Procaffeinations is a weekly series of short fictions, fables and fabrications, all written in the time it takes to finish that first coffee of the day. I have the humble Americano to thank for dutifully dragging me – kicking and screaming – into this fine new week.
Surprise us. Make it nice.
The order is a one-two punch in a crowded bar, a veritable gauntlet thrown down to a backing chorus of something good and sometime today. The bartender dries his hands on an over-wrung towel, adjusts the already excessive roll in his sleeve, and sizes up his two impatient challengers. Two heads among too many.
The gent is an easy mark; a walking, talking anachronism. Beard, braces and a slick-back undercut chime along with a fully-buttoned and ill-fitting waistcoat in a lacklustre rendition of HBO told me what a real man looks like. His is a Sazerac. New Orleans’ first and finest.
The lady is tricky, almost agile in her carefully-curated collection of clichés. She’s sporting a one-night-only dress but it’s hidden under a cropped lambskin biker. An array of pin badges form a chain maille armour down the left lapel. Ignoring the mezcal curve-ball she threw in two orders ago, the bartender opts for the safe bet. Hers is a Cosmopolitan. Conservative but not without a certain sass.
The Sazerac is all flame and fury. Rye or die. No brandy split. The bartender drops two slugs of Rittenhouse straight into the mixing pit. He follows through with Peychaud’s bitters: Two drops of crimson in an ocean of amber. Altogether an angry mix, a real bar room brawl. A touch of sugar syrup provides a timid voice of reason. After that, it’s up to the ice to stop the rye and the bitters from killing each other. The bar spoon dances a cautious, clockwise number around the fray in a vain attempt to simmer things down. The fire-red rage of the rye is tempered further still upon absinth ambush. A mean old rinse with a chip on its shoulder. They’re familiar sparring partners that waste no time falling back on old habits. The humble lemon peel, expressed and discarded, quells the ruckus once and for all. A brief life well spent. Harmony restored.
The Cosmopolitan is an orgy of vodka on triple sec on cranberry. Russian stallion atop French fancy. Citrus zest rubs up against sugared sweetness. In one motion the bartender rains ice over the whole sordid scene and seals it shut. A preparatory snap of the tin resounds like the crack of a nine-tails against a bare arse cheek. The next ten seconds is a rhythmic violence of ice on steel. The whole mess is left to catch its breath in the slender frame of a lead crystal cut coupe. A naked lighter flame held to a freshly-shaved orange zest paves the way for the money shot. One, joyous spurt of citrus oil that ignites, mid-air, over the breast of Marie Antoinette (or some such, said-same mythical tit). A shower of white-hot brilliance on peach and pink.
The bartender takes a step back, names his price and basks in the glory of his creations. He watches the couple take their first cautious sips already anticipating the accolades they’ll surely bestow upon their singular manager of moods, their peerless master of mixology. He readies the usual choreography of false modesty and quiet intellect. He counts the big fat tip in his head.
A swing and a miss. The couple shoot the bartender a politely disappointed glance before laying the exact change atop the bar and walking away with their unwanted fistfuls of hubris and ego. The bartender’s mistake was obvious: He should have gone with a couple of Aperol Spritz. There’s no money to be made in violence and porn nowadays.