“God invented whiskey so the Irish wouldn’t rule the world.” Anonymous
With one thing and another taking up my time, I realized the other day that I hadn’t been drinking enough. To rectify the situation, I headed over to the Oak. Of course I know the classics, but after hanging out with two of the nicest, funniest barmen in Dublin, I realize now that I know nothing. I prefer my cocktails with a philosophy chaser, and as luck would have it, I have come to the right place.
The Oak is beautiful inside. The oak paneled interior of the bar is made with wood salvaged from the RMS Mauretania, the sister ship of the RMS Lusitania. The corner, the building itself, even the lane next to it, are all historic.
I tell the lads that at home I order Stella. They explain that here Stella is considered a beer that brings out the worst in people. There’s a reason that Guinness is a national pastime – it’s mellow and can be drunk pint after pint. I listen to whole conversations about why the Oak pours the best Guinness around.
So in keeping with the spirit of the country I say, “Give me your finest.”
And Stephen, who could give Aristotle a run for his money, says, “I’m off the menu, but I can make you a really nice cocktail.”
And so it begins. He starts me off gently with a black velvet – Guinness and prosecco. He is careful and precise in the pouring and it’s almost as much fun to watch him make it as it is to drink. Next is an old fashioned – Don Draper’s drink of choice. And like so many other things in life, it’s all in the preparation. The glass is filled with ice and then one and a half ounces of bourbon, – so American! – sugar muddled with bitters, and then a twist of orange rind.
We talk about Bono. It seems that everyone has a Bono story. Of all the people that I love but don’t actually know, I love Bono the most. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow, Thursday, March 9, will be the thirtieth anniversary of the release of The Joshua Tree. I think the songs are as beautiful today as they were then. It makes me happy to know that the lads chose America as the theme of the album. (In honor of the anniversary, U2 will be going on a worldwide tour and will be in Dublin at Croke Park on July 22.) I mention that “In God’s Country” is my favorite song from the album with “Trip Through Your Wires” a close second. A little while later, “In God’s Country” comes on. Tom played it for me. (Did I mention that they were nice?)
I discover that drinking delicious drinks that were made especially with me in mind by good looking, thoughtful barmen who have the gift of the gab is very enjoyable. Plus it’s about time I cultivated a new vice – (loitering is not all that it’s cracked up to be.) So I go back the next night. No more easing me into it. Tonight the barman starts me off with a screaming orgasm – a white russian with a shot of Bailey’s. The process and the presentation is spectacular. Before he serves it to me, Stephen pumps a little bit into a straw and then puts a drop on the back of his hand to taste it. He approves. I could try to describe the sweetness of the kahlua and the cold, thick cream on top, but I’ll just simply say it was the best drink I’ve ever had. And not only does it taste good, but it’s also good for you – it contains the four basic food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.
I try to pace myself, but within a few minutes I’m slurping around the ice cubes. Stephen decides to follow that one with a godfather which is two parts Scotch whiskey to two parts Amaretto. It’s gigantic. At this point I’m fading fast so I ask for a bag of crisps. But because this is Ireland and Stephen is Stephen, he brings me a huge bowl of crisps instead. This of course leads to lots of sharing and lots more conversation. The woman next to me tells me that she lost her husband recently and she’s here with her cousin to try to forget her troubles. She tells me that he was a lovely man and she loved him very much. She reminds me of a quote I just read, “We are all in the same boat, all refugees from the past trying to find a home.” We start talking about “the mysterious distance between a man and a woman.” Stephen adds, “If you can’t listen to ’em, get rid of ’em.” Words of wisdom from a young Irishman.
Ah sure, I had a great time, but because I’m American, the next day I start thinking about the calories, my skin, and my poor liver. So on Saturday when I go back with Helen, I’m back to my usual ham and cheese toastie and a few glasses of cider. We chat up a stunt man from LA. Tom tells me that Aidan Gillen was in last week and was sitting…well exactly where I’m sitting. Where else would he sit? Later I remember that Chris Isaak never touches a drop of the stuff, and the man is freakishly youthful. But then I talk to an Irish friend who says, “Sure you’ll have plenty of time to recover when you go home.”
So I venture over to the Oak once again. This time Stephen makes me a porn star cosmopolitan: vanilla vodka, passion fruit puree, vanilla syrup, and a shot of prosecco. It’s amazing, and as I’m enjoying it, I remember that bad habits take time and dedication. I will see this through.
And because I was and will always be an English teacher, I double checked with Grammar Girl and I was right – names of drinks are not capitalized even when they’re named after places. For example, a manhattan is written with a lower case “m”.
What’s your favorite cocktail?
And finally, from W. B.Yeats – “The trouble with some people is that when they aren’t drunk they’re sober.”