Good bars and bartenders are surprise, excitement, inspiration. Early Saturday evening, I dropped in on Reza Esmaili, a gentleman and a scholar at Smuggler’s Cove, to taste something I wouldn’t have thought to have at home. It’s good for the thoughtful drinker to get there early. Not only is it generally true of going out in the Age of the Bimbo that the later it gets, the thicker the douches, but also that there may be a wait to get in where the drinking’s good. And at 5:30, the place was already buzzing.
I squeezed up to the downstairs bar, finger-hooked a menu, and sat by the waterfall where I could decide from the 80 or so drinks on the list. Smuggler’s Cove isn’t just about Traders and Beachcombers but represents the gamut of rum, from the days of the flip iron to the present.
With that in mind, I picked the oddest-sounding one: the Calibogus. A modern rendering of a Colonial-era head-pounder of spruce beer, molasses and rum, it featured an interesting item, Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur. I wondered if it would have a Retsina-like hint of turpentine, but the actual effect was of a distant cousin to root beer and quite mellow.
For the next drink, I was ready to ask Reza what I needed to try, and he made me the contemporary Pampanito, a long drink with Venezuelan rum, molasses, lemon and allspice dram. This had the elegance, balance and vitality of a classic drink. It was a perfect choice. I put myself completely in Reza’s hands.
While we had a bit of off-list fun, I watched the crowd: tourists, hipsters, bachelorette partiers, middle-aged locals on a lark, overflow from Pride. It was fun listening to the orders. Most of them were cocktails from the list, but a few people ordered beer. Someone wanted a rum cocktail that would appeal to people who like Manhattans. One young woman, a little ditzy, was at a complete loss as to how to ask for what she wanted, though it was clear that her drink, whatever it was, would be quite sweet.
Amused and puzzled, I asked Reza for his thoughts, to which he replied that people often tell him what they don’t want in a drink when they would be better served if they were taught to describe taste. Sweet, for example, isn’t as useful a descriptor as rich and tropical or citrus. I listen to his questions for the customers: More like this or more like that?
Reza, by the way, will be starting a place of his own soon. I hope to stay in touch and see him there. An interesting fellow. Wish him luck.
drink one up
5 hours ago