“We were in Brazil, and this drink is just to die for. You take half a lime, muddle it. Muddle it really well so the pulp is coming out. Then pour rum on top. Then a teaspoon of sugar. And shake the hell out of it. Pour it out over ice. It should look like this,” and she shows me a picture on her phone. And I’m about to just hand over my apron and let her do it herself but I’m game for some crazy bar tending, so let’s do it.
I muddled so damned hard I could feel the knots in my shoulder growing firmer. I shook the hell out of it. I mean the literal hell—I could see Satan and all his minions fleeing from the depths of this sugary liquid. And I gave her the drink and she took a sip and whispered to her husband. Her eyes narrowed a bit and glanced a moment in my direction; she tilted her head just a tad. Like a well-bred Southerner, she talked a wealth of shit behind the manicured hand raised discretely over her mouth.
“Listen,” he says. “This isn’t going to work.”
I apologize and ask what the problem is and she says it’s too strong. So I over-poured which is typical and I like a good drink but not everyone does it’s cool. No big deal.
“Let me add more lime and sugar.”
“No,” she says, “I need you to make me a new one. Use a couple spoonfuls of sugar. And muddle the hell out of the lime. We were here yesterday and the other bartender made it perfectly,” she whined.
“I’m really sorry about that.” I’m speaking through gritted teeth; I’m trying my best to keep my cool here she should have just ordered her drink like the tone of her voice—syrupy sweet and full of venom.
“Oh no, it’s fine. You’re learning something new.” Her words are dripping out onto the bartop, trickling across its surface like molasses in winter. And I swear if the patron saint of patronization could rise from the dead and slap me across the face he just did. And let me tell you, it stung.
So I muddle. Duly shamed, I muddle and I muddle and workman’s comp had better be ready for this claim. I pour in the heaping helping of sugar and shake the hell out of it. I cut up another lime and muddle that. Muddle, muddle, toil and trouble, liquor burn and shaker bubble. But the only witch in this bar is you. You take it from me and you take a sip and grimace. It’s just not the same, you say. And quite frankly, I did exactly as you said. You watched me make the whole damn thing I did it exactly right you even said as much maybe your taste buds are wrecked from all this sugar. Is that a thing? It must be. It’s the only explanation.
The guy at the end of the bar has already requested I add two beers onto his tab. “For you and a coworker, when you get off,” he said, “I feel bad you’ve got to deal with that shit.” Ah, my saving grace is here. When you’re constantly being berated by irrational human beings, you begin to forget what rationality looks like. It looks like this man. And I spent the rest of the day dreaming about that beer. The cool taste of wheat and hops pouring down the back of my throat. So much so that I forgot about the witch at the end of the bar. I didn’t click my little red heels together and wish I was home once—and, for an introvert like me, that’s a pretty big deal.
And at the end of my shift, I’m on the patio with a cold beer in my hand, sharing a moment of solidarity with some poor bartender in Brazil who’s having recurring nightmares about the Wicked Witch of the West Coast. I hope someone bought him a beer. I’ll ring him up. Ding-dong, my friend. Boy do I have good news for you. You know that witch? The wicked one? A house fell on her head.