Recently, I wrote a blog about wonder. It’s a topic I’ve thought about quite a bit lately. Why did I have to move 5000 miles away from my home to discover that it’s everywhere? This week, I found it in a cocktail bar.
Cocktails are ‘a thing’ I’m told. I started to suspect this when I noticed more and more trendy bars popping up, but I never joined the cocktail revolution. As a matter a fact, I can’t name a cocktail (except rum and Coke and whiskey sour—but I’m quite sure those don’t count).
If I think harder, there are cocktails I associate with old movies and older friends: manhattans and martinis spring to mind.
One of them comes with a cherry, which reminds me of the Shirley Temple an orange-haired waitress used to surprise me with as a kid in Mom’s Kitchen–a casual Italian place near my childhood home in New Jersey. Back then, nothing made me feel more grown up and urbane (although I didn’t know that word yet, I knew the feeling) than a 7-Up with a maraschino cherry.
The other, I’m vaguely aware, is served shaken, not stirred, to international men of mystery.
Other than the cherry, I can’t name an ingredient in either.
Friday night, Pat and I decided to try a cocktail bar in our neighborhood: Pasdeloup. The food blogger David Lebovitz had done a Facebook live from there. It looked fun, so why not?
Full disclosure of my cocktail life: whisky sours in college with friends who drank rum and Coke. Mojitos in Cuba (I forgot that one!). And something about six months ago in a cool prohibition-style bar in Bratislava that was tucked behind an unmarked door upstairs from a café and appeared like, I imagined, Miss Havisham’s living room–but tidier. We returned a week later with friends, but before our cocktail life could gain traction, we left Bratislava.
When Pat and I walked into Pasdeloup, they directed us back to the bar. After sitting down, I realized my sneakers and jeans were not Friday night bar attire. I wondered if that was why they had led us to the darkest spot, but I doubted it. Nearing 60, I could sit under a spotlight in my underwear and not turn a head. I’m not complaining; I love the invisibility of age.
A man walked in wearing a canary yellow suit and with a wild mop of hair that made him resemble Bob Marley. Given his reception, I guessed he was a regular, or a famous musician on his way to perform. I leaned over to Pat, “If we’re going to do this more often, we’ll need bar clothes.”
The bartender asked for our orders. Pat said, “I’ll have something with gin. Not too sweet, not too sour.”
When she went away, I said, “Gin?”
“Yeah, I like gin.”
I looked at him as if he had whispered, “I have to confess. I once killed a man.”
“You LIKE gin? Since when?”
We nursed two rounds of drinks while scarfing down two bowls of popcorn. I watched the bartender as she stirred, shook, or (my favorite) poured over and over between glasses moved increasingly far apart, creating a water fall effect. Every drink had its own glass: short and squat, tall and lithe, frosty and yellow. I haven’t been this entranced with cocktails since Shirley Temple.
Full disclosure: I ordered red wine.
When we got home, I texted this picture of Pat to our kids. “Cool mom,” Ryan replied, “What is that?”
“I have no idea. Something with gin.”
I made a mental note to read the menu next time.
Why do I tell this story? Largely to illustrate the way travel has unveiled these tiny sparks of wonder into our lives. Frankly, I would have never done this back home. For me, it took moving to another continent to shake things up. And while one might suggest I could live without cocktails, I would suggest that’s missing the point.
Pat has declared Friday will be cocktail night from now forward. “Next time, I want to head up Oberkampf. It’s wild up there on Friday nights.”
All I could do was stare. Honestly? You once killed a man?
Categories: Life in Paris