Georgette Moger-Petraske conjures ideal drink dens with bartenders from around the world.
This column imagines fictional bars, set in eras long since past, dreamed up with bartenders beloved the world over. Each of the bar men and women featured in this column have collaborated with me on where our imaginary bar would be. Together, with the fantasy staff and clientele filling it. The house specialty will always be crafted into a recipe to replicate at home. The latter evoking the spirit of being there—because while we may not be able to sprint back to 1928 to sip libations in a secret garden bar in Marrakech, nor journey back to 1948 to send a nip of brandy down to Paul and Julia Child in a near-vacant bistro, we can dream. In this column, dreaming is always on the house.
Bar Emeritus as imagined by Georgette Moger-Petraske and Daniel Zacharczuk, General Manager, Bibo Ergo Sum, Los Angeles
It’s an uncharacteristically balmy afternoon in Paris. You’re a New Yorker who just crossed the Atlantic. You got spit out of Le Havre and slept the whole train ride to Gare du Nord. Well rested yet restless, you’re on your way to your hotel. You were at first compelled by wanderlust to walk, seduced by the feeling of wandering lost. It’s now 4 o’clock and you’ve spent the past two hours floundering down both sides of the canal with a defeated feeling you are no closer to your hotel than when you started.
While there were trains, trams and taxis you could’ve taken to spare you the blisters, those were tools for tourists, not you, the boulevardier, with your keen internal compass. You find yourself on a narrow side street where out of the corner of your eye, you spot a tiny watering hole. You take pause and a step back. Bar Emeritus is etched in fanned-out Feder-Grotesk across the top of the window. Through the door trickle fragments of conversations and laughter that competes with a crackling phonograph of mirthful crooning.
Gincidents, games and concoctions
Parched and overheated, you part the curtains. Your face meeting with a cool gust of champagne and sandalwood breezing from across the bar from a fan and ice block. The room is dotted with cocktail tables and patrons in festive spirits. Men in linen and twill are conversing and clinking glasses with women dressed in silks made shabby from cigarettes, opium, or what could be called ‘gincidents’.
At the bar you recognize a slim figure in a sharp ivory suit as Jean Cocteau. He and a young man dressed just as dandily are exchanging scribbles dashed on folded bits of paper; it’s game you know of as exquisite corpse. After taking all this in, you’re inclined to sit down and make the acquaintance of the barman. You are ready to ask him for the cocktail du jour. While the bar is stocked with ornate bottles of potions of every color, everyone seems to be sipping the same curious concoction.
In an accent that matches yours, the bar man reveals to you the pink drink filling everyone’s coupe is a variation on the Artist’s Special. It’s a blended scotch cocktail that migrated over from the Artists’ Club. His is a Rhum Agricole interpretation he calls The Martin Ink—Martin, being a play on Martinique, where from the rhum originates. And, the proverbial ink that the patrons of Bar Emeritus sip to gild the lily on their prose and paintings.
“An American in Paris”
You learn that much like yourself, the barman is an American who found himself in Paris. Unlike you, he’s an ex-pat who couldn’t resist continuing to do what he loves, in a place where patrons embrace the sort of inclusivity that’s translated across cultures and languages. Prohibition be damned. He clinks your coupe of Martin Ink, a chime that jolts you back like a newly revived corpse. An exquisite one at that.
Despite the pink hue of the drink, there is hardly a note of sweetness. There’s a swirl of wild grasses and anise stems, the tartness of blackberries not quite ripened. Something nutty that reminds you of a Christmas cake. You savor the last of your drink and fearing the day slipping away, know it is time to make your exit. You generously pay your bill and pocket a matchbook, ensuring you’ll never forget the bar’s address. Valise in hand, you part the curtains once again to reveal the afternoon sun, thankful it has yet to set.
As you look up from your watch, a taxi rounds the corner, yielding to the flap of your arm and your request. “Majestic Hotel, tout de suite!” In the car you imagine the sort of friendships you would form in a bar like Emeritus. But only if you too lived the ex-pat life of the barman. As your taxi glides past newsstands and boulangeries shuttering for the day, the pink glow of lamplights illuminate the apartment windows above. A warm buzz from the Martin Ink fills you with the courage to question how you could ever go back to New York? In this city that feels more like home by the minute.
Martin Ink cocktail recipe, Courtesy Daniel Zacharczuk
1 ½ oz. Rhum Clement VSOP
1 oz. Amontillado Sherry
¾ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. grenadine
¼ oz. Crème de Cassis
Shake well over ice and strain into a coupe. Extract oils from a lemon peel into drink and along the rim. Discard peel.
Georgette Moger-Petraske is a travel, spirits and style writer whose work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, Departures, Imbibe and Edible magazines. Her best-selling book, Regarding Cocktails, published by Phaidon, is a liquid memoir and celebration of her late husband Sasha Petraske’s legacy in spirits and cocktails.
Don’t drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly.