“You don’t make your margaritas too sweet, do you?” asked a woman in a bodycon skintight tank top, who was also wearing a long winter scarf and gloves.
I didn’t know if she wanted to hide her neck and hands, or if she didn’t want to hide anything else. But her question really wasn’t a question, it was an insight. Just a mere glimpse into the world in which she lived. Because what does “too sweet” mean? Was she asking if we deliberately made our drinks unbalanced? And too sweet for whom? For her? Or for the world at large?
We often think of things in relation to ourselves. In quantum mechanics there is a postulate that says that even observing a phenomenon, changes that phenomenon. Not only because of the perception of the watcher, but also from the perspective of the phenomena. Or, as Nietzsche put it, “If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” And we as human beings often forget that.
“Educate your customers” once said a manager of mine, in regard to our not serving white zinfandel. As if customers go to restaurants to be educated. And nothing comes off more as condescension than a server or bartender telling you that you don’t know what you are talking about. Even if, in fact, you don’t know what you are talking about. Perhaps especially when you don’t know what you are talking about. Which can also apply equally to bartenders and/or restaurant managers, too.
“I can make it less sweet,” I said recalling not only that manager, but Nietzsche, and quantum mechanics, as well. The thought of staring into an abyss might also have occurred to me.
“I just don’t want the house margarita,” she said.
Back in the day of that previous manager, house drinks meant well drinks, which meant cheap drinks. The cheapest drink available, in fact. There were four pricing tiers: well, call, premium and super premium. Back then bartenders did the math in their heads, and it was easier to do that math if the prices were simplified. Computers have fixed all that. These days the only people who ask for “well drinks” are people over forty. Your average 30 year old has no frame of reference. It’s like saying payphone to them, they might have heard of it, but they almost certainly never experienced it. Today’s “house” drinks are often specialties of the house, designed to impart the sophistication and knowledge of wherever that “house” may be. If you put “house” on something it probably should be pretty good. Not true back then, but certainly true these days.
“No agave?” I asked.
She shook her head.
“And no triple sec,” she added.
“So just tequila and lime juice?” I asked for clarity.
“No salt,” she said, adjusting her scarf after the shaking, not so much for her neck, but for other reasons.
In the bar business every drink is one ingredient away from another drink. The margarita in its original version; tequila, lime juice and triple sec in a salt rimmed glass, was either a version of a daisy (which is what margarita means in Spanish); liquor, citrus, fruit syrup (the triple sec) or a crusta; liquor, curacao, bitters, and citrus, in a sugar rimmed glass. Remove the rim, remove the curacao and you arrive at a gimlet; liquor and lime juice.
And sure, I could have told the woman in the scarf and gloves that. But I didn’t, I am not there to educate, I just made the drink and delivered it.
She took a sip and wrinkled her nose.
“Can you add a tiny bit of sweetener?” she asked.
A splash of agave warranted another wrinkling of the nose.
“It needs something,” she said.
I added some Cointreau and reshook it.
“It is still missing something.
“Salt?” I asked.
“Maybe,” she said.
I salted the rim and reshook the cocktail again.
“That’s better,” she said, never once realizing the irony of that statement. We had gone quite a long way to essentially recreate our “house” margarita in reverse.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-For some goldfish, once around the fishbowl and it’s all new again. This is true for some people, too.
– Friedrich Nietzsche also said: “The most basic form of human stupidity is forgetting what we are trying to accomplish.”
-Cointreau is a type of triple sec, in fact it is the original.
-There are none so stupid as those who will not learn.
-A flower is still a flower even if you call it a rose. And so is a daisy for that matter.
-Sometimes when we stare into the abyss, it just shakes its head.