This encounter took place the other night between a woman who hailed from the south and your friendly bartender, after which he noticed a touch of gray in his hair.
“Make me an apple martini, bartender, but I just want a slight pucker if you know what I mean?” Then she winked to let me know she knew how the drink went. She was referring of course to Pucker’s Apple Schnapps, the chief ingredient in the drink other than vodka. In fact the only other ingredient unless you add sours mix. Which I don’t.
“So you know how the drink is made,” I said, submerging her glass into ice before I started mixing.
“Yes I do,” she sang, “so don’t turn me into Little Miss Pucker, okay?”
“I’ll try not to.”
The man who was sitting next to her, whom I assumed to be not her husband based on my bar antennae, just beamed with obvious pride as the woman went through this. It was a look that said (forgive me) “How ’bout them apples?” They were both in their early fifties and he was drinking Heineken.
So I made the drink to specification (meaning very little apple schnapps), placed it on the bev nap in front of her, and walked to the other end so the two could be alone. The woman had come in later than him (a full two Heinekens later) and I got the feeling they wanted to do some catching up. But a few seconds later that notion was shattered when this woman let go of the loudest throat clearing ever.
“A-hem!!!” she croaked for the bar and the world to hear. Then, “Oh, bar-ten-der!” again in that sing-song voice.
“Yes, miss,” I replied, coming to the rescue. I could tell the drink was too strong by the cough she was suppressing.
“Ummm, I know I said not too much pucker but this is too little pucker, there’s too much vodka in it! My word, I don’t want to be out of it before I’m into it.”
Nice turn of a phrase , I thought, but it stands to reason less Pucker means much more vodka, lady. “So you want more Pucker’s is what you’re saying… the stuff you said you didn’t want too much of, right?”
“Yes, I know, silly right? I’m sorry. Something somewhere in the middle if you don’t mind.”
And believe it or not I didn’t mind because she was kind of sweet when she said this, and obviously not trying to be some pain in the ass. It’s these faux-martinis that are the pains in the ass which belong on the menus of soda jerks not bartenders. A real martini is gin or vodka dashed with vermouth (wet or dry), and the rest is nothing but nonsense (shaken not stirred). They’re enough to make the Drones Club take up pitch forks. And while I’m on the subject… I refuse to learn how to make all these drinks ’cause they’re here today, gone tomorrow, and won’t leave one single dent when it’s all said and drunk.
“Here, try this,” I said, after puckering up her cocktail, “is that in the middle?”
She took a sip. “Ahh, almost, just a little bit more please if you would?” So I threw the concoction back in the shaker, added more Pucker’s and shook it, then poured the third freaking version out for more taste test.
“How’s that?” I asked, still holding my cool.
“That’s perfect,” she said. “Thank you so very much, bartender… really!”
“You’re welcome,” I replied. Then once again I left these two to catch up. Ahh, but hold onto your hat, dear reader (if you don chapeau while reading me), for once again I was called to the scene of the crime. Just simply amazing!
“What is it now, miss,” I asked in my best fake nice.
“Listen,” she said, leaning in and whispering conspiratorially, “I know this is probably a sacrelige here but would you mind dropping an ice cube into this drink? I need it colder.”
I had to say it. “Lady, you think that that’s the sacrilege… an ice cube in your drink like you’re defiling the sacred martini? You’ve already got one foot in purgatory for asking me to put apple juice in the thing. That’s the sin here, that’s the sacrilege!” But I said it in a tone of mock admonishment while smiling to ensure that intent, a smile which she returned with blushing laughter. And it worked. No one had gotten the slightest bit miffed and I got my point across with flying colors. And the fact that she tried to respect some code of not diluting a “neat” drink with an ice cube, I found to be downright cute for its sheer naivete… the naivete of respecting a glass of mashed granny apples.
“I know, I know,” she said, “shame on me, right?”
“Nah, no shame, no blame, your heart was in the right place. Now I think we’ve finally got this thing figured out. Enjoy!”
Heineken, in the meantime, hadn’t said one single word through all this but just sat there holding an expression that was now turning sour. He wanted to get on to “business”, this guy, if his lady could ever solve her god damn cocktail. In fact, come to think of it, looking back on those first few minutes I’d had more conversation with her than he had. Enough, already! you could see him thinking, but no such luck as his date continued our chat.
“Hey,” she went on, “an apple martini is a heady drink where I come from. It’s a real cocktail! Because where I come from it’s blackberry sours, apricot-ritas and stuff like that that people I know like to drink.” I was about to ask her where she was from… the natural progression in this journey… but knowing it’d kick the door wide open to what she drank at her prom and maybe a weather report, I instead took pity on her date and let it go. Then I politely excused myself.
But not for long. She called me back and asked me for a glass of ice water. And I poured it. And then I promptly injected some humor in the thing before I blew my stack over all this attention. I said, “If there won’t be anything else, madam, I thought I’d retire for the evening if that’s okay. Good night, now!” Then I walked away to a tinkle of laughter for the very last time it appeared, for short of her calling me back to perhaps sew on a fucking button, there was nothing this woman could think of to demand my presence. Which other customers sought. Yes, the marathon was finally over, dear reader, and much to Heineken’s delight, for he’d booked a table for dinner later on and it was clear he wanted to enjoy some pre-prandial foreplay… a little nuzzling. Which he and Miss Pucker immediately got into, thank God!.
Now here’s more good news. After they’d paid their bill with me and took their table to dine, I’m happy to report I’d mastered her apple martini (if one can call that mastery). For Little Miss Pucker ordered three more drinks, none of which got sent back, and it led to a lot of “mid” and “post” prandial nuzzling. They were two happy peas in a pod of Bar-land bliss.
Nah, they couldn’t have been married!
Over and out from bar-land, see ya’ next week-end.
PS: Anyone know about this stuff called Grecian Formula? 🙂