Monday, April 28, 2014

Beer Graduate

I started drinking beer when I was 16 and I spent the rest of high school in hot pursuit of the foamy beverage. Because I was too young to be served in a bar, my friends and I usually bought six-packs from the groceries and markets which were known to sell to just about anyone over 5 feet 9 inches. We then drank can after can in somebody's parents' car or basement when the adults were away. It usually ended with some foolishness, uncontrollable laughter and often, vomiting. 

Loads of fun.

But when I got to college and was out from under my father's roof, I graduated to hard liquor. I never really liked the taste of booze when I was in high school but I had to keep pace with the upper class-men in college so I moved on to mixed drinks with everybody else.

In Baltimore back in those days, the red light district was known as, "The Block". It was actually a 3-4 block area of downtown full of strip clubs and adult book stores and peep shows. The City police headquarters was at one end of this The Block and I gather everyone liked it that way. People could sin if they wanted but they knew the cops were just down the street.

Being that I was a college student and had an unlimited supply of fellow teenagers who were interested in having drink most any time, it wasn't too difficult to recruit one or more of them. We borrowed a friend's car and drove down to Lombard Street one weekday after "The Big Valley" which came on from noon to 1:00 PM on Channel 45. The strip joint we selected was dark and empty but welcome relief from the late summer heat (it was early September of my first year and we wasted no time in exercising our new-found freedom.) 

Bar owners at the Block wanted patrons to buy more than just liquor, so the drinks were cheap and watered-down but we post-teenagers didn't notice. We thought drinks cost $1.25 everywhere you went and liquor was strong enough that we didn't notice how diluted it was. We thought that real bartenders would respect a man who looked like he belonged and who knew what he was doing, so with the place to ourselves, we freshmen threw our sophistication into high-gear. My friends and I assumed that the quickest way to convey that image was to appear decisive and that meant ordering a drink by name. No hesitation. 

Soon all the names of mixed drinks I'd learned as a boy from movies and T.V. came out in a stream of sophisticated banter.

"Bartender, I'll have a Rob Roy and an Old Fashioned for my friend here." 

I took a single sip and didn't like the taste. I couldn't understand it because in the movies I'd seen they all seemed to enjoy mixed drinks. But I didn't let on. No Sir. I just put down my tumbler and ordered another. "Sir, bring me a Tom Collins, extra dry please."

It was as if we had a copy of the Time-Life Encyclopedia of Familiar American Cocktails and I was just going down the list.

I turned to my classmates, 

"John, how's that Manhattan?" 

"How about a High Ball, Ed?"

The afternoon wore on and the strippers got tired. Each asked us to buy them drinks but we knew better. 

Then at five o'clock, I knew exactly what to do. 

"Bartender, a round of martini's please."

So savvy was I.

1 comment:

Jed Davis said...

I' 5'7", no beer for me....