So my mother (the lovely lady she is) was visiting New York City recently and, as usual, we must find a bar/restaurant immediately. It’s a family tradition, the whole dining/drinking thing. Our clan sees it as an essential aspect to living--the communion through food and drink an absolute must in any day. This no doubt stems from our European ancestry, these desires for great wine, great food, and great company.
Someone asked me the other day what my ‘heaven’ would be like. I told him:
“A bar where the drinks keep coming, the morning never comes, and the conversations never end.”
My mother walks down 2nd Avenue next to me, chiding me as always: “You walk too fast for your poor old mother. Slow down and show some
She’s right, but it’s mainly because she’s 5’2” and 66 years old. Also, I’m a total spaz and have a hard time slowing down for anybody. She also taught me never to walk out of a doorway in front a woman. She would slap me in the back of the head: “Hey tough guy, show some respect. Never walk out of a bar or restaurant in front of a lady. Be a man.”
And people wonder why I’ve got such odd ideas of gender and our roles within them.
There we are, walking down 2nd Avenue in one of the greatest cities in the world and we stumble across a bar that has something to do with ‘rochelle’ in the title of it. My mother, thirsty, looks up at the strange neon sign.
“What about this place?” She asks.
“Sure,” I say.
We saddle up to the bar. Already the place just reeks of what’s failing hard in this city. When I say failing, I mean what’s ruining this town. The whole gastro-pub, lacquered wood, frosted mirrors, horseshoes on the wall type of thing. You know what I’m talking about. Rot iron chairs, The Black Keys on heavy rotation, the menu graphics done in a 1920’s prohibition style, drinks with fancy combinations of Sazerac and Blueberry Bitters. It’s not just a bar, it’s a style choice.
I’m not hating on aesthetic, I love creative beautiful things. I just hate unoriginality. The place looks like every bar that has opened in the Williamsburg / Bushwick /Bed-stuy in the last 10 years. Artisanal everything. Other than being ragingly pretentious, it’s also a major drag for the bartender profession and the casual drinker looking to simply wet their whistle after a long day.
For the bartender, it takes twice as long dealing with the myriad of vials and herbs to make these drinks that frankly most people don’t give a shit about or could taste the difference in the end. The bartender will only receive the usual dollar a drink.
More work, less pay.
For the layman drinker, you can be assured when you see all of those lovely titled cocktails, the bill at the end of your stay will be just as bulbous and fat as the ego of the ‘cocktailer’ that made the drink. This is not just happening in New York. This sort of mentality has no doubt invaded your fair hamlet as well.
It’s bullshit and an insult to proper drinking. When did everything become artisanal? Who are these bourgeois fucks who spend money on these sorts of things? Don’t they have bills and shit?
That’s just the drinks and the décor. The workers already begin to make me feel sick.
They, of course, all have sleeve tattoos and well-manicured moustaches /beards. They are obviously all ex models/skateboard pros/ inheritors of wealth. They all have very good posture and pegged jeans and tight flannels shirts on. Each of their faces reek of some sort of superiority. They dress like ‘outsiders’. I say more like ‘poseurs’.
My mother, the kind soul that she is, doesn’t really care. We sit up to the bar. Of course, a deeply cleavage’d teenage hostess places menus in front of us. She is vacant and beautiful and surely hired for her charming personality. Then the bartender strolls up, looking like a Mark Maron advertisement.
He’s very excited.
“Hey you two! How are you?!?” He asks, let me say, very excitedly.
“Fine,” I mutter.
My mother, the angelic non-judging creature she is, smiles and briefly mentions she might be interested in some bourbon.
Big mistake. The bartender guy waves his hands to the 70 bottles of different whiskies (all obviously expensive as fuck). He’s hit the jackpot.
“Well let me tell you something! You are in the right place! We have a fine selection of some of the most original batch…local, single barrel, hand crafted…organic…artisanal…”
I’m lost in his adjectives. I feel like he describing car engine parts. It gets worse. My poor mother, working class to the bone, is confused. I’m confused.
“I have got to say, I am very excited about whisky and bourbon. I am. I wasn’t really that interested before, I don’t know, say, a couple of years ago. But once I started drinking with the owners, they wouldn’t let it go. Well whiskey. Oh my God, it was like a crime! So I started getting really excited about whiskey about two, say, three years ago…”
Fortunately, one of the owners signaled him over just then. I take a breath and whisper in my mother’s ear:
“You hear that Ma? He’s been excited about whiskey for three years now. Shit, I’ve been excited about whiskey since I cracked the bottle at 12 years old.”
She belts out a laugh. “That guy is kind of a tool.” (Yes, my mother called him a ‘tool’).
The other bartender, exceptionally less ‘excited’ and well-polished comes over. “You guys need something?”
“Yes, please, sir,” I say, “Give us two Bullet Bourbons with a lemon slice and water back.”
“Cool,” he goes to poor the drinks. Then ‘excited’ guy comes back.
“So, what’d we decide?”
“That’s great, that’s great!” He stares over at the bottle being poured. “I love that stuff, but you know what, I much prefer ‘---‘, it’s really got a fantastic oak maple finish with…” and the adjectives come and I space out. He’s like a used car salesman running after dissatisfied buyers through a parking lot.
My mother and I are both frightened. The other bartender, the reasonable one, looking ashamed because he gets it, places the drinks down.
“Thank you, man,” I say to him, nodding in understanding.
Then the boss comes over, the one who uses Castor Oil to wax his Fu Man Chu facial atrocity. “Which one you guys decide on? He asks, hands on his hips, nodding. The ‘excited’ guy is there now, also nodding, with his hands on his hips. These two are like Barnum & Bailey Circus performers. The embarrassed bartender goes to stand off to the side.
Boss guy nods: “I like the Bullet! But I gotta say my fav is ‘----‘! It’s got a real meaty, bold hand crafted…" now his adjectives are making me go deaf. My poor mother has a sad, glazed smile across her face. We both put the whiskey down hard and order two more.
“Do you guys wanna try ‘---‘?” the excited guy asks. The boss man nods next to him and grins. “Yeah,” he says, “or maybe this other one, the ‘---‘?”
“No, it’s fine. Two more of the same, thank you,” I say, gritting my teeth.
“Are you sure? I’m a big fan of ‘---‘. It’s got a real bite, a classic thick…”
“Bro, I’m a bartender, I get it. Two of the same, thank you,” I repeat, as if speaking to a mentally retarded person. They finally scamper off.
My mother looks at me with wide eyes.
“What’s wrong with these people?” She asks.
“I don’t know, Momma. The world is going to hell in a hand basket,” I say.
We drank our drinks fast. Food was offered, you know, 15 dollars for a hot dog and fries, that sort of shit. We declined.
This is just a small example of what has happened to our drinking world. Just remember folks, as a barman, you will never be given more then
what you ask for at my bar.
Just like life—you get only what’s in front of you.
Not organically, artisanal, locally fresh, handcrafted whatever the fuck….
As always, follow The Bartender on Twitter! @ADrinkPleaseBK
As always, follow The Bartender on Twitter! @ADrinkPleaseBK
Till next time.
MARON, YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU. SOME DUDE IN THE VILLAGE IS STEALING YOUR LOOK. LET'S GO WHOOP HIS ASS.
IT'S CALLED WHISKEY. DRINK IT.