May 3rd, 2009
The odds of my drinking like a lady at yesterday’s “Run for the Roses” party at Drink were about as long as those of Mine That Bird winning the Kentucky Derby. The name of the first-place horse could have been the party’s slogan, the bird in question being Eagle Rare bourbon. The whiskey flowed so lavishly that John Gertsen mixed a giant Mint Julep in a silver punch bowl just because he could.
For me, a good party was made even better by the fact that I got to enjoy my bourbon alongside one Mr. Paul Harrington, who happened to be in town for the weekend from the West Coast. In the ’90s, as a San Francisco bartender and the authority behind cocktailtime.com on the now-defunct web magazine HotWired, Paul was among a small handful of people who planted the seeds of the classic-mixology revival. He co-authored Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century (unfortunately out of print), a seminal book for many of today’s bartender-mixologists in Boston and elsewhere. Those influencees include Patrick Sullivan, who consulted Paul’s book when he opened the B-Side Lounge in 1998 and who, as it turned out, met the author last night for the first time. I’m getting verklemmpt.
Paul is a sharp, charming guy with an easygoing manner, and he is plainly impressed by the level that the bartending profession has reached in places like Drink. What he, Dale DeGroff, Robert Hess, Ted Haigh, Audrey Saunders and others helped start took a while to catch on, but now it’s fully in bloom. The good thing is, Paul’s no cocktail geek extolling mixological prowess above all. His advice to today’s barkeep is to remember that a bar should be fun and welcoming; combine that kind of vibe with expertly made drinks, and you’re golden.
Paul, here’s to getting your book back in print and opening up a joint of your own someday.