Writers share anecdotes and reminiscences about their favorite bars from around the world.
There’s no shortage of writers who’ve waxed poetic about their drinking habits, gaining notoriety, if not infamy, for pickling themselves alive. Yet what’s often overlooked is the habitat of the drunkard: the bar. Manning’s (The Things that Need Doing, 2010, etc.) well-curated collection of anecdotes, stories and sorrowful remembrances is a paean to these cathedrals of booze—the charming or surly wait staff, the choice music blaring from the jukebox and even the strict rules that define the space’s etiquette. Divided into categories separating the seedy dives from the upscale cocktail joints, the dimly lit date-night hideaways from the rowdy sawdust houses, and the bar around the corner from taverns in some of the most remote locations on Earth (imagine the inconvenience of a sudden beer shortage on the South Pacific island of Tarawa), these recollections will make even the most ardent teetotalers pine for a cold brew. Not to undermine the seriousness of alcoholism—and many of these stories hint at the perils of overconsumption—but there is true romance in the home-away-from-home feeling that comes with being a regular at one’s favorite watering hole. For the Croatian writer Robert Perisic, it was the heartbreak of losing his go-to spot by acquiescing to his wife’s demand that she have it as part of their separation. For Katy St. Clair, it was putting up with ridiculous surcharges to help preserve the Polynesian-themed Tonga Room in San Francisco. For others, it was the rite of passage of underage drinking, feeling welcome in a new country or simply the pursuit of a bespoke cocktail. Though the tales are inherently nostalgic, many of these places having long since shuttered, there is ultimately the optimism that there’s a clean, well-lighted place for each of us. Other contributors include Jack Hitt, Laura Lippman and Darin Strauss.
A delightful collection that will surely inspire many bar-hopping tours.