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!