Monday, September 29th, 2008
I greeted the evening with a late-night invitation to the Beefeater party at Maxim, a huge club here in Berlin. I wasn’t able to make it to the party, unfortunately, but I’ll promise a reasonable explanation – along with a definition of the term “Irish Goodbye” as an answer to the obvious question.
Once I’d finished the final touches on my BCB presentation for tomorrow, I received a Twitter message from my friend Jörg Meyer, of Le Lion in Hamburg, for dinner with a few bartenders before the party.
Not one to pass up the opportunity to feast with a group of colleagues, I jumped into a cab and raced across Berlin to Schnitzelei, a gorgeous modern Weiner Schnitzel restaurant in Berlin. (For those of you from the States, Wiener Schnitzel is not sausage, but rather a gigantic plate of thinly-pounded, breaded veal. Think of a better chicken-fried steak without all the bullshit on top)
Anyway, I sat between legendary German bartender Goncalo de Sousa Monteiro, and legendary green-skinned UK cocktail blogger Jay Hepburn for the duration of the meal.
A word about German restaurants: this was actually the first full meal I was able to enjoy so far here in Berlin. I made a huge miscalculation by not continuing my year of German in college, and have so far had to suffer through tremendous understandings, like the amazing realization that brot doesn’t mean sausage, but rather dry bread. Not exactly quite the thing to put down with a rich German beer. At any rate, the first round of nouveau-traditional German tapas arrived, and the crowd of twenty tucked in with full force. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one suffering from the Monolingual Curtain here.
I chatted with Goncalo about arcane liqueurs and the flavor profiles of practically every European vermouth out there while we watched as plate after plate of schnitzel arrived at the table. The tradition here is to name the country that your schnitzel most resembles, and I was relieved to be handed a full meat-map of the Golden State of California (my birthplace) complete with accurate rendition of the San Francisco Bay. Ah, home.
As we all swilled tall mugs of pilsner at long wooden tables, I listened to Google Alerts fan Simon Difford regale our corner of the table with tales of the European drinks trade, much to everyone’s delight.
It’s especially easy to put down a California-sized plate of meat when your right side is numb from the silence of the hangover from a famous UK cocktail blogger, and soon I was looking up to wonder if I were the first to finish.
As we all leaned back in our chairs, bottle-after-bottle of a local schnapps began to arrive at the table, with big-little glassware set in front of every guest. There was another good hour-and-a-half of coffee, schnapps, conversation and back-slapping as we made our move toward the next destination.
And this is where the Irish Goodbye comes in, because as soon as I learned this term from my friend several years ago, I’ve become addicted to its social brilliance ever since.
The party was gravitating toward a huge club for a late night of drinking on Beefeater’s tab, but all I really wanted was a simple night cap and a cab ride back to the presenter’s hotel for a solid night’s sleep before my presentation tomorrow. So I helped steer the tide toward Lebensstern again, for a ginormous gin selection and a quicker hop back to the hotel.
Obviously I’d brought my camera this time, so I was finally able to capture bartender Thomas Pflanz on film as I sipped my gin and tonics. But as the crowd began to all sway in the same direction, I started looking toward the door.
But how to escape? The door was blocked by a thick ring of bartenders, all of whom I would have liked to speak with one more time. My eyes scanned the room as I realized that the bathrooms were conveniently located near the exit. I gladhanded several associates as I explained that I was in a hurry to find the toilet, crossing my legs as I spoke a pidgeon hybrid of English and German. I even feigned ignorance as to its’ locale to strengthen my alibi. I’m a silly tourist, I don’t know where I’m going!
“It’s right over there by the stairs, Herr Morgenthaler“, they offered as I thanked the suckers for their generous directions. And as I washed my hands in the restroom to afford myself a wider escape-window, I laughed to myself in the mirror.
The trick to the Irish Goodbye is to look as if you’re on a mission, as if you’ve got someplace important to be before coming back to the bar. But once you’ve made it outside, my friends, you’re practically home-free once you’ve hailed a cab.
Give yourself bonus points if you can get the driver to sing Killing Me Softly along with you at the top of your lungs.