Drinking In Euroland
November 18, 2018
Have to start by saying Europe, I’m a big fan. Tremendous culture, etc.
But outside of the big cities (and even at many places in the big city) they just don’t run bars the way we do in the U.S. of A. – correctly.
Two stories, of Scotch and Martinis…
First - In a bar in Nancy, France; it’s busy so we’re upstairs. Buddy asks for a beer, I ask for a Clan Campbell scotch and hold out 4 fingers as I say, “Quatre deciliters”. Now that brand is a mediocre blended whisky but I have to drink it for obvious reasons and also it almost always comes in a nice glass with the name printed on it. And I have to say 4 deciliters as that is the standard double pour, which if you know me is a minimum. The waitress replies, “I don’t speak English”, and that sounds odd as she says it with almost no accent; meanwhile my French isn’t so bad that “Quatre deciliters” can’t be understood in context. I continue holding up my 4 fingers and she leaves.
She comes back with friend’s beer, 4 individual scotches, and the bill. I can understand why someone would misinterpret my four finger indication, but it’s the rare waitress who would so blithely go through with delivering on this. Long story short, yes, I took that as a challenge and was victorious. Which, again, if you know me, isn’t too much of a stretch.
Best part is at the end, when we’re left alone for a 40 minutes with never a return visit from anyone. Don’t they want to sell more merchandise? Why no upsell? And/or, how about checking in on the guy who ordered 4 whiskies? Sadly, this is normal behavior in Euroland. (And no, it not spelled ‘behaviour’). She’s left the bill, so I and friend just leave and look for her on the main floor at the register. A different guy waiter is there and I hand him the bill, at which point he becomes flustered and tries to explain the practical impossibility of someone paying for a bar bill without the original waitress present.
Being a Yankee, I just place more than enough pieces of Euro-paper in his hand and walk out.
Second - there is a strange conspiracy across Europe against the one true Martini cocktail. If you go in to a bar, especially a relatively modern version, there will be a cocktail menu with Long Island Ice Tea, Mojito, Daiquiri, Mai Tai, Cosmopolitan. Point being they’ve heard of dozens of cocktails and a are happy to serve and overcharge for them.
So for example in Dunkirk, I order a Martini. A European waiter will then ask dry or sweet — See, they don’t know what a “Martini” is, all they know is the Martini brand vermouth which comes dry (white) or sweet (red).
Now I don’t mind at all that they prefer their local Martini brand over the cocktail - but the thing is they don’t even know that such a thing as a “Martini” cocktail exists which is strange considering the enormous effort they’ve gone to to copy (steal) all the other cocktail recipes Americans have invented for the past 30 years. And extra-strange given the Bond movies that have hawked Vodka martinis for at least that long.
But I’m more than happy to have fun at a bar and let them know what needs to be done to make a Gin Martini – hey, put in a bunch of Gin, and then a splash of dry vermouth, chill over ice, serve, and thanks! Instead what I get is Gin, dry vermouth, and ice chunks with pieces of lemon and lime wedges. And served with a small bottle of sparkling tonic water as if that will make things better.
I can only presume that the Martini brand corporation in Europe has put out some sort of cone of silence across the bartending culture - they not only feign complete ignorance of the Martini cocktail but actively go out of their way to sabotage it even when given specific instructions on what to do.