Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Friday, February 23, 2007

I Hate The Trick Joke Birthday Candles...

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... they're just not funny anymore. Were they, ever?

Two years ago today, Tavern Wench Blog was born. Happy Birthday To Me.

A great deal has changed over the past two years, and recognizing milestones makes me realize how much we've all been through. Lately, good things seem to be happening to all of my friends, and it makes me happy and optimistic. It's encouraging when cool things happen to cool people, and it makes me wonder if something is in the air, like fairy-dust, waking us all up...

As always, Creepy Digital Birthday Cakes are cheerfully accepted in the comments section or per email as a celebratory token. I hope Louis is still reading; he gifted the creepiest birthday cakes ever.

As your hostess-with-the-mostest, I offer a favorite recipe, in an exceedingly giddy mood:

Champagne Dreams Cocktail

Begin with a level scoop of ice in a pint glass. Add:
- 1 oz Grey Goose Vodka
- 1/2 oz Pama Liqueur (pomegranate liqueur)
- 1/2 oz Cointreau
- Splash of Orange Juice
- Shake and strain into large champagne flute
- Float champagne (about a third of the glass up to the rim) slowly over a bar spoon so as not to disrupt the fizz.
- Garnish with a few shards or orange zest and a thick, juicy, fresh-cut orange wheel.

Thank you to everyone who has continued to read this silly little blog throughout 2006. What an accomplished year I've had!! (Isn't that what you're supposed to write on the occasion of your blogiversary?) I was nominated for a Food Blog Award, for example. Sure, that's pretty much all I've got, but it's nonetheless been an interesting year behind the bar, and an even more interesting one behind this keyboard. An amazing year, really. I'm feeling oddly upbeat and excited about the future. Can't tell you how much I appreciate all of you who email, comment, and have blogs of your own.

A toast to the bloggers, and the blog readers, especially mine, at every barstool!! Happy Tavern Wench Birthday! Cheers!!

You had a good time drinking all of our wine
After the show
We all rode the wave of that crazy parade
Oh, where'd ya go
What happened to the ones we knew
As long as I'm the shiniest star
Oh, there you are

Farewell to old friends, let's raise a glass to the bitter end
Farewell to old friends, we'll still be here when you come 'round again

- Dixie Chicks, "Bitter End"

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Britney Spears Shaved Her Damned Fool Head, Y'all

Now, I don't usually get into the celebrity stuff, but this is pretty whack.

While watching the Grammy Awards last Sunday, I couldn't help but wonder if Britney wasn't throwing subliminal daggers at her former Mouseketeers, Justin and Christina. At least she took matters into her own hand, and sheared her damned self. The former teen queen has ingested one too many Flirtinis, if you ask me. Either that, or she's enlisting, since judging by her performance in "Crossroads," I doubt she's preparing for a film role.

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Speaking of Flirtinis, they're quite good if you mix them with a little love and patience.

The Flirtini

In a pint glass, muddle together well:

2 good chunks of fresh pineapple
1/2 ounce Cointreau

Add one level bar scoop of ice

1/2 ounce Grey Goose Vodka
(Squeeze any remaining pineapple juice from your cutting board into mixture before shaking, it adds a nice foamy effervescence upon shaking)

Shake mixture well, and strain into a large martini glass
Using a bar spoon, float Champagne over mixture until just below the rim. Garnish with a dropped stemless cherry.

I lift my Flirtini to the fallen starlets who occupy the imagination of a vapid nation, and her evening newscasts. Here's a toast to the interesting banal, cynical and weird times in which we live. Cheers!

She still lives with her mom outside the city
Down that street about a half a mile
And all her friends tell her she's so pretty
But she'd be a whole lot prettier if she smiled once in a while
'Cause even her smile looks like a frown
She's seen her share of devils in this angel town
But, everything's gonna be all right
Rockabye, rockabye
Everything's gonna be all right
Rockabye, rockabye, rockabye

- Shawn Mullins "Lullabye"

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ice Storm

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The view from my window

Weather has been wintry nationwide this week, and locally we've been enduring an ice storm. It's eerily beautiful. Listening to branches creak and snap in the darkness is soothing and somehow melodic, and driving to work today, the sun hitting the icicles made the entire city seem magical, like a fairytale winter palace. It's the kind of gorgeous danger you want to reach out and touch.

Inclement weather often drives customers into the bar from their neighboring hotels. Just as the ice started falling from the sky, a gentleman walked in and immediately spread his papers all over the bar. He ordered a glass of Chardonnay, and let me know he'd be dining.

I gave him about ten minutes. He didn't once look up from his work, and I didn't want to distract him. When I finally approached, I asked, simply, "Have you decided?"

"No. The weather's bad, and there's nowhere to go. I'm going to be here for awhile. I'm in no rush whatsoever."

I can't fault him, because instead of giving me every piece of information I was seeking from him through guesswork and body language, he told me what he was expecting in a concise, verbal sentence.

I was irritated by him. Business was slow, the dining room had cleared out, bad weather was on its way, and he was the only obstacle between me and my drive home. Servers were bugging out left and right, and I was certain the manager was on the brink of cutting my shift short. We were all trying to get on the road and outrun the weather.

Still, he just flipped through those papers. He studied them as if they contained the secrets of lost cities. I had to admire the man's work ethic. It made me examine my own.

When he at last seemed satisfied with his work, he ordered his dinner and a second glass of wine. It didn't take long for him to stretch, loosen up, and finally engage me in conversation as I polished the glassware. When we started talking, my irritability melted away, and he became rather delightful.

The lone remaining server leaned against the bar and talked with Paul (we all got on a first name basis quickly) too, as he dipped his bread in his sauce, chugged sparkling water and talked about his life on the road as a traveling businessman. He talked about how he missed his family; we all exchanged pictures, and soon Chef was out front, sipping wine and chatting with Paul. When he finally left, we locked up, and we all were a little taken aback by the generosity of his tip.

He hopes to get back to Chicago in the morning, so here's to Paul, and here's hoping he encounters no difficulties returning his rental car, that his trip to the airport is swift, that the lines through security are short, that his flight is not delayed, and that he reaches his home and his family safely.

Here's a toast to road warriors, and to the ice storms that afford them the opportunity to share their amusing tales with bartenders. Cheers!

We've all got wheels to take ourselves away
We've got telephones to say what we can't say
We've all got higher and higher every day
Come on wheels take this boy away
We're not afraid to ride
We're not afraid to die
So come on wheels take me home today

- Flying Burrito Brothers, "Wheels"

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Snowy Seven Hills

This is likely a post of local interest only, but if you've ever sat in nightmarish traffic during a snowstorm, please bear with me...

Cincinnati got a wallop of snow Tuesday, six to eight inches (a "light dusting" to folks in Green Bay, Wisconsin) depending upon where you live. Still, we're a city of hills, and it caused many traffic problems. It didn't help that the snow started around noon and continued until late that evening. It also didn't help that most downtown and area businesses let their employees go home early, creating an artificial rush hour right in the middle of the heaviest snowfall.

Now, I didn't get caught in the snow at all. I work at a restaurant, not exactly an essential business (because you folk mob the grocery stores in search of milk and bread and cold cuts in fear of being snowed in for weeks), so we closed and called our evening employees to let them know they had the night off. What's the point of stacking your payroll when you know you're not going to do any business that night? I spent the entire day in the comfy confines of my home, watching from my window, a vantage point which made the snow appear beautiful, magical, and sanguine. You can be any age and still experience the unexpected joy of a "snow day." I felt entirely childish, and I loved it.

After watching the local news go nuts all day, I couldn't resist (in what I will admit involved a bit of schadenfreude) visiting the Cincinnati Enquirer's blog to read the travel nightmares of my fellow Cincinnatians. Most were the usual complaints about the Kenwood cut-in-the-hill traffic. Why can't they ever, ever seem to anticipate this snarl, and why is it that reporters never seem to show up at the exact place causing the most problems in order to report them? Oh, wait... they realize they'll never get home, either. They'd rather report from the flatlands of West Chester, and I can hardly blame them, but I wouldn't call it reporting from where the news is actually happening. Still, it took many commuters three and a half hours (at least) to get from the Ohio River to, say, Montgomery (about 14 miles), and that's understandably horrific to the average commuter. It was interesting to read their accounts.

It jogged my memory, reminding me of my last experience traversing the Kenwood cut in the middle of a wintry blast. It's been years since I was stuck in what I can only describe as a snowy armageddon on I-71 northbound. Motorists all around me were experiencing overheating breakdowns and running out of gas. The interstate turned into a parking lot, and there was just nothing to do but sit and wait. Out of nowhere, a spirit of camaraderie erupted, and I joined it, leaving my own car to help others push their autos to the side of the road, but I'm a small girl, so I was of more help offering the hoards of snack bars I kept in my car (I worried constantly about snowy traffic hunger-filled snarls in those days), hugs, and tissues to the most distraught. It's a great memory I have of how the city pulled together that day to help each other. I was feeling pretty good back then, about how awesome we are.

Then, I came across a comment from a reader named Teasha, detailing her much more recent experience on Tuesday.

I always took pride in my little family sedan and her inclimate weather skills. Today, she had a rough time. When she stopped dead in the middle of 71N, the only person that came to our rescue was an out of town truck driver. Thanks Cincinnati. I'm glad your SUV's could go fast enough to get away from my tear soaked face, all alone, in the middle of 71N.

Reading Teasha's current account on the Enquirer's blog, and the rather sarcastic and obnoxious replies to her story, made me concerned, and, frankly, angry. And I can't help but think of the many, many commuters who had similar experiences but wouldn't dream of writing about them; sharing them with anyone but their own families.

In a city that prides itself on being friendly and compassionate.... how do we really measure up? I read her comment as a bystander, someone sitting before a computer in her pajamas, quite comfortable and warm, but it got me thinking... if this were an actual emergency, something unexpected, instead of a widely-predicted snowstorm, how would we behave toward each other? Would we offer help and comfort? Would we speed by and make obscene gestures? Would we care for only ourselves, or would we reach out to each other?

In a way, it's analogous to my experiences behind the bar, and the way attitudes have morphed in the past ten years. Can we really call ourselves a friendly, kind midwestern city? Can we truly take pride in that, are we who we say we are, if we don't act kindly and gently toward each other when it's called upon? Can we claim our reputation, if we don't earn it?

I hope her account is some kind of aberration, but Teasha's experience alarmed me, and made me realize that it's always a good idea to take a look at each other, and imagine how we'd behave at our worst, and not just our best.

It's not pretty to write about who we really are, which is probably why nobody ever does.

Out all night in the Seven Hills
We had time to kill in the Seven Hills
From Mount Washington down to O'Bryonville
The Seven Hills

We went to investigate
The subways that never came
And the abandoned tunnels of Camp Washington Station
Happy vandals all at play
Underneath Central Parkway
We had the key, and we were fearless... we were fearless

Out all night in the Seven Hills
We had time to spare in the Seven Hills
From Mount Adams down to Madisonville
We were out in the Seven Hills

Sneaking through Ault Park
Several hours after dark
Hiding from each other in old man Kilgore's gardens
We could live like this, blissfully oblivious
It never got old
It died eternal, it died eternal

Every night in the Seven Hills
We were out of time in the Seven Hills
All over the Seven Hills

So give that old Queen City a chance
She's the wallflower of the dance
Yeah, she's the one that never went all the way

- Justin Lynch, "Seven Hills"

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Beautiful Girls

From time to time, I am honored by the presence of a fellow bartender at my little corner of the wood. Bartenders love nothing more than serving off-shift bartenders. They're full of tales, kindness, news, fun and great tips. Tonight, a barkeep from one of Cincinnati's best-known bars visited, and regaled me with his bar stories.

This one is my favorite.

Recently, a threesome of women came to his establishment. He knew one of them, she's a great tipper, a regular, and a generally cool person who I also happen to know, so he gave her a drink on the house.

One of her friends, very young and inexperienced, ordered an Absolut and cranberry, and didn't care to open a tab. After a sip, she complained about the quality of her drink to anyone within earshot, and attempted to walk away.

"Five bucks, " he told her.

"Five!!!" she protested.

Offended, he answered, "You're welcome to find a cheaper serving of Absolut, but yes, here, it's five dollars."

"Well... why isn't it free?" she whined.

Puzzled, he looked the young woman over and replied, "For one, I've never seen you before in my life. For two, it's five dollars."

"I'm beautiful. Why do I have to pay?"

Now, my barkeep friend is a lot like me. He's been around the block, and he was pretty pissed off at her loud objection, and even more shocked by her arrogant (and, from what I hear, subjective) reasoning for why he should comp her cocktail.

"Seriously, it's five dollars. Six if you keep whining."

She laid down five dollars on the bar and walked away with her generously poured cocktail. Five, even. No tip, clearly.

At the end of the evening, our mutual acquaintance apologized for her friend's behavior. She's a good girl, and super-cool, so she's forgiven for keeping bad company. Still, it begs the question...

What the fuck?

All of her lovers all talk of her notes
And the flowers that they never sent
And wasn't she easy...
And isn't she pretty in pink

- Psychedelic Furs, "Pretty In Pink"