There was a time — long ago I must admit — when grabbing a barstool and placing oneself in the competent hands of a seasoned and professional barkeep was, to men such as me (and certain women as well), one of life’s great joys.
Not so much anymore.
Today, I’m more apt to encounter a flannel-wearing, wax-mustachioed, body-painted, cap-wearing, 28-year-old know-it-all behind bars all across America. I’m not a hateful man, but these young “artisans” do so manage to piss me off with their “we invented the drinking culture and you didn’t” attitude, oftentimes well before the seat has even warmed beneath the cheeks of my now better than half-century-old arse.
If I didn’t like to drink and eat out as much as I do, I swear that I might never step foot inside of a saloon again. Scratch that, for saloons, these places surely ain’t. Salons maybe, hipster salons at that, but definitely not saloons. How could they be? Most are manned not by the honorable and dignified barmen that I once knew and treasured and relied upon for companionship, but by swollen-headed, high-minded, knuckle-headed masters of mixology (whatever the hell that is).
On their turf, only rubes and geezers dare ignore the establishment’s painstakingly “curated” drink “menu,” with its “craft” cocktails made of “artisanal” bitters and “house-made” mixers that — by the way — you need to wait 10 goddamn minutes for.
God help the poor schlub (that would be me, if you were wondering) who favors a simple glass of whiskey served neat, an unadorned fine vermouth perhaps, or (gasp!) an unassuming lager that was NOT just brewed a quarter-mile down the road by a couple of “way-cool local dudes” striving to honor traditions of ancient brewmasters they’d never even heard of before. Until one of them Googled the topic, that is.
God, I need a drink!
The problem with being my age — your age, too, so get used to it — is that I can remember accepting simple and honest drinks from simple and honest men and women, inside of low-pressure, high-character, welcoming rooms. I could then enjoy these drinks either over authentic conversation or equally comforting silence, depending on mood and circumstance.
Today, I’m often the old guy down the end who’s sucking up all the beautifully distilled oxygen in the high-energy, high-concept room. No longer am I the cool guy with the long dark hair and the furry beard who knows how to have a good drink and the conversation to go along with it.
All of a sudden, I’m the dude with the long white hair and beard who’s been around long enough to be everybody else in the joint’s old man! It’s OK to be friendly and polite to the geezer — he tips well, you know — but do I really have to, like, talk to him? Besides, shouldn’t he be home watching “Pawn Stars”?
Plus, all I ever do is order boring crap (bourbons, drafts, an Old Fashioned now and again) and so what’s the point of even having me around? I’d sooner down a pint’s worth of spoiled camel’s milk than a “batch-made” gin-and-tonic, a bastardized Negroni, or anything made with elderflower liqueur, Domaine De Canton or Luxardo. Plus, I don’t want to know my Averna from my Fernet Branca, thank you very much; when I want something bitter in my mouth, I’ll swallow a batch of broccoli rabe or maybe chew on a grapefruit peel.
I’ll make sure to wear a fedora or a porkpie while I’m at it, though. That’ll make me cool.