems like the kind of place catering to bums buying airplane bottles of liquor. Yet a closer shelf inspection reveals a comprehensive selection of quality spirits and wine at prices that often trump those at the glitzier Astor Wines & Spirits. But today, my search was centered on the dusty bottom shelf, home to budget brands sold by the plastic jug. I wanted to create a range of infused vodkas, such as dill and garlic—the sort sold at Midtown's Russian Vodka Room for $6 a 2-oz. toot.
"Try the Devil's Springs," suggested a helpful clerk. He pointed to the 160-proof hooch, priced around $18. While a stronger spirit is ideal for stripping the essence of your preferred flavoring agent, less potent liquor will also work. "I'm looking for something a little… cheaper," I said. "Well, there's that." He gestured to 80-proof Bellows Vodka, sold for $12.99 per 1.75-liter jug. Bingo! I purchased three carafes, then waddled to the nearby Union Square Trader Joe's for Vinho Verde, a sparkling wine sold for $3.99 a bottle. I was damned if I'd go broke throwing a birthday party for a dog.
Back home, I busied myself filling Mason jars with vodka and garlic, dill, Scotch bonnet pepper and black pepper. I capped the containers, gave 'em a good shake and turned on I Saw the Devil. It's a Korean revenge film filled with enough bloody knife play to make a butcher queasy. By the time the final head and credits rolled, the infusions were ready; for stronger flavors, hours are all you need.
"Time to make 'em look pretty, hon!" I called to my fiancée. Drawing on her art-school education, she crafted colorful labels for the liquors, essentially camouflaging their bargainbin birthplace. I set out tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt and other bloody fixings. From his blanket in the corner of the living room, Sammy observed the proceedings with a curious eye. How could he know that this hullabaloo was for him? To a dog, or an infant for that matter, parties are nothing more than nap-destroying noise.
"Come here, buddy," I called Sammy over. I reached into his treat bag and retrieved a length of jerky, which he snapped between his sharp, tiny teeth. "Happy birthday," I said, before mixing myself a drink that often doubles as the hair of the dog.