Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Pity the plight of bartenders. They are being replaced by mixologists (The word hasn’t found its way into my spell checker yet.) The expectations of the hard working, hard drinking, professional crowd in Manhattan have grown to keep pace with the obscene amount of their disposable income. No longer satisfied with a mere martini after work, they now sip concoctions such as the Buffalo 66 at Il Matto made with rosemary vodka, Worcestershire sauce, and beet juice. Yours for just fourteen dollars. If you are so plebian as to order a Martini, take comfort in knowing that it will include vermouth soaked black stones from Mongolia. I’m not sure if the stones are yours to keep.

Over at the Pegu Club they “like to think in terms of each cocktail having its own unique personality,” according to their website. While they will not condescend to tell you ahead of time what these personable cocktails consist of, they do inform that “the creative process is not something we rush” and that, for their Master Mixologists, “development of each drink takes place slowly and thoughtfully.”

Oh, give me a break! It’s just a freaking drink, not the Mona Lisa. You’re going to wait forever while they slowly and thoughtfully pour it and you’re going to get a megadose of attitude when some snooty wait person presents it and informs you that you now owe the equivalent of her next two credits in college. She will expect a commensurately large tip.

I go to bars (yes, bars, not lounges, not clubs) to socialize with friends and perhaps to meet new friends. If my main objective were to drink, I could stay home and do it far more efficiently. The bartender is not my friend; he is the guy that is between me and the bottle of beer that I want to drink. I don’t want to know his name. I don’t care if he has movie star looks and exposed pecs worthy of a centerfold. As often as not, he is going to act as if he is doing me a favor and only because the bouncer screwed up and let an old guy with a pot belly into the place. I’ll be charged seven bucks for a beer that cost the owners about forty cents. For the Herculean effort of lifting that bottle of beer out of the cooler and popping off the top, Mr. Perfection will expect a tip of at least a dollar or two.

You would think that here in the outer boroughs we would be immune to the aggrandizement trend. You’d be wrong. The current hot spot in my corner of Astoria is a lounge (not a bar) named simply enough, Mix. I’m not sure if that refers to the mixed assortment of wannabe trendy metrosexuals or the fact that they don’t pour drinks, they create cocktail art. At least we now have all the pretentiousness, price inflation, and self absorbed staff of a Manhattan lounge without the hassle of going to Manhattan to get it. Progress?

A friend of mine told me that his dad, a bar owner, once asked him how he could turn his bar into a gay bar. On a good night he would have a dozen or so guys sipping on dollar beers and two dollar shots of whiskey while the gay bar down the street would have a line outside waiting to buy nine dollar cocktails. Maybe he should have just raised his prices and replaced his affable middle aged bartender with a shirtless bodybuilder.

Frankly, I'd prefer this.
There used to be an effective strategy to counter the greed of lounge owners. You would do your drinking at home then only buy bottles of water at the bar. (Learned that trick from the ecstasy crowd, although they had far different reasons for their love of plain old water.) Unfortunately the lounge owners have caught on. A bottle of water will set you back five or six bucks. I envision the day coming soon when people who actually have to live on a budget won’t buy anything when they go out. Of course the owners will be ready for that: They will sell admission tickets outside, just like a movie theater. Ten dollar peanuts optional.

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