In real life, in all but the fanciest boutiques, there is no booze available. At the mall the most you can hope for is an Auntie Anne’s pretzel wolfed down between depressing department stores and the Ann Taylor sale rack. Online, you can shop at several different stores at once with the beverage of your choice, and if you window shop and creep around for hours, no one’s the wiser. Here’s what to drink while you contribute to the demise of local businesses.
Usually, I’m kind of a snob about Pinot Noir and only like it if it’s French and semi-obscure, like Sancerre Rouge. But Pinot from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley has a certain plushness and rose aroma reminiscent of the floral, plasticky smell of expensive lipstick and face powder. For someone who doesn’t wear a ton of makeup, I love looking at it and buying it. While fiddling with my cart at Sephora or Ulta’s sites, I keep wanting to pull the trigger on some crazy blue nail polish from Illamasqua, or that Nars blush that looks neon red in the pan, or whatever weird, off-brand miracle face creams are on clearance, but all I ever buy are my tried and true favorites: Urban Decay Primer Potion (the original, please), Clinique’s Moisture Surge tinted moisturizer, and Lolita Lempicka, because it reminds me of being 17. Sometimes safe and reliable is just fine.
I like to window shop at Aedes de Venusta, an incredible perfume boutique in New York, whenever I’m there. Their online store (aedes.com) is almost as luxe as the shop itself, although when you visit the website you don’t have to be buzzed in, which always makes me feel special. I’ve only ever ordered samples there, because as much as I love perfume, I’m committment-phobic, except when it comes to Lolita Lempicka and Bulgari Black. However, I have put Un Bateau Pour Capri and the new Heeley scents in and out of my shopping cart a few dozen times. What? I’m not hurting anyone!
Of course, there are many grape varietals in the ‘aromatic’ category—boozy, over-the-top Viognier, saucy, pungent Sauvignon Blanc, and my favorite aromatic Piedmont oddballs like Ruché and Freisa. But I think the thing to sip while looking at gorgeous bottles and $100 jars of body cream (someday!) is a delicate little Vermouth aperitif. I like Dolin’s White vermouth—it’s a little softer than the dry version that you’d use in martinis, and not as heady as the red. I like it with a splash of soda water and an orange twist. The citrus oils and the botanicals combine to create something that’s not overwhelming, but just as fun to smell as it is to taste, which is something I think most of the best beverages have in common.
Why do I even bother with sites like Modcloth or Anthropologie? Like I could fit a thigh into any of this shit. If I look long enough, multi-strand necklaces with shells and miniature binoculars strewn through them start to look like something I might wear. I start to think I am the kind of person who could layer several shirts, a scarf, and a blazer without looking like a rumpled mess. Seriously, how to Italians and hipsters achieve that kind of layering magic? Double sided tape? Black magic? For your aspirational fashion weakness, try an obscure, hip sparkling wine. I’m into sparkling Riesling these days, often called Sekt. Klemens Weber makes a good one. It’s good on its own, with hearty food like pork sausages (trust me) and asymmetrical blazers with owls on them.
In addition to fantasizing about being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, sometimes I get into these phases where I think I can become the kind of person who nests. Who actually does those DIY projects on Apartment Therapy. Who doesn’t break out into hives at the thought of assembling or painting furniture. But really, for me this stuff is the equivalent of watching a romantic comedy—a total fantasy. The reason I almost always live with other people is that, left to my own devices, my entire living space will look like the bedroom of a 19 year old frat boy, desolate and dingy, with a lone Radiohead poster circa 1999 on the wall, unframed. A simple, crisp, neutral Pinot Grigio is the perfect blank canvas for whatever stencilled wall art disaster you might plan.
I had a friend in college who used to get drunk and order books on half.com. Weird stuff, too, like garden manuals and romance novels from the 80s. Considering how cheap used books are, it’s a pretty harmless habit—better than drunk dialing, for sure. My favorite thing to do on Amazon is organize my wish list, rating things I’ve read, and looking at what their algorithm recommends for me (mostly food and self-help books). In college when I read more actual literature, I used to love Sam Smith Oatmeal stout, but really any dark, rich beer would do, and now browsing for books always puts me in the mood for one.
The only thing I really overspend on is food—after that, my kryptonite is the stuff you use to make food: cookware. Sur la Table, chefswarehouse.com, they are all a money sink. I’m a sucker for a good deal on Le Creuset or himalayan pink salt. A lusty, food-friendly red Burgundy, like Michel Sarrazin, is perfect for the cassoulet you’ll cook with all those goodies, even if they’re just in your mind. In the real world, takeout rotisserie chicken or a square of pate you splurged on will do just as well.
Previously: What Goes With Spring Landscaping?
Diane McMartin is currently working on a book inspired by her Hairpin columns. She's a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and a graduate of a fancy-pants wine and beverage education program in St. Helena, CA. This required many flashcards and a lot of coffee. She lives in the Washington, DC area, where she works in retail teaching wine education classes, helping customers find the perfect wine, and wading through the seemingly endless ocean of bad Chardonnay out there.