Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bartending 101: Alcohol on the Brain

All I can think about is alcohol.  It's Saturday night and I am going out for a much-needed Girls' Night.  But all I can think of are drinks based on the color of my friends' outfits.  Gina is wearing pink, so naturally I think of a Pink Lady; Ali's in a brown halter, so I think of a Dirty Mother.  And Ali doesn't even have kids.

We get to the bar and sit in a corner booth.  Loud but slow acid jazz is blaring.  I should be relaxing and enjoying the time with my friends.  But looking over at the bar, I feel like I'm in an office supply store.  It affects me as much as looking at a row of file folders.  I'm seeing the bar the way it is in the classroom; it all looks like colored water to me.  I can smell the food-coloring and paint.  None of it looks appetizing and I find that I'm not thirsty.

Just as I'm about to reach a new level of frustration, a couple of guys walk up to us. "Can I buy you a martini?" the tall one asks.  But all I can think of is where the dry vermouth bottle sits in the well.  Do I want it electric or nuclear?  What's the stupid garnish on those?  It's too much to think about so I decline and shoo them away.  

Finally I'm talked into trying the bar's version of the Mai-Tai.  Two "Atomic Mai-Tais" and a Singapore Sling later, I realize that studying drinks so intently makes my whole perspective on alcohol askew.  It's driving me crazy.  This is supposed to be my weekend for chrissakes and all I can think of is Bartending School!

Being on the other side of the bar brings a whole new outlook on drinking.  People are counting on you to make their drinks the way they expect them.  Not only do you have to know what the hell they're asking for, but how to make it taste right.  I'm starting to think that I can't do this, that it's too difficult to make so many people happy.  Plus my memory sucks -- how am I going to remember 200 drinks and all the different alcohols?  And do it all correctly in 7 minutes or less?

I'm feeling overwhelmed so I skip the next class.  I stay home and try to find something -- anything -- to make my brain stop calculating the formulas of cocktails.  Instead I settle in front of the TV and zone out on reality shows.

I wonder if I'll ever be able to enjoy alcohol like I used to.  It's a miserable thought.

Last drill time: 6 minutes, 50 seconds, but I think I made my Tom Collins with whiskey instead of gin.

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