Back on 7/5/98, we came up with the idea of the Barfly Chronicles. Here was our first story that spawned it...

The first thing that I want to talk about is the lack of respect that bar patrons show the local bars and bartenders. Case in point: The Toronado. The Toronado is our bar... Janet and I go there at least once a week, usually to have a drink or two and to talk to the bartenders. The Toronado is world renowned as a beer bar. When you walk into this bar, you see one thing: lots and lots of tap-handles. 46 of them to be exact. On the wall is a list of everything on tap. If you don't see it on the list, they don't have the beer.

Last weekend was Pride Weekend, and because of that, a lot of tourists invaded the Lower Haight, due to its relatively close proximity to the Castro. It didn't really bother me that much in the beginning because we were still able to sit down at the bar without waiting for a seat.

However, as the night wore on, I started to hear these tourists asking for really stupid things. One person asked for a pitcher of beer. Ok, Pitchers of beer are served by establishments that want to encourage their patrons to get drunk. The Toronado is a SERIOUS beer bar. This is the bar that Aventinus and Spaten throw parties at. Do you know what Aventinus is? Most people don't... but most regular patrons at the Toronado do (it's a very yeasty dark German beer, hard to find on tap). Needless to say, the Toronado takes its beer very seriously, and the regular patrons do as well. Do you see anyone with a pitcher of beer ANYWHERE at the bar? No? Well, don't ask for a pitcher of beer there.

Sheesh! Why don't people just take a look at the "scene" of a bar before they open their fool mouth up? When you walk in... you can't miss the list of beers on tap. When I first came in to the Toronado 4 years ago, I was intimidated.... but I also wanted to fit in. I picked a beer off of the list, completely at random, and ordered it. Then, I started talking to the bartender... I told him what I didn't like about the beer, and what i DID like about the beer. Pauly steered me towards some other types of beer, and I ended up finding some beers that I absolutely loved. I can understand if you walk into a bar like the Toronado and you don't have ANY idea of what to drink. Instead of asking for a "bucket of Heinekens" (overheard last Saturday), go to the bartender and say "I don't recognize any of the beers on the list. I usually drink Heineken. Could you recommend something similar?" It's called showing respect.

Final thing on the subject: When I walk into a bar for the first time, I look and see what everyone is drinking. If everyone is drinking beer, I order beer. If everyone is ordering a mixed drink, I order a mixed drink (or a Whiskey on the Rocks if I am feeling argumentative). If I go to a wine bar, I order wine. If I go into a bar where everybody is drinking one of those slurpee like frozen daquiris, I leave. If you walk into the Toronado, you will see NO bottles of liquor behind the bar. You will not see any shakers, strainers, blenders... nothing that would make you think that they serve anything other than beer. DON'T walk in and ask for a B-52. The same way, if I walk into a bar and notice that they only have "Bud" on tap, I'm not going to ask for an El Toro Poppy Jasper.

I have a problem ordering mixed drinks or cocktails from bars these days, not because I don't know what to order, but because the bartenders don't know how to make the drinks I ask for.  For example, they make a great cocktail in New Orleans called the Sazerac.  Unfortunately, that is the only place you can find it, as we have asked for it in countless numbers of bars, only to be greeted with either a blank stare or a snotty-yuppie-bartender crack like, "sounds like something they'd drink in upstate New York." (actual quote from a bartender at Zuni in San Francisco).

Historians believe that the Sazerac was the world's first cocktail, and all it is is basically rye whiskey, bitters and Herbsaint (or Pernod, an acceptable substitute).  Not too difficult to make if you have a Bartender's Guide behind the bar, which I'm guessing most bars do not.  We have a couple of cocktail books at home.  What is the point of all of these wonderful drinks if you can't ask for one of them when you go out?  The bartenders' response is always "I've never heard of that" and that's where the discussion ends... and where my confusion begins.  You would think that if your job of choice was that of bartender, then you would be a tad interested in the actual art of mixing drinks.  I mean, wouldn't you at least know the recipes for more than ten cocktails?  Is a request for an Old Fashioned or a Whiskey Sour too much for these people to process?

Bartenders in San Francisco seem to only be adept at making gin AND tonics, rum AND cokes, something ON THE ROCKS or something STRAIGHT UP.  Oh, and a few other, "more challenging" drinks like the Martini, the Cosmopolitan, and the Manhattan.  Some people may think that this is enough, but what of all the other 250 cocktail recipes in my copy of Michael Jackson's Bar & Cocktail Companion?  I'm thinking that the reason that the new generation of 22-year-old bartenders can't make any classic cocktails is because none of the young high society ingenues have ever heard of them either.  They're all too busy drinking monstrous blue lemonade-tasting drinks or drinking Amstel Light from the bottle.  And when they do order a simple drink like a Martini, they spend the next two hours carrying it around from clique to clique, taking a sip once every 20 minutes.

I may soon have to admit the fact that cocktail culture is dead.