“a woman walks into a bar…” La Distillerie in Montreal

on 27/05/11 at 11:10 am

a woman walks into a bar...

Montreal. Le Plateau. Teeming street scene. Finally, the weather’s warmed up and that, to Montrealers, is the signal to eat and drink outside. Every bar and restaurant has a front wall that folds like an accordion and tables and chairs are whisked to the sidewalk. Except my destination, La Distillerie that’s still enclosed. No matter. I hear they serve cocktails in mason jars.

There it is. I step in and pause to look around. If I thought the street was bustling, the bowels of the bar are packed like sardines with animated conversation providing a Francophone din. I speak some French but everyone speaks English and they easily speak both without an accent. Fantastique! Why can’t we all speak multiple languages like that? Also, I’d say the average age hovers around 25.

Anyhow, all the bar stools are taken but I wedge myself in anyway. Hey, good fortune reigns. The gaggle of girls is paying up and I practically jump on the open seat. What’s this? Someone’s crying. Where? Oh, right beside me. She’s weeping, loaded tears of misery fall to the floor, a man tries his best to comfort her. I turn away.

Settling in, I wiggle my bum into the comfort position and eye the mason jars of cocktails. Bloody adorable bartender, pardon me, bartenders, are whirling dervishes practically throwing bottles and drinks to keep up with demand. I’m verklempt when one asks for my drink, immediately forgetting about the mason jar cocktails and order my fallback Manhattan…made with Canada’s own Crown Royal, Martini vermouth, bitters and old school cherries. Pretty good. I sip with one eye slyly monitoring the drama beside me. In the meantime, I peruse the patrons and strike up a mini-conversation with a group of guys. They’re regulars here but one complains that there’s no Guinness. Guinness? Have you ever had an Irish Car Bomb? Quizzical look. An Irish Car Bomb? Is it my English? I explain the drink and now he looks at me more askance. His thought bubble: Is she a crazy alky?

I’m done with them. Turn back on my stool. Here’s my opening: Excuse me, which cocktail is that? Crying girl who has now stopped crying: That’s a Basilic Romantic made with gin, basil (my notes say ‘mouse’ but don’t think that’s accurate – writing in the dark is often an illegible exercise) also champagne and strawberry juice. He’s having a mojito. We make small talk for a quick moment before I compassionately ask why was she crying.

Christine & Frank putting on a happy face

Christine pauses for a nanosecond before she disgorges the whole ugly mess. Stoically holding back the tears, it’s a heartbreaking story of love out of sync as she tells me she’s leaving for Paris, her home, in the morning after breaking up with her boyfriend of seven years. He doesn’t want a baby, can’t get past his baby fear. She loved Montreal and made the heart-wrenching decision to go with her gut, overriding the love connection for the pull of her maternal instinct. Christine’s 38 and time’s a wastin’. That baby clock is ticking louder than a church bell and she’s abandoning her executive bank job for the great unknown. No, she won’t have a baby on her own. How does she know she’ll meet someone else in time? She doesn’t but is rolling the dice and hoping for a double. Her friend who was consoling her, Frank, also just broke up with his girlfriend. It’s a night of cocktails and tears. I ask Christine to keep in touch. I want to know the end of this story.

Back into the night, the street’s alive with smokers, drinkers and revelers. Bars line both sides of the street and I walk into one of them to check out the scene. Not my bag but there’s a breathalyser on the wall. Wonder if anyone uses it. Decide to join some friends at a club over on Crescent Street. The street is crazy with people spilling out of bars, windows, cars cruising, a party on pavement. I spot Angelo’s and find myself in a scene out of a mid-life, angst-ridden playbook. Tightly packed bodies on the dance floor, with no rhythm, missing the beat. Desperadoes dancing close, swinging hips as best they can, cowboy hats, cleavage, dresses too tight, guys dancing alone, hope hanging in the air like a mirrored dance ball. How can they look so happy and sad at the same time?

I bid adieu, and even though it’s late, there’s one more stop ahead as I want to make the most of this Montreal visit and finish off the evening with a beer. Off to Dieu du Ciel, a brewpub over on Laurier. See you there in the next post.

La Distillerie

2047 av. Mont-Royal
Montréal, Qc
H2H 1J7

514-523-8166

Heures d’ouverture
16h à 3h tous les jours

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