One of my favorite things about the city is its abundance of 'Speakeasies.' Right now, we New Yorkers are falling back in love with speakeasies; depression-era comfort suits us well in this recession-era. Personally, I like speakeasies because at this stage of my life -- I enjoy bars that aren't too loud, are well-designed, and enjoy serving me cocktails in ceramic mugs.
I had a blind date, and she suggested a great speakeasy she had been to. We met up in front of a nondescript storefront on 17th Street. It's one of those places that's so secret that nobody knows where it is. I rang the doorbell next to the plaque reading 'Raines Law Room.' The sign was engraved in off-white cursive letters; letters whose aim is to make you feel as if you're about to visit the warm and fuzzy innards of a very expensive legal firm.
A few seconds passed before the door swung open to reveal a man who I could have sworn was the lead singer of Coldplay. Nymph-like, he had frosted blonde hair. I appreciate a stylish pair of eyeglasses, and inches below his small tortoise frames came an English accent as effete and fake as the non-prescription lenses.
"Do you have a reservation?" he asked.
We didn't, so he took my date's number and told us he'd call us in fifteen minutes. We went across the street to a less-desirable bar that served 'drinks' from 'glasses.' Thirty minutes later her phone rang just as we were getting into a great conversation. When she hung up the phone she asked if we should go over there. I told her if she liked the place and thought it was that amazing, then, yes, we should definitely go.
A few minutes later we found ourselves in front of the law-firm-that-was-not once more. We rang the doorbell. Nothing. As we began to turn around to leave, the door swung open. Coldplay was back with us, and it seemed as if he had no idea who we were.
"Do you have reservations?"
This time we did, and we felt really good about ourselves. He scanned his list and then shook his head disapprovingly.
"We don't have any open tables, but I can seat you at the bar."
I was okay with that, as was my date. As a happily single man in New York, I've learned that the bar often has the best seats in the house. He opened the door for us and escorted us in. As we followed him to the back, my eyes began to adjust to the darkness. Almost every table was as emotionally empty as any song on X&Y and Milo Xyloto. 'Every tear is a waterfall?' Fuck you, Coldplay.
He guided us to the bar. The bar was a large marble table in the back filled with various plants, herbs, and other ingredients. Behind the marble slab were racks stacked with all manner of spirits. Three women alternated between muddling drinks and wiping their brows with the white smocks they wore. A server hastily grabbed two finished drinks and bumped into my date and me as he rushed to one of the few filled tables up front. To be as concise as possible, the bar was the kitchen.
It became instantly clear to me that here at the Raines Law Room, the customer is always wrong. I couldn't help myself and so I started to laugh. Coldplay was incensed.
"What?" he spit.
"It's nothing," I said, "I just... I didn't think I was going to be a bar back tonight."
He didn't find that as funny as I did, and he left in a huff to not attend to the customers that were not there. After spending a few moments watching the bartenders put love, care, and sweat into their creations, we decided to check out the menus.
The drinks were reasonably priced from $13.00 to $23.00, and some of the drink names were 'South Side Rickey,' 'Hanky Panky,' and 'Arsenic And New Lace.' The next thing that stuck out for me were ingredients listed that I couldn't even make up if I tried: Amaro Nonino, Cherry Heering, and a dash of Cholula -- which I imagined was like a dash of Anthrax, only drinkable.
When Coldplay returned, we ordered our drinks. I forgot what we ordered, but I remember they were both delicious. I figured since we were paying for the privilege, I asked if we could go outside to the patio to sit. We were given permission, so we took our little glasses of goodness out back.
She sat in a comfortable chair. I sat in a well-designed piece of very hard plastic which had a depression deeper than 1933. The chair had the effect of making me feel as if I was an eight-year-old being scolded by the principal. Except the principal was my date, and I was going through first date deliberations as to whether or not I'd like to sleep with her.
The answer to that question may or may not be answered in another essay, and if it were, all names would be changed to protect the innocent. I am a gentleman after all. What did happen next is that my date and I drained our drinks, and then went across the street to that other bar.
You know the place. It's the one that serves 'drinks' in 'glasses.'