Editor's Note: You may know Will Gordon better than many of the SE crew, thanks to his wonderful storytelling every week. You know he likes 7-Eleven and lives in Cambridge, and you know the man can drink. But today's your chance to learn a bit more about our Bottom Shelf expert. Take it away, Will!
Name: Will Gordon
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Occupation: Editorial vagabond/dive-bar doorman
Tell us a little about your career path as a writer and drinker. I studied journalism but never became a real journalist. Instead I've just sort of kicked around from one lower-middle level editorial job to the next: proofreading children's books, writing marketing stuff, copyediting a couple different food and wine magazines. I met Kenji at one of those magazines. We lived in the same neighborhood and drank in the same bars, so we became friends and when he washed up at SE, he smuggled me in with him. As for the drinking part, that came naturally. My parents taught me how to hold my liquor and tell my stories, and I'm glad to have finally found someplace where I can combine both life lessons.
What have you learned about cheap booze since starting Drinking the Bottom Shelf? That a lot of it is just as good as the next step up. The bottom shelf is almost always a better value than the next-to-bottom shelf, because the biggest difference is marketing. I've also learned that there is no limit to the flavors vodka manufacturers will cram into the bottle. I fully expect to be reviewing an asparagus-flavored one here by year's end.
Has anything surprised you over the course of your column? I was pleasantly surprised at the variance among cheap regional lagers. I've done a few stories about things like Genny Cream Ale and Rainier and Narragansett and other localized legends, and while I didn't really like a lot of them, I give them credit for originality. Bud, Miller, and Coors all taste like each other in a way that Grain Belt and Utica Club do not.
How does 'research fiancée' Emily really feel about your column? I think she gets a kick out of it, and she likes the free liquor (well, sometimes she does. She wasn't that thrilled when I went through my Four Loko/Blast/Crunk Juce phase).
What are your guilty pleasures? I don't feel any guilt about it, per se, but I probably drink a lot more shitty faux-Polynesian cocktails than the rest of the SE Drinks staff does. If you call it a mai-tai, I will order it and love it. It could be a bottle of Bud with a pineapple wedge and an umbrella and I'll still be thrilled with the chance to say, "Another mai tai, please."
Describe your perfect meal. I'm very fond of the neighborhood bar-snack-crawl meal, stopping for one drink each at a dozen different places while I gather a stomachful of oysters, cheese, nuts, tacos, gumbo, 2/3 of a hamburger (Em gets the other 1/3), onion rings, etc.
What drink won't you drink? I don't like mixed shots, anything-and-Coke, Jack Daniel's, or crappy oversized margaritas full of sour mix.
What do you drink when you're not drinking for Serious Eats? Lately it's been Mayflower Porter, Fox Barrel pear ciders, Old Crow, and tons of water and green juice.
What would you like to try but haven't yet? Moderation and Triple 8's whiskey.
What do your family and friends think of your job as a bottom-shelf booze reviewer? A lot of my friends were surprised to find out I am functionally literate; the ones who know I like to write regard it as inevitable. I mean, what ELSE would I do?
What are your favorite food and drink sites or blogs? I like stealing ideas for fast food reviews from the guys at Grub Grade, and I like Beer Advocate. Other than that I mostly read newspaper dining sections.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant and bar recommendations. Who's yours? Kenji was useful until he steered me horribly wrong for a first date a couple million years ago. When I lived in New York I got a lot of good ideas from my buddy Rhea at Bleecker Street Bar.
And what's the best recommendation she's ever given you? She's an East Village $1 oyster savant; the best oyster time I remember having with her was at Belcourt on 2nd Avenue and 4th Street. Then there were dozens of other memorable times that I can't remember.
What is your favorite meal of the day and where do you get it? Dinner, which I cook for Emily and I most weeknights. On the weekends, I like a late lunch that starts at a bar around 3 and ends four bars later at around 7.
What's the best dish you make? My favorite thing to make is my pal Sandra Wu's White Chicken Chili recipe from Cook's Illustrated; Emily likes it when I make turkey meatballs.
A Few Selections from the Will Gordon Archives
Which Is The Best Superlight Beer?
Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Boone's Farm
Eyewitness Booze Investigation: Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow and Whipped Cream Vodkas
Bottom Shelf Booze for Black Friday
Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Canadian Mist Blended Whisky
Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Trader Joe's Beer
Drinking the Bottom Shelf: 40s of Malt Liquor