warmed by an almost uneatable quantity of soup dumplings, my birthday revelers and i ambled across the channel to drink, where an unexpected present awaited - john gertsen's gracious hospitality, undivided by other patrons. the bar manager lavished attention, stories, and enthusiasm over the eight of us for two long rounds.
at a later point in the night, john and some of us got onto the topic of drink styles by city. down to the quarter ounce differences between nyc-style and boston-style. but, being an obsessive consumer of cocktail blogoculture, i knew that boston's style would lose out to nyc's regardless, because nyc's bartenders get better press. (i had even suggested earlier that a friend might like the right hand, a milk & honey creation.) so i asked john why we didn't see drink putting out original recipes to get their name out there.
and he replied, thoughtfully, that he wants drink to last. not - he backpedaled - that he was slighting these nyc establishments, but, focusing on his own bar and staff, he considers a thorough knowledge of the classics a more enduring model than trying to keep abreast of trends and publicity. then, once the foundation has been set, they may try some crazy molecular mixology or the like.
his answer floored me. one, it was so frank. two, it was so heartening. three, it was so...unexpected. i have always thought of that bar as a trendy, idea-driven bar (no menus - genius). that idea has now been upended and replaced by drink as a classic bar for the generations to come, which just happened to prioritize the idea of bartender interaction. i had just assumed that it was designed to come, make money, and go, with patrons' interests or the wind, like a shaker-weilding mary poppins (rum punch!). that is the modus operandi in nyc, after all.
maybe i can give myself license to consider myself a regular now.