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Monday, December 5, 2016

Did you know that Democrats drink more than Republicans? Or that they are likelier to choose clear liquors, whereas Republicans tend toward the darker ones? That voters who skew most Republican favor Jim Beam? That those who skew most Democratic go for Seagram’s gin?

I didn’t. And frankly, I’d take such findings with a long-lost shaker of salt. You wonder how honest anyone would be with a stranger asking about drinking and politics in the same conversation. Also, the survey obviously leaves out voters who abstain from alcohol.

No matter. If you’re feeling tongue-tied among people you barely know at a holiday party, here’s a subject that can serve as a safe icebreaker. It’s amusing, spicy and political but not bitterly partisan.

The report is by National Media Research, Planning and Placement — a Republican consulting firm. Its conclusions are based on a survey of over 50,000 consumers. More details in a minute.

First, let’s put in a kind word for the cocktail party as a traditional no-fly zone for strife, including the partisan kind. In the age of Ronald Reagan, Republican and Democratic lawmakers would end their day socializing over drinks, often creating social bonds that facilitated cooperation later. Nowadays, each party retreats to its own bunker. For many on the hard right, especially, a Republican seen smiling within 10 feet of a Democrat might be accused of consorting with the enemy.

The cocktail party, born in the 1920s, was generally above politics — except perhaps the politics of Prohibition. It was highly unlikely — though not impossible — that those backing the ban on the sale and production of alcoholic beverages would be in attendance.

The policy disaster that was Prohibition (1920 to 1933) did advance the cause of gender equality. The cocktail party became the place where women could drink and smoke with men — something not previously done in polite society.

Under Prohibition, drinking was still permitted in one’s home — and that is where much of it moved. Women felt still freer to partake behind those protected walls.

Out of this swirl emerged a new language of dress for women, as described in “Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980.” For women, the shorter cocktail dress became acceptable after-dark attire, with makeup and perfume adding to the intoxicating mix. Hollywood latched on to the trend, focusing on silk stockings and lacy lingerie.

Pollsters didn’t call these sophisticated ladies and gentlemen and inquire into their political leanings. First off, polling back then was rather primitive, as well as less pervasive and invasive. But more to the point, with Prohibition in full force, telling a pollster what you drank, depending on where, could be an admission of criminal activity.

We are clearly in a post-dress-up era. So time to end the chitchat on how people array themselves for social drinking and drill down to what they drink and what they think, politicswise.

Interestingly, voters with the highest turnout on both the Republican and Democratic sides tend to be wine drinkers. There may be nothing to the following observation, but high-turnout Democrats tend to patronize Washington state vineyards Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle, whereas high-turnout Republicans go for California wines Kendall-Jackson and Robert Mondavi.

Among voters with the lowest turnout, Democrats choose Don Julio tequila, and Republicans prefer Jagermeister, syrupy and brown. National Media says this is not surprising. Wish it would elaborate.

Oddly, the beverage for high-turnout voters who skew the most Democratic is something called Smoking Loon. What the heck is Smoking Loon? Oh, it’s a winery. As already noted, the author of the report is Republican.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo: Greg Turner via Flickr