“a woman walks into a bar…” at Baldwin Barmacie in Montreal
on 21/10/11 at 9:17 ama woman walks into a bar..., Booze News, BoozeBlog
OMG. Everyone’s looking at me, young eyes pierce the veil of creeping decrepitude. Is she lost? Is there an all points bulletin for a woman who likes to wander into bars to get away from her local Final Sunset Home? Ok. I exaggerate but it’s painfully obvious I’m the oldest person in the room. Seriously, it’s weird to me as I venture out to places where it seems no one of a ‘certain age’ goes – either because it’s after 9, or they have just given up on having fun. The awkward moment passes as the youths return to their tête-à-têtes and the bouncers give me the nod to go on in. It’s early and they probably need the body. Do I sound cynical?
So, this is Baldwin Barmacie, a cool Montreal bar on a cool Montreal street. Montreal is just plain cool anyway, no matter where you go and I’m not just saying that because it’s where I’m from. It just is. The Baldwin bar is supposed to be a take on a pharmacy, hence, a ‘barmacie’…get it? so it’s all white and clean looking, beautiful and comfortable but not in an antiseptic way. I cruise the bar for a seat but the empty ones have little ‘reserved’ signs in front of them, probably waiting for their hip, fab regulars, so I sit at an empty banquette, make myself comfortable and settle in to take in the scene. A sweet young thing materializes to take my order. Wait. Is this girl old enough to be here? Her skin is so fresh, impossibly smooth – like a plastic mold. Was I ever like that? I must look up some old photos…you know, the kind we took with film cameras.
The cocktail menu has the requisite multi-ingredient, cutesy named drinks, but I order my test drink, a Manhattan. And here it comes. Why it has little ice cubes in it with a little cube of orange on the lip. Hmmm, I never thought to ask for it ‘up’. Curious, I venture over to the bartender and ask what spirits he used: Canadian Club, red vermouth (sic), and Angostura bitters plus those little ice cubes. “Yes (dear bartender), it’s good but I usually have it ‘up’” “Oooh,” he sighed, “I always serve it neat…I don’t know why I made it with ice.” “No worries,” I reassure him. “Ice happens.” Overheard by the other bartender, he gave him a good load of good-natured shit about it.
Back to the banquette, out comes my camera to snap a few pix. Suddenly, the first bartender appears and takes a seat. “Uh, it’s okay to take pictures but my boss would go crazy if he saw you. He doesn’t like it for some reason.” (Hence, the paucity of pictures of all the beautiful people and friendly bartenders.) Taken aback I explain I’m not a bar spy, I’m from L.A. and I write about going to bars. Here’s my card. Duly impressed, he invites me to sit at one of the empty bar seats. “But I thought it was reserved?” “Yeah,” he says with a smirk, “I reserve it for people I want to look at.” Holy shit. The veil of creeping decrepitude is whisked away by the kindness of a stranger. I smugly take the ‘reserved’ seat at the bar.
My savior has long stringy hair, a substantial beard, a burgeoning potbelly and a charming, sweet nature. “Call me JF – Jean-Francois…” We chat about the hockey game – the Habs were losing – and stuff about L.A. Alfie, the other bartender, is friendly and cute as well. They work super fast and free pour. Don’t measure a thing. People start drifting in. Everyone is beautiful. Everyone looks interesting. Montreal has fabulous women…beautiful in a European way, definitely not in an L.A. way, if you know what I mean. The guys are their match and everyone looks casually fabulous. I ask JF and Alfie how they can stand all the beauty that comes into this bar…JF laughs: “We do go a little crazy sometimes.”
I finish my Manhattan on ice, and Alfie asks if I want another. Sure, why not. He sez he makes his ‘up’ and promises to one-up JF. He makes it with Bulleit bourbon and orange peel, no cherry. It was delish. Two Manhattans, beautiful people, charming bartenders…I better quit while I’m ahead, so I bid ‘Good night’ to JF and Alfie, throw a kiss or two and head past the burly bouncers out into the lovely Montreal midnight air. Hey, there’s Dieu du Ciel…a great beer bar. Time for one more?
Montreal, QC H2T 2N6, Canada