Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why We're Like This

I was in New Orleans a little over a year ago for a cocktail conference. I'd never been before and I was excited as it was one of the few large cities in the contiguous US that I hadn't yet visited. The conference, Tales of the Cocktail, is debaucherous blend of work and play; we drink, listen to people talk about alcohol, take a break to eat, then drink more, listen to people talk about alcohol, then the fun begins when we go out and play... The conference ends up being what I think most people think our careers are like instead of fishing lemons out of floor drains and the end of the night, cleaning up vomit/blood/shit, or banging out hours of prep and studying menus only for people to be pissed that we don't have their brand of vodka/energy drink/mixer du jour, or losing their shit because they can't stand in the aisle and drink not because the bartender is a pretentious asshole but because that's what the boss says are the house rules (sorry). Instead, Tales is/was wild, late nights full of too much alcohol, too many stories, and more that a little bacchanalia. And the best part? It starts again in the morning w/Kahlua sponsored coffee bars and Bloody Mary bars sponsored by some anonymous vodka or another. In short, it is (or was...that's a different post), fun.

The anecdote I want to quickly relate, one that I'm sure if you've heard before if you've either been served by me at the bar or had the misfortune of drinking w/me at another establishment, is my last night in New Orleans. I'd had a wonderful, surreal time for 4 or 5 days, when on the last night I was drinking at one of my favorite bars in the world, Bar Tonique. I'd been there many times and I've been back subsequently and it stands up every time. I was enjoying a couple drinks before catching a red eye back home when I asked the bartender for a quintessential New Orleans cocktail. I explained that I was in town for Tales, that I loved Bar Tonique, and that I would like something to send me off on the right note. Without hesitation, he knew what to make. However, before making it, he went over to the stereo and changed the music to Slayer's Reign in Blood and then proceeded to make me the best Ramos Gin Fizz I've ever had. It was amazing, he was gracious (as has been every bartender there), and it was exactly what I needed to wrap up my experience.* My takeaway was that fancy, obscure, pretentious cocktails do not a bar make. I wanted Bar Tonique in Tacoma more than I ever wanted Zig Zag, Alembic, Sambar, or Bourbon and Branch.** I wanted (and am still wanting) a divey kind of place that I can get a fantastic drink, listen to Fugazi, and play pinball. While we can't be all things to all people (or even really everything I want), I did stop wearing ties (at least for a long time), we did start playing more rock (although Botch is still a bridge too far), and we've tried to be more of a neighborhood bar (which is what we were always trying to do), and we strive to give good service and make everyone comfortable.

This is a really long way to say that if you come in and we're listening to Nas or Fugazi, or if you order and Apothecary Cup and get a BLUE DRINK(!) or something spicy or bitter over a large ice cube, this is where we're coming from. We know we're not the fastest, but we try to say hello, to remember your drink and/or your name, and to treat you well regardless of what you order.***

* What made this even better was that as soon as he starting playing Reign in Blood I bummed cigarette from an attractive, older woman who was talking to me. I hadn't smoked for a long time at that point and I was thoroughly enjoying the cigarette when the drink arrived. As soon as he set it in front of me the thought, persistent and unbidden, c to me that I was going to spill the drink all over the bar. I drank a third of the drink while obsessing about this before accidentally spilling the Ramos Gin Fizz all over the bar. I was embarrassed and apologized profusely, but he never missed a beat in cleaning up the drink and quickly whipping up another, which I enjoyed in its entirety.

** Links aren't working for me tonight. Go to these bars and also Liberty (Capitol Hill, Seattle) because they're awesome and doing it right.

*** It's your money and your drink. If you want your vodka, vermouth, and scotch shaken, or if you want all of the ice chunks in your cocktail glass, I don't give a shit. You're paying for it, so you get it your way. Just don't be an asshole, please.

No comments:

Post a Comment