Here we go again… It’s Saturday night and a shade after dinner time.
So far the evening holds host to a delightful mix of pre-dinner and pre-show drinkers, a handful of date-night lovers chatting fervently amongst themselves, and a small but lively group celebrating a birthday party towards the back of the room.
The mix of drinks going out has been keeping the team shaking and stirring all night – a good blend of our signature house cocktails, plenty of classics to keep the new barkeeps on their toes, and one particular couple are revelling in delight as they are guided through the wine list.
And then the inevitably the question comes … “Do you guys do Expresso Martinis..?”
The drink we all love to hate. Thanks be to you, Mr Dick Bradsell! You opened our young eyes and minds to the idea that simplicity is king!
Your genius in creating the timeless classics we all know showed us the error of our creamy, sugary, sexually inuendoed ways! Drinks like The Russian Spring Punch! The Bramble! The Treacle!! … but also, one that seems like it will never die, The Vodka Espresso…
“Wake me up and fuck me up!” she implored way back in ‘83! A little espresso, a touch of coffee liqueur, a heavy slug of vodka and a good shake later, and the bar world would never be the same again.
I hear that bastardised and mispronounced name nearly every weekend. That inexplicable “X” never fails to bring an internal grimace, no matter how many times I have, and will continue to hear for the entirety of my career.
We’ve all tried every technique in an attempt to wrangle something bold, something exciting, something, anything to reinvent you. To wean the masses from your bittersweet, textural teat. Many tried to deconstruct you and built you back like some godforsaken franken-cocktail monster, but your stubbornness and charisma, your steadfastness and simplicity, has infuriatingly continued to undo us all.
And rarely do you come alone either, your siren song wails from the lips of one lively young upstart and before long a chorus chanting you name has arisen. The masses see your first glimpse and call for that same comfort, that same kick and that same bittersweet finish until dizzy and delighted from your caffeinated and inebriating effect.
It is indeed this effect, of caffeine and alcohol, of bitter and of sweet, of dense flavour in a pillowy crown atop your burnt-ochre body that so many find comfort.
The barkeep’s attempt to update your look, through all manner of foams, tinctures, garnishes and glassware is oft in vain, for no matter how many ways you skin a cat, it remains just that – a wiley, clawed creature that draws coos and clouds the mind.
Long gone are the days of searches for you in dim-lit lounges and back alley neo-speakeasies. Your ubiquitousness has been your undoing. For even within the walls of the farthest-flung watering holes of our metropolises, to sporting clubs where beer and not much else is poured, you can be found, albeit a shadow of yourself.
Malnourished, lifeless and tepid, cloned within an inch of your life by some Blue-rinsed Doris tending bar in the exact spot she did 25 years ago; Or unrecognisable and chemical, flushed from a tap and pumped full of nitrogen in a misguided attempt to give you some marionette-like impersonation of life.
Still, we find you, in the minds and hearts of many millions the world over, who curse your name the next morning yet seek you out each time the time for enjoyment and celebration come calling again.
My resolve is withering. Where a prideful and foolhardy young barkeep once waged war; an older, wiser and altogether more stoic old fool now stands.
To bleat and moan amid the whirling dervish that is a Saturday night service would leave me as depleted and as worn-thin as my enthusiasm for your company. There are masses to serve, there is a night to be made and above all smiles to be slung across every face in the room. So tonight, I’ll keep my views to myself. Instead, I choose to teach the new guard to respect, however begrudgingly, your place on the mantle.