Man walks into a bar, settles on a stool and says to the bartender: “You know, what I would like at this moment more than anything on earth, what would set matters right in this weary, godforsaken world, what would make me happier than fame and wealth and glory is an ice-cold Tanqueray martini, up, with one olive.”
Bartender: “Comin’ atcha, sir!”
This, thinks the man, will surely be a golden moment in the sordid history of my life, because, for once, the cocktail glass has been kept in the freezer, along with the gin, and the vermouth emerges from the refrigerator, and for once the bartender, ruminating on his time in school, remembers that cocktails with fruit juices are intended to be shaken but all other cocktails are stirred, and he performs this action correctly, and in a few minutes, he places before the man that epitome of elegance and chaste power, that inverted cone of pure, crystalline transparency, with its inviting fullness and astringency — the perfect martini.
Patron: “Thanks, barkeep, that’s swell.”
Bartender: “A great pleasure, sir.”
Patron: “By the way, could I get a little bowl of little snack thingies, you know, some mixed nuts, even some peanuts, or some of that cocktail mix, you know, Chex cereal mixed with nuts, pretzels, chili crescents and wasabi peas? or just a bowl of Goldfish crackers. I skipped lunch today, and I don’t want to pour this perfect martini, perfect as it may be, into a completely empty stomach.”
Bartender: “Certainly, sir, here’s the menu.”
Patron: “No, no, barkeep, I don’t require a menu, just a bowl of cute little nibbles to absorb some of the alcohol.”
Bartender: “Sorry, sir, we don’t provide bowls of cute little nibbles at the bar. Here’s the roster, however, of what you may order.”
Patron: “But, this is the dinner menu. I don’t want dinner, just a wee snack, a handful of nuts or crackers, bestowed not merely for convenience but for the sake of conviviality.”
Bartender: “Try the pecan-dusted grilled quail with sunchoke puree and mango-radish salad. Many customers find that agreeable, and as an appetizer. it’s not too filling.”
Patron: “That’s $16!”
Bartender: “Well, look at the seared day-boat scallop with flash-fried okra and limoncello beurre blanc.
Patron: “That’s $15! Can’t I get something quick? And another martini!”
Bartender: “Yes, sir, of course, sir.”
The bartender makes and brings the second martini, but for some reason, this one doesn’t seem to glow as the first one did.
Bartender: “All right, sir, people in a hurry often order the Individual ‘Cassoulet’ de Brian.”
Patron: Why is ‘cassoulet’ in quotation marks?”
Bartender: “Ha-ha, that’s Chef’s little joke. It’s actually his version of pork and beans.”
Patron: “So why does an appetizer of pork and beans cost $14?”
Bartender: “Well, sir, that particular dish is outsourced to Mumbai and Fedexed to the restaurant every night.”
Patron: “Look, what’s happened to bars? They used to be nice, friendly, comfortable, welcoming places where you could get a drink and a handful of nuts or a bowl of popcorn and feel, well, maybe not cosseted but certainly taken care of. Now they’re all sleek and slick and chic and ambitious and if all you want is a drink and a snack, you’re here for an hour and it sets you back $40. Now could I just get a fucking bag of Fritos and another martini?”
Bartender: “Sorry, sir, I don’t think I can serve you. You’re getting pretty agitated. You shouldn’t have drunk those martinis on an empty stomach.”
Image of mixed nuts from Wikipedia.