freeing the butterflies

[by john]

the pernicious condition of butterfly collecting can befall any experience-trapper - cocktail nerds, foodies, movie buffs, and travelers alike. the original pastime, once enjoyable, collapses to single-minded pursuit of a checklist of must-have specimens. naveen and i have talked plenty (and he even posted [twice]) about this problem, but still i fell into it.

my dc experience in january set things in stark perspective - the expectation-free neighborhood joints, like bourbon for no-hassle cocktails or fireplace for no-frills beers, outshone the capital-c cocktail bars that i, as a capital-c cocktail lover, was obliged to visit. it was as if i went to a country for the passport stamp, not the experience.

each of the 26 cocktail blogs i subscribe to has made it increasingly clear that, no, i cannot keep up the joneses with all three chartreuses and every arcane amaro in their home bars, nor their launch party invites, nor their historical knowledge. but hell if i can't enjoy myself with a drink in my hand! a few recent experiences have shown me that i don't need to kill each butterfly to ensure enjoyment:

genever & rum

i threw a party as an excuse to catch up with some friends i hadn't seen for a while. unlike the last two day festival, i actually relaxed this time. chatted, joked, didn't pin myself behind the bar...like a host ought to do. and yet i managed to introduce just about everybody to the oddities of genever and the joys of rum, with a damn good menu to boot. and as satisfying as that was, mixologically, it was more pleasurable to hear about grandmothers' recipes for pâté and fine dining faux pas.

italian on st. patrick's

as i sedulously examined the cocktail menu at coppa, the newest south end hotness, my friends chided me: 'are you gonna blog about this?' 'no', i retorted. clearly, i lied, but for a different reason - instead of taking notes on the creative workarounds for a place without a full liquor license, or a forgettable genever and yellow chartreuse cocktail (how far i've come to say that!), i chose to enjoy the palpable giddiness at the table from the vermillion pitcher of aperol and springlike weather in mid-march. the duck prosciutto and gossip didn't hurt the memorability, either.

four nationalities walk into a bar...

after beers and whiskey at a typical boston irish pub, i decided to drag three foreign visitors to green street for cocktails. it's always fun to nudge people outside of their beer comfort zone, and even more so when the colonizers (the briton and dutchman) had already traded barbs with the colonized (the american and south african). the cocktails were fine to bad (rum and fernet? never again.), but the conversation was excellent - health care, wal-mart, the superiority of the south african accent for picking up girls, dirty secrets of radio astronomy... who cares what you're drinking if that's how you're talking?

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