I was in San Francisco for business last month, not an onerous duty by any means. It was early evening and I was perched on a bar stool at the Fog City Diner down near the Embarcadero. My boss, Marion Minor, was on a stool on one side. Her husband, Bart, was on the other. I’d just flown up from Los Angeles. The evening before I’d had dinner at Ciudad, a Latin American concept created by chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.
San Francisco is in many ways further from Fifth and Figeroa in Los Angeles than Havana is from Rio. But even though my corporeal being was clearly under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, some sense of the Southern California evening before still lingered. Most pertinently I had a yearning for the popular Latin cocktail I’d enjoyed, dining al fresco, at sunset. Back in the real world, on my Fog City bar stool, I had no idea that I was riding straight into an ambush when I asked, “If you were to make me a Mojito, how would you make it?”
I was thinking mixology-crushed mint leaves, lime juice and such. Our bartender wasn’t. “I wouldn’t,” she said.
“Well,” I said. At that point I must have had an intuition about the philosophical divide across which we were facing off. “What if someone asked you for a Key Lime Pie Martini?”
“I wouldn’t,” she said. No hesitation. Of course not. “We only make classic cocktails.”
“Even if they’re modern classics?” I asked.
She nodded. With that my last feeble attempt to stand up for myself and my outmoded vision of customer as king fled like a frightened rabbit before the dogs. I ordered a Vodka Gimlet, straight up, Rose’s Lime Juice. Marion, Bart and I resurrected Raymond Chandler’s Gimlet loving private eye Philip Marlowe and wondered about the young people selling Rose’s to the trade who had never heard of either, much less The Long Goodbye.
Our bartender, who was, in fact, thoroughly charming, joined in. We talked about making Manhattans. Bart asked her, if she was such a stickler, did she put bitters in her Manhattans. She surprised us and said, “No.” And so it went. Soon our waitress came to take us to our table. We smiled at each other. The evening moved on.
My point? At Cheers, we tell our readers that a successful beverage program is based on an establishment’s identity–your menu, who your customers are, what consumer occasions you cater to. All well and good. But in this day and age, shouldn’t a fellow be able to get a Mojito–just about anywhere–without an argument?
What do you think?