Sometimes it’s hard to admit when you are wrong

I looked up from the drinks I was assembling right into the eyes of a man standing right in front of me. That’s not at all an unusual occurrence while working behind the bar. But, eye contact is not always your friend. Because with eye contact comes communication — much like the young woman sitting a few seats down at the bar was also finding out for herself.

“This is not a gimlet,” said the man in a clipped British accent.

“That’s our gimlet from the cocktail list,” I said, looking back down at what I was doing.

He looked at me, and then at the drink. Often the facts are problematic for those in crisis. When feelings and beliefs take over, you just never know where things will go.

“Would you like a different gimlet?” I asked.

“Yes, I want a regular one.”

“Regular?” I asked.

The gimlet is one of those drinks that certainly seems like it should be universal. Nearly 100 years old, the first mention of a gimlet comes in 1927, but the first recipe comes in 1930, in the original first edition of “The Savoy Cocktail Book” by Harry Craddock: half gin and half lime juice. Ostensibly it was named after British Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette, if you believe such publications as the 1955 “Dictionary of Royal Navy Slang.” However, the word “gimlet” might also refer to the “boring” tool used to tap kegs. Dr. Gimlette (he was a surgeon) is said to have prescribed gin and lime juice as a tonic against scurvy. British sailors were already derogatorily referred to as “limeys” for their anti-scurvy lime juice rations (often mixed with rum), but it took an officer to mix it with the more patrician gin.

“Yes,” replied a modern man in a most patrician version of British English.

“Half lime cordial and half gin,” he said, pronouncing the word “cordial” “cord-e-all.”

“We don’t have lime cordial,” I said pronouncing it like an American.

“Rose’s lime cordial?” he asked.

“We do have Rose’s lime juice somewhere,” I said, noting that we don’t use it much.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.

No, it’s not. In the United States, Rose’s lime juice is a heavily sweetened high-fructose corn syrup combination that comes across the palate as slightly medicinal or artificial. In Europe, Rose’s lime cordial is a natural sugar lightly sweetened lime juice combination that is bright and refreshing. The difference has to do with international trademarks, international product definitions (cordial in the United States falls under the same definition as liqueurs and is an alcoholic beverage) and international tastes.

“I have fresh-squeezed lime juice,” I said. “I can add a little sugar to it if you like.”

“I want a gimlet with half lime cordial and half gin,” he said authoritatively, proving that Americans are not the only people who explain things louder and more condescendingly when they aren’t understood in a foreign land.

“We don’t have lime cordial,” I said, again, but quietly and calmly.

“Use the Rose’s lime juice,” he said.

“You are probably not going to like it,” I said, offering him a taste.

“I’ll be fine,” he said, stiffening his back.

You can’t control other people. The more you try, the more perverse things become. The only thing you can really do is to not be like them.

He watched intently as I made the drink, just waiting to pounce if I deviated one iota from his 50/50 instructions.

“London dry gin?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said.

I made the drink under his withering watch, noting that his pupils dilated as both the liquids I poured into the measuring jigger neared the top. Two equal measures, some ice, and I shook it vigorously. Straining it into a chilled coupe glass, I asked about the garnish, because, at this point, I wanted no responsibility for that drink.

“Lime wheel, lime wedge or lime peel?” I asked.

Garnished accordingly, I delivered it to him. He took a sip triumphantly. Then, his pupils dilated and he titled his head.

“Hmm,” was all he said before walking away.

Later on, after he left, I saw the full drink still sitting on his table.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

• It’s certainly hard to blame someone else when you told them exactly what to do and then watched them do it.

• “London,” in reference to gin, is a legally defined level of quality (only natural botanicals) and not a geographic region.

• “To feel absolutely right is the beginning of the end,” once wrote Albert Camus.

• “Nah-ah,” said someone else.

• Realizing that it might be you who is wrong is often the biggest realization possible.