Can I make a what???

Welcome back, dear reader, now that you’re here the bar is officially open! First let me get your drink out of the way because I’m really anxious to leap into this week’s adventure. Well, “adventure” is probably too strong a word because there isn’t much physical action, not really, just emotional action that could’ve turned physical had your friendly bartender not been a seminar in patience.

You take a twist with that scotch, right? I thought so, here you go….

Okay, so anyway, this past Monday night… a night I don’t normally work… this guy saunters in, grabs a stool at the bar and before he says a word slams down his credit card. He’s all by himself and in age maybe twenty five. He’s wearing a tan corduroy blazer over an orange collar-up Polo shirt, his jeans are faded to perfection and he’s sporting the obligatory loafers-no-socks combination. He’s also wearing a self-pleased grin that announces to the world he is to the manner born. But if these be the props of a station in life then the first words out of his mouth are it’s clear undoing. “Sir,” he asks, “do you know how to make a Manhattan?”

“Excuse me?” I ask, glancing down at his credit card to see if his name isn’t Duncan as in yo-yo? “Did you ask me if I know how to make a Manhattan?” “Yeah,” he says, “you know, a Manhattan!” “Yeah I know a Manhattan and I also know how to make one. Where do you think you are, a truck stop?”

Now before I go any further, dear reader, let’s have this little sidebar to point stuff out. See, I can almost-kinda-perchance, and maybe on a good day, understand a question like this if the guy who’s ordering the drink is maybe fifty five years or older and the guy behind the bar is just a kid… a kid who’s sporting his first goatee which is coming in like he’d just eaten cotton candy… but other than that this question should never be asked. It’s not only a fucking insult it’s bloody absurd. Like asking a dance instructor if he’s heard of the Cha Cha.

And as far as that age thing goes… one clear and discerning look at your most friendly bartender (once you get past his arresting good looks and the stunning ease with which he blankets the mahogany), you could easily detect that he’s been around the block as many times as the earth has orbited the sun. (Remind me to tell you about Tesla some time, him and that damn joy buzzer. And of course the Mae West thing!)

And to further make the case, my friend, as to why this question is beyond any barroom propriety, let’s delve into the matter of degree of difficulty. Because plain and simple, and after years and years of pondering this notion with some of the finest of minds in the mixology industry, it’s been concluded that the Manhattan cocktail is not the Manhattan Project. In other words it’s not the trickiest mix in the witch’s brew. In the bartender’s manual, “Making a proper Manhattan” probably appears on the following page after, “Always remove the cap, future bartenders, when serving a bottle of beer, no matter how sharp the customer’s teeth appear.” End of sidebar!

But all of this matters little to Duncan because even after my “truck stop” line he still doesn’t get it. Indicative of that are these words which I swear he uttered next.  “But do you know how to make a good one?”

(Hold on a second, dear reader, my leg is starting to twitch… I have to leave the keyboard for a minute… I’ll be back!)

Okay, I’m fine now, where was I? Oh yeah. So when I hear this latest from Duncan the yo-yo I swear to Bacchus I actually consider checking his credit card to see if there are any Roman Numerals after his name. You know, to see if he’s a fucking scion or something in some longstanding asshole tradition, because if he is a “II” or a “III”… I might consider eliminating the chance of a “IV”.

“Look, Pal,” I say, rivaling Job in bearing now the unbearable, “trust me, I know how to make a good one. This happens to be a bar, I happen to be a bartender and a Manhattan is not what you’d call high freaking alchemy. Even a good one!” But even that doesn’t make a dent because with people like this the embarrassment gene doesn’t flourish. You want proof? Here’s what he has to say next after all I’ve laid out. “Or should I have a Dewar’s and soda? Which do you make better, Sir, a Manhattan or a Dewar’s and soda?” (Hold down my arms, God, please!!!)

“Okay, here’s the deal,” I say, putting my hands in my pockets where the trembling won’t show. “Let’s assume that every drink I make happens to be a good one. Got that? I make good drinks, all kinds of good drinks, but the only question you need to ask is which of those many good drinks would you like me to make? That’s all there is to it?”

“All right I’ll have a Manhattan,” he says, after enough deliberation to buy a new car. “What kind?” I then ask. “Do you have Maker’s Mark?” “We have Maker’s Mark.” “Then that’s what I’ll have… a Maker’s Mark Manhattan.” Needless to say, I wasn’t busy at the time because god forbid if I was, my otherwise friendly customers would’ve turned into a most unfriendly mob. A mob attacking him!

“By the way,” I then ask Lord Duncan, as I set myself to dive into mixology magic, “would you like that drink on the rocks or straight up?” Oh, on the rocks,” he blithely replies, brimming with self-assuredness, signing the dotted line on his yo-yo membership card. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a Manhattan on the rocks or even a martini on the rocks, it’s ordered all the time, but if you’re going to make such a big fucking deal and act like the chief connoisseur in all things cocktail, you’re not going to add fucking ice to dilute the experience. Case closed!

But there’s a secondary theme in this story, dear reader… besides the one spotlighting high end ass-holery… and it has to do with the classically traditional cocktail. And that theme is this. Is Bar-land now filled with too many bartenders who spend so much time on their fad-of-the-month drinks that forgotten in the mix are the drinks that have survived for a century? Are most of the “young guns” working behind the stick more about Bar-land gymnastics these days… flipping their bottles, lighting their drinks and moon-walking through their shifts… than they are about preserving the good old, grand old cocktail? Else how could a question like, “Do you know how to make a Manhattan?” be remotely acceptable?

And finally, (my ego prods me), did this guy simply ask this ridiculous question because he somehow thought me also to be a young gun?

Fuck no… Duncan was just a yo-yo.

Over and out from Bar-land… see ya’ next week-end!

17 Responses to “Can I make a what???”


  1. 1 jc May 24, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Testing the patience of Solomon would have included the yo-yo (who the Smothers Brothers could use for a totally hot trick involving something like swords and flames!) asking for a glass of water on the side, which I strongly suggest “the side” means the ear on “the side” of his face.

    Tesla AND Mae West in the same sentence! I can’t wait. I’m already starting!

  2. 2 Anonymoustache May 24, 2009 at 7:04 am

    I’d have hit him over the head with a screwdriver and told him to go back to Long Island and have iced tea or something like that.

  3. 3 Isis the Scientist May 24, 2009 at 8:13 am

    But, did the kid enjoy his Manhattan????

  4. 4 scribbler50 May 24, 2009 at 10:01 am

    JC: Thanks for sending that video along but unfortunately I’m unable to play it. When I click on the arrow it says “Embedding disabled by request”.

    Anonymoustache: You remain the undisputed, champion “Pun”-dit on my blog. But, hey, nobody’s perfect!

    Isis: He did enjoy his Manhattan though I doubt that he’d know the difference. He wasn’t coming at me from a position of knowledge, he was coming from a position of mindless posturing to cover for his lack of knowledge. Who in their right mind says, “Which do you make better, a Dewar’s and soda or a Manhattan?” Short of being stingy with the booze, how do you make a bad Dewar’s and soda?

  5. 5 jc May 24, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    scrib, I didn’t do anything fancy, I swarez. I pasted the link and poof, up went the video window! Harry Potter did it. You can click in the upper left window of the “embedding disabled by request” screen – it does a pop up window of the Tesla video.

  6. 6 scribbler50 May 24, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    JC: Just saw the video and boy is some clarification in order! When I mentioned Tesla in my post I was doing a lame “age” joke as I was referring to the electronics wizard Nikola Tesla… ergo the “joy buzzer”. Nikola Tesla rivaled Thomas Edison for preeminent inventor of the day, and he also died in 1943.
    But thanks anyway for the video anyway.

  7. 7 jc May 24, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    HAHAHAHAHAHA! I can’t wait for Mae West!

  8. 8 Isis the Scientist May 24, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    HA HA HA…I imagine if you left out the Dewars, you could make a bad Dewars and soda. But, then it’s just a soda.

  9. 9 Comrade PhysioProf May 24, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Dude, I am so with you on that “on the rocks” shit! If you’re gonna drink it on the rocks, it doesn’t matter whether it’s “really good” or not!! It’s just diluted swill anyway.

  10. 10 Donna B. May 24, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    When you ran the card… was there a Roman Numeral after the name?

  11. 11 scribbler50 May 24, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    No, Donna, there wasn’t a Roman Numeral… he was just the First of now a new line of Bar-land idiots!

  12. 12 d-a-p May 25, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    i’m speechless….
    you have the patience of a true professional…
    by the way..(this is really embarrassing)
    what are the ingredients in a “manhattan”??
    i like makers mark so i guess that’s a good start…
    y-f-d…(your friendly drinker)
    d-a-p

  13. 13 scribbler50 May 25, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    y-f-d: Real simple… four parts rye or bourbon to one part sweet vermouth. To that add a dash of Angostura bitters garnished with a maraschino cherry. The rye-to-vermouth ratio is obviously dependent on how sweet you want to make it.

    Cheers!

  14. 14 Donna B. May 26, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Though I knew a Manhattan was a venerable cocktail, I didn’t know how to make one and am glad somebody asked!

    My misspent adulthood has concentrated on the perfect margarita.

  15. 15 Arikia May 26, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Scribbler, I would never ever question your knowledge of drink mixology. Even a novice drinker should be able to tell when he is in the presence of a true bartending connoisseur. But being a n00b bar-goer myself I often find myself in a predicament. I have an extreme fondness for cocktails, especially ones made with gin, and I enjoy gin martinis straight-up with olives. Often though, bartenders will just assume that, because I am young, I want it dirty to mask the taste. They also assume that I don’t know how a drink should be served and will leave off the garnishes and additions that make a drink what it is! Like ordering a Side Car, people will often forgo the finely-ground sugar on the rim or use ingredients that aren’t supposed to be in it. I would much rather a bartender ask me what goes in something or tell me they don’t know how to make something and ask me if I’d like something else, than to get a subpar version of the drink I was looking forward to. Or maybe… I should just frequent your bar more often and never have to worry 🙂

  16. 16 scribbler50 May 26, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Arikia: First of all (and though I thank you for saying so), I wouldn’t call me “a true bartending connoisseur”. Just ask some of my customers! I’m just a regular bartender who has a respect for the profession and the drinks that got us here and very little patience with the people who try and “act” like connoisseurs.

    Now as far as you getting pre-judged and bartenders “assuming” the way you want your drink because of your age, I would suggest you take control of that situation by stating your particulars upfront when you order the drink. I know I’m personally appreciative when someone says, for example, “I’ll have a Cuervo Gold margarita straight up with salt.” Bingo, it’s all there and I’m not forced to ask (because I never “assume”, simply because I don’t want to have to make a drink twice), “On the rocks or straight up? Salt or no salt? etc.”

    And I totally agree with you about a bartender, if he doesn’t know how to make a certain drink, asking you how to make it. Happens to me all the time with these what I like to call foo-foo drinks and I simply say, if you know what goes in it I’ll be happy to make it. Otherwise, pick a drink that’s been around for more than a week.
    Thanks again for checking in and good luck!

  17. 17 Pieter B May 30, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    “On the rocks or straight up?” Scrib, you’re evil, and I mean that in the very best way.

    I recently tried a Manhattan variant suggested by the little booklet on a bottle of Starbuck’s coffee liqueur, and found it quite tasty. They call it the Seattle Manhattan, and you substitute the aforementioned Starbuck’s for half the vermouth.

    I’m not a big fan of The Microsoft Of Coffee, but their coffee liqueur is top shelf. It’s got bite.


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