In the Night Bar

drink, lifestyle

We’ve all experienced something that we think we could do better than an expert. We’ve all looked at a piece of art, drank a cup of coffee, or heard someone sing and thought “well, I could do that too.” First of all, no you can’t. If you could, you would. But it’s fun to pretend.

Recently I was at a bar. I remember seeing the stone archway from the sidewalk thinking how cool it was to open a bar in an old train tunnel. Then I walked in – so far so good: the dimly lit room had oil lamps on tables and funky chandeliers from times past. Leather arm chairs were positioned around small round tables. The dark wood bar was inviting and behind the bartenders were more cavernous spaces all furnished with old-timey lighting fixtures.

Unfortunately, the drinks left something to be desired and even worse, bartenders served drinks in novelty martini glasses, which is probably the worst of both worlds. It made me think at that moment “man, if I opened a bar I would have x, y and z.” So here’s a glimpse into my dream bar.

First of all, there are only six types of glasses I’m willing to stock. First, the necessary pint glass. Does someone want a beer? How about just a tall glass of water? Boom, pint glass. They are not as aesthetically pleasing as tulip or teku glasses favored by craft beer buffs, myself included, but they are multi-functional and overall classic. No doubt, I would have some local craft beers on tap and maybe a few craft cans if I’m so inclined.

Second, there will be absolutely no martini glasses. Not only are they ugly but they’re cumbersome and no one needs a martini that large. I’m willing to fight someone about this. Plus, have you ever ordered a drink like a manhattan and had it arrive in a martini glass, and go “what do I do with this?” Yeah, it throws you off. To solve this problem, I will stock those elegant coup glasses that fit right in the curve of your hand. A bonus if I could find vintage coup glasses with character. Still a great choice for martinis, but also make manhattans, old fashioneds and other boozy, straight-up cocktails look classic.

Third, there will be rocks glasses. You can’t go wrong with a rocks glass. Whiskey on the rocks? Rocks glass. Margarita? Put a salt rim on it and boom. Negronis? No problem. The rocks glass is the perfect vessels for on-the-rocks drinks and frozen beverages. No novelty needed here, the drink should speak for itself. Plus there’s nothing quite like the ambient sound of a large ice cube gently bumping into the side of a rocks glass. Eat your heart out ASMR.

For your crushed ice, muddled mint drinks, the collins glass. Tall, slim and timeless. These are great for soda based drinks and anything remotely tropical. If it’s got a sprig of anything in it, it’ll probably be in a collins glass. Gin and tonic, Moscow mule (no need to take up space with copper mugs, but I’m not against them) and Bloody Marys would fare well in your hand in a classic, sleek collins glass. Also, a great sub-in for water when your pint glasses are all full of brews.

Then we have wine glasses. Will my bar have wine? Absolutely. It’ll have a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list. Maybe some natural wines if you ask nicely. While wine glasses are not controversial glasses, there are variations that make my skin crawl. Like stemless wine glasses? Those glasses where the stem and bulb meet at a right angle? Who are those for? Not me. Not my bar.

Last but not least, shot glasses. Measuring is important and sometimes you just need a shot of tequila. No explanation necessary.

As for drinks I don’t have a menu set in stone but I know what I do not want at my bar. One time I saw a woman order a chocolate martini at a bar and the bartender, without hesitation, just said “no.” Not all heroes wear capes, am I right? There will be no chocolate martinis or bright-blue potions with umbrellas or anything that’s also the name of a cake or candy. Make your peppermint patty shots at home with your girlfriends the way God intended.

When do I have time to think about this? Well, I’ve had this dream to own an old-timey Italian bar ever since encountering the experience abroad. Did you ever read the Maurice Sendak book In the Night Kitchen? A little boy wanders into a dream kitchen only a child could imagine. It was one of my favorite children’s books. I feel that now as an adult my night kitchen is this dream bar. Marble counter, spherical light fixtures, a small buffet of snacks at the start of the evening, aperitivo-style, and sparkling spritzes and amaro flowing from the hands of a dreamy bartender. The dreamy bartender is me, sorry folks. There’s no menu with catchy drink names and no CBD add-ons that will run you an extra $5. What you see is what you get. Buying a drink will get you crumbly taralli, olives and roasted nuts, the antidote to your crazy workday. Sit down and quietly sip a glass of chianti while processing the wins and losses of the day. Have a low-key chat with a friend or whisper intimately close to your significant other. Absolutely no one is yelling. Maybe someone is eating pasta at a nearby table. I think the beauty of these fantasies are not to undermine the work that actual restaurant and bar owners put into a spot, but encourage you to find your peaceful bar sanctuary. Either that, or I’ve been watching too much Cheers while dreaming about a simpler life.