It’s a slow Monday night and my barback, Nathan, is getting frustrated.
“Jesus, Jeff, when am I going to get to make some real drinks?!”
“In time, Nathan-san”, I reply, “In time.”
“You keep saying that, but all I’ve done for the past two months is make a bunch of old lady drinks! You make me make all of your Sidecars, Old Fashioneds, gin-and-tonics, and whiskey sours. I’m getting sick of this! When am I going to get to make some cool drinks?”
Nathan’s frustration is understandable. He’s a hard worker, and although I’ve had him take down every bottle from the shelf and wipe it three thousand times, I’ve only let him make these four drinks. Over and over again, I stand behind him and watch him pour. I make him measure, pour, and taste each drink while I discuss with him the aromas and flavor profiles of each.
“Okay, Nathan, you really want to learn something new? Show me gin and tonic.”
Sighing, he reaches for the bottle of gin.
“Wait. Instead of gin, use that bottle of Crown Royal back there. And instead of tonic, use Coke”
He carefully pours the ingredients into a highball glass. An ounce and a half of liquor, and three ounces of mixer.
“You just made a Crown and Coke that your frat brothers would be proud of.”
“Okay, that’s pretty cool, what else can I do?”
“Show me Sidecar, Nathan-san.”
He begins to prep his cocktail glass with sugar.
“Use salt. And garnish the glass with a lime instead of a lemon. And…”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Two parts brandy, one part orange liqueur, one part lemon juice. I know, I’ve done this a million times before.”
But Nathan looks at me sideways as I instruct him to substitute the brandy for the top-shelf silver tequila.
“And in place of lemon juice, use lime.”
He shakes his new concoction, strains it into a glass, and tastes it.
“Wow, what is this?”
“It’s a margarita, Nathan-san. One that you can mix in a big pitcher and serve on your back porch this summer.”
“Sweet, man, what else can I make?”
“Show me Old Fashioned.”
“Okay, what should I do differently this time?”
“Use a sprig of mint, a sugar cube, and a couple of lime wedges.”
He carefully muddles the ingredients in a glass and reaches for the bourbon.
“Wait! Use the silver rum.”
He adds the rum, ice, and tops the drink with soda water.
“You’ve just made a mojito, Nathan-san”
“Really?! I’ve had so many people ask me to make them one. Now I know! What else can I do?”
“Show me whiskey sour, but substitute rum for the whiskey, and lime juice for lemon.”
He carefully measures out two parts white rum, one part simple syrup and one part lime juice.
Tasting his new drink, he asks, “What is this?”
“It’s a daiquiri, Nathan-san. The way Hemmingway used to drink them.”
“Wow, really? I’ll bet I could muddle a bunch of fresh strawberries and make this for my girlfriend on our vacation next weekend!”
“Yes, you can.”
“Did you know that next weekend is my birthday?”
“You’re not getting a car, Nathan-san.”