Paul Clarke’s stewardship over Mixology Monday, otherwise know as MxMo, did a great thing for bartenders, drinking, and the Internet. I don’t think that outside of contributing the occasional rant to MxMo I could come close to creating something as long lasting and influential, but Paul inspires me try. My love of simple drinks gave me an idea called, “The Bartender’s Re-Education Plan.” Simply understood as a plan to re-introduce simple classics to airport bars, corporate consultant bars and neighborhood locals. These are places that have skill at tending to the bar’s patrons but they have long forgot the actual craft of the cocktail*.
This fall from grace makes me think of this depression era anthem:
Once I build a railroad, made it run,
Made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad, now it’s done.
Buddy, can you spare a dime?
– E. Y. “Yip” Harburg
Think of the archetypical bartenders, like Motherly Mavis at the airport lounge, with great care beyond what her nametag would purport, always offers a discounted double before you board a plane. Actually-an-Actor Alex at the Fried or Fricasseed Family Fun Franchise, may warn you against which menu offerings are weary over worked wuss drinks. Surly Sully down at your local always prodigiously pours a proficient pint and always asks about your ability to alliterate. I am so thankful for these three sainted bar folks, who all help you when you need guidance, a bar to lean on and alcohol in a glass but that is where the skill set ends. But what if it didn’t?
What if Mavis could mix you a Manhattan and not mistake bitters for worcestershire? What if in between picking out head shots you could get a Gimlet from Alex? What if you could convince Sully that he didn’t really need an odd mutilated muddler to make an Old Fashioned? I pose this questions not because I think that crafting quality cocktails are beyond their abilities, so much as as the the archetypical bartender’s desire to hone this skill has been forgotten by the lack of consumer demand. We gave up on these three bar saints and then they gave up on us.
Let’s say, instead of offering a lame carrot or beating them with a stick, what if we began to request the simplest of drinks, in a straight-forward way? Sully’s eyes might light up if you asked him to mix you a Godfather and the instructions to do so are so easy and unpretentious. I pose that on the first of the month, a very simple drink gets ordered, the same simple drink, in several of the just average bars that keep us, “not dry.” Go to Mavis, Sully and Alex, at the first of each month and say:
“You ever heard of a ________? They are really easy to make, I have it on my mind because of [convincing cover story] Could you make me one?”
I’m not talking about ordering a god damned Last Word from Sully, I’m talking about ordering something that you know he can make quickly, easily and that might inspire him to dust off the Mr. Boston.
I’ll put up a post at the end of each month with a new drink to call for and of course with the rant about why I want it to be standard, and then please, help that dusty classic cocktail shine again. Know what else? You might remember the joy of the simple drinks, too.
*Perhaps Dale’s excellent turn of phrase could help them learn more about The Craft of the Cocktail.