Inspired by writing about creative alcohol combinations, I thought I’d write an ode to the Good Stuff.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“No thanks,” I said, without even looking. I came to this bar for the drinks, not the men. But there were always a few who didn’t know me – newcomers, fresh-faced hopefuls, whatever. And there were the ones that persisted, like a viral STD.
“You’re almost empty, and you’re going to have another,” said the voice.
“What makes you so sure?”
“Because I’ve watched you come here every week and work your way through the menu and the specials. You never have just one.”
I looked up from my book and put a finger on my place. Not at him, just straight ahead, to the rows of shelving in front of me, catching myself in the mirror behind a rainbow of different spirits, backlit by subtle blue lighting. “Tonight could be that night, you know.”
“So, what’ll you have?”
I pored over the menu and felt nothing grabbing at me. I often felt like this. It wasn’t a misery, or a sadness – more a searching. It was a whimsy of mine, really – I wanted to find that drink that I could walk into a place and say, ‘the usual please’. Or have a cocktail named after me because it was so beautiful and undiscovered. Not that I considered myself either of those things. Who considers themselves beautiful? Honestly. And I’d most certainly been discovered. Never by anyone here, though. And I wanted it to stay that way. It was a safe space.
But just then, I had another stroke of whimsy. Just because I didn’t want a romantic encounter…
“If you were a cocktail, what would you be?” I asked, realising that it must have come off either like a strange interview question or a weird pickup line, both options clearly worlds apart from where I was aiming. That said, sometimes a left-field question is a good way to judge a person.
“Well, I’m pretty funny – situationally, you know. I don’t tell jokes, before you ask. So, maybe cocktail-me includes some prosecco, because it’s fizzy, and, well, fizz is fun…” His accent was northern. North of here, anyway.
“Don’t over-justify,” I interrupted with a slight smirk, my eyes back to my book, though I definitely wasn’t reading. I still hadn’t looked at him. For now, it had the potential to ruin the fun, and I was more interested in imagining him as a cocktail. “Anyway, prosecco’s a topper. Your exterior. I’m more interested in what’s underneath.”
“Aren’t we all?” he tried. “See, I told you, situational.” I carried on pretending to read. Not worth responding to. “Well, okay. How about something for honesty? I’m painfully honest… not a great quality all the time – sometimes come out with the wrong thing. So, something bittersweet. Campari?”
“Okay, what else?”
“And I’m warm,” he said quickly, staring at the wall I was also once again studying, which contained all the answers. “They have a ginger liqueur… I’m warming. And good for the digestion,” he said. I let out a small puff of air through my nose in appreciation of his unexpected wit.
“And very alcoholic,” I said, smiling. “No bad thing, but, can’t have too much of you at the moment, can we?”
“Are you particularly sour?” I asked.
“I’m a poor loser,” he said.
“We’ll see,” I said, and gestured to the bartender, who had just finished serving someone at the other end of the bar.
“Can you make me two cocktails?” I asked, and described the ingredients before turning to my mystery man, who was surprisingly attractive; perhaps half South Asian, stunning blue eyes, very short hair, dressed in a sharp black suit with a white shirt and wingtip shoes. He looked sad, and my guess had his day involving an afternoon funeral. “What’s your garnish?” I asked.
“Lavender,” he said immediately.
“No, because I go to bed at nine like your grandma,” he said with a smirk. “Enjoy your drink. Or should I say, enjoy me?”
Two glasses appeared, each with a sprig of lavender.
“I think so,” I replied, and turned back to my book.