My husband and I don’t get out alone much at night these days, what with children and all, but when we do, a new favorite thing to do is visit classy bars and order swanky cocktails we’d never make at home.
Actually, scratch that. Change it to we never make as well at home.
At home I like to make relatively easy cocktails that require only basic ingredients: gin martinis, rum or whiskey sours, Tom Collins in summer, Old Fashioneds in winter. If we want to get fancy in summer we’ll make basil gin smashes.
For all of those we use economical brands of liquor, and we make them in our formica-countered kitchen.
I love getting dressed up, ironing my hair, and going out for cocktails. I have fond and vivid memories of three nights out, and the associated cocktails I drank. Though two of the nights involved basic martinis, which I make all the time at home, the drinks were elevated by the quality of the gin, the elegance of the service, and the atmosphere of the establishment.
Miami, Florida: The Regent Cocktail Club
Oh, The Regent, how I love thee. The picture above absolutely captures the experience of The Regent Cocktail Club: bowties and waistcoats, dark wood, fine glassware, and lots of charm from the bartenders. I ordered a martini there, and it was worth every penny of the price.
Each barkeeper had his own style of shaking cocktails, and it was like watching a dance to see the three of them behind the small bar: pulling glassware out and turning it; shaking high and low for one keep — above his head then down to his waist, above his head, down to his waist, like he was playing a musical instrument — while another keep shook outward and with a small twist from torso to chest; garnishing tumblers with fresh mint, creating lemon curls for martinis, placing ice cold crystalline glasses on silver trays for serving.
My husband and I lounged on a leather couch, watching the patrons at the bar, while we sipped our drinks. There was one man, lean and dressed in a slim, trendy suit, who was obviously a fixture at The Regent; the keeps knew him, and he made himself at home. He talked to everyone who came in and sat near him, or moved to a new stool if the ones next to him became empty.
We couldn’t hear the conversations at the bar, but we watched body language. My favorite scene was watching as a woman got bored when her date was polite to this regular, and got sucked into a conversation, ignoring her completely. The date realized his mistake and moved, incrementally, to the far side of his stool from the regular. He tried to turn his body towards the woman accompanying him. But the trendy-suited fixture leaned in, his entire body pointed toward the man, while the man, polite to a fault, would not be rude to the Regent regular. The woman poked around in her glass with a stirrer, stared at the ceiling, checked her phone.
Eventually her date turned his back to the regular to face her again, but it was too late at that point. She slipped her arms into her cardigan sleeves, and they left. The regular moved two bar stools to his left and started talking to a new patron who had just arrived.
I really loved being there, and I highly recommend it. The people-watching was brilliant. Fair warning, though: be prepared to spend some money if you ever decide to visit.
Baltimore, Maryland: B&O American Brasserie
(drinks shown: The Cadizian and Coppertop No 1)
The B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore was our most recent cocktail adventure, and is the only one in this list where I ordered something other than a martini. We walked to the B&O from our hotel near the Inner Harbor, and I was delighted to see the trains on the B&O logo: the B&O Railroad! Monopoly!
Inside was warm, dark, and cozy. It was Easter evening, so it’s hard to judge what the ambiance is usually like, but it was pretty subdued when we were there. The cocktails (and the Cheddar And Milk Stout Fondue) more than made up for the sparse patronage, though. My husband declared that his Coppertop No 1 was possibly the best cocktail he’s ever had — and he’s not prone to hyperbole. Made with “Dorothy Parker” gin, Yellow Chartrreuse, ginger syrup, lemon juice, and pink & black Pepper, the Coppertop was clean and light with gin and citrus, yet warm & spicy with ginger and pepper.
His was quite good, but I’d go back for the Farmstead: Bulleit bourbon, Solera sherry, lemon juice, basil syrup, and lemon bitters. I’m a sucker for basil in a cocktail.
Anna Maria Island, Florida: The Beach Bistro.
The food at The Beach Bistro is life changing. I think I’ve written about it on my blog before. But since this is a post about cocktails, I have to say that their Tony Jacklin martini is life changing too. It was so cold it felt like drinking liquid ice. And those blue cheese stuffed olives. My god. The balance of flavors was sophisticated and perfect. From the cocktail menu:
“THE TONY JACKLIN” Bombay Sapphire martini with Maytag blue cheese olives … Icy blue, like Tony’s nerves.
I remember delighting in every small sip of that martini, and of the visual of how clean and cold it was. I don’t remember much after the martini, but that’s kind of the point, right?
For the month of April, I will publish a 10-minute free write each day, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page. Trying to get back into the writing habit.