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Swithwick’s

October 29th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Guinness, Country: Ireland, Grade: B-, Style: Red Ale

4.5% ABV on draught

Sunrise on a foursome ~ Murphy bed ~ Brian ~ Brazilian meats ~ Umbros as underwear ~ Brian’s tippling caveat ~ Meet Market Adventures ~ The seduction(s) ~ Boutique hotel rooms ~ Bathroom coitus ~ What the fuck? ~ Breakfast and laughs

The sun came in through the eastern exposed window, hitting the four sleeping people crammed onto the small Murphy bed which housed from right to left, easterly to westerly: me, my one-night stand, Brian’s one night stand, and Brian, all of us in various and unfortunate states of undress. The previous night had begun so normally, so PG, so unceremoniously headed toward mundaneness and early bedtimes.

But then, ain’t that how the best nights always begin? With the lowest of low expectations?

On Thursday morning I received a text from a good out-of-town friend Brian. He had been handed some spur-of-the-moment meetings in New York and was on the Acela en route. His night would be free though and he thought we should grab dinner. On the company card, natch. He enlisted me to pick a place. Living in Hell’s Kitchen near Little Brazil, I instantly offered the idea of a churrascaria, otherwise known as stuff-your-face-with-skewered-meat-until-you-are-supine.

Before Brian’s communique, I had planned on doing laundry that night, having no underwear clean. I hate going commando, especially on a hot and sticky night in the city, so I rummaged through my dresser for the most undergarment-like thing I had to don. Eventually, in the back, back, back of my dresser, I found a pair of high school-era tight-like-the-Europeans-wear Umbro soccer shorts. Shimmery, shiny, overly colorful, and with a long drawstring, they would have to suffice. And, since Brian had already explicitly stated that we would under no circumstances be drinking alcohol due to the fact that he had a bright-and-early Friday meeting, I figured I’d only be out wearing my soccerwear for an hour or two. Hey, what could go wrong?

Soon, I would see how Murphy’s Law would lead to Murphy’s bed.

We met at the Brazilian joint, asking to be sat in the dark basement so impressionable youths would not have to witness our savage destruction. For those of you rubes that have never ate churrascaria before, it essentially works like this: for a single price (usually in the $20-25 range) you get an all-you-can-eat of carnivore’s delight. On your table you have a card, on one side a green “go” light, on the other a red “stop” light. As numerous ESL waiters walk through the dining room carrying countless skewers of differing meats on a stick–beef, chicken, pork, lamb, shit wrapped in bacon, etc–a green light-turned card tells the gents to keep piling portions onto your plate. Not expecting to drink, and showing amazing discipline in spurning offers of delicious Caipirinhas, Brian and I must have put down a dozen pounds of animal in under a half hour. It was glorious. And, oddly enough, over oh-so-quickly.

Our bellies bulging like Buddha, we listened to a seemingly endless loop of “Girl from Ipanema” and “Mas Que Nada”–apparently the only two Brazilian songs ever written and performed–being played by the bossa nova band out front, laying back in our chairs and gasping for air. The night was still very young. What could one drink hurt?

I hate to transgress my friends, so I refused to broach the subject. But I hoped. I sent ESP signals across the entrails, viscera, and meat-laden spittle covering our table. Finally, Brian reacted, a neon bar light going off beside his head–an idea!

“Let’s go get A drink,” he said, accenting the “A” with a long-vowel stressing–as opposed to the typical schwa pronunciation–that one only uses when they are truly fucking serious.

Nearby on Eighth Avenue was a bar where Brian and I had had some fun times in the past and he quickly offered up that joint for my approval. Now, for whatever reason, I–like most locals–never go out on Eighth Avenue. Eighth is for the bridge-and-tunnel, the happy hour heroes, the tourists with just enough balls to venture to a tavern outside of Times Square, and flight attendants in town for the night and staying at nearby midtown hotels. In other words, a perfect storm of deviant, don’t-know-when-they’ve-had-enough, easy lays. Fun times are always had in Eighth Avenue bars, I should go more often. This time would prove to be no exception.

As we entered the classless and sterile pub, a stream of all-dolled-up women spewed out the front door like a bison herd. “Did a pipe carrying noxious gases just burst in back?” we wondered. Nope. Seems a Meet Market Adventures speed dating event had just ended. We would quickly realize that the girls leaving the bar were the ones that still had a shred of dignity, a sliver of confidence still inside of them. These were the girls that wanted to at least cry about their romantic failures in the privacy of their own homes. What remained in the bar was a gaggle of desperate women who had amazingly not found “Mr. Right” during the event and were now content to get shit-faced while singing along to “I Will Survive” off the Bose jukebox.

We pushed through the failed would-be Mr. Rights, milquetoast dorks dressed as if they were attending a wine tasting, blazers and khakis galore, all smarting after having been rebuffed by the female speed-daters, and hit the bar to get our drinks and scope the scene. With no great tap offerings we went with Swithwick’s, the ubiquitous and usually mispronounced beer* that is satisfactory enough in a pinch.

Brian and I quickly showed our speed-seduction prowess by becoming the life of the bar, the bon vivants of the party, the idols of every girl in attendance. We are funny and scene-stealing enough in normal crowds, but going up vis-a-vis with pathetic speed-daters was as if you had planted a steroids-era baseballer back into the 1940s. We quickly had our pick of the litter. And I don’t mean litter (def. 1), I mean litter as in garbage, rubbish, refuse.

Brian went for the queen bee, an actual employee of Meet Market who was running the whole sob-fest. With 300 ccs of confidence injected into her chest, I was quite jealous of Brian’s score. I found myself with a cute but pathetic speed-dater, too shy to flirt and do much talking, malleable to my every whim. In other words, perfect for me, as I adore the sound of my own voice and I very much like to tell women what to do as though I’m Patton.

Not surprisingly, only A drink became huge tabs replete with pint after pint and shot after shot. Soon we were the last in the bar and the party needed to move elsewhere. Brian suggested retiring to his nearby hotel room to hit the minibar and play some “party games.” Of course, upon arriving at Brian’s hotel, I learned that it is what is quaintly known as a “boutique.” Which, in Manhattan, means a tiny, shithole. The room was as small as a janitor’s closet with nothing more than the aforementioned Murphy bed, a mirror, a rabbit ears TV, and of course nothing even remotely resembling a minibar.

The four of us stared at each other with dumbfounded, what the fuck do we do now?, looks on our pusses. It was near 4:00 AM and our options were limited. Fortune favors the bold, and followers need leaders, so I had no other choice. I ordered my girl:

“Go to the bathroom, strip naked, and I’ll be in there in a sec.”

And she wordlessly did as she was told, shutting the door behind her. I shrugged at Brian and he shrugged back. Quite frankly I was a little impressed by myself. Brian’s girl had a leery look on her face, wondering what deviant things were about to occur. “Hey, you run these Meet Market Adventures. You should be happy she’s about to get laid.”

I followed my girl in, indeed finding her naked and standing in the bathtub. I liked this one!

We began to ravenously make out and as I reached down to unbuckle my jeans, for the first time in twelve hours I recalled what I was wearing under them. I snickered in my head, a tinge of worry, predicting that nothing kills a drunken 4 AM mood faster than hot pink and purple soccer trunks. Thus, I was forced to pull everything down at once, in the blink of an eye, totally breaking hook-up protocol but thus never giving her a chance to see my embarrassing Umbros.

When we finished, I no longer cared. I threw on my Umbros and we headed back into the room, finding Brian and his girl missing. We collapsed on the bed, my girl kindly insisting that the two of us only take 50% of the small sleeping space, should we doze off and our friends return. Of course, that is exactly what happened, and that is exactly how just a few hours later, I woke up in a tiny Murphy bed, me, my girl, Brian’s girl, and Brian, all in various states of undress. God, I don’t want to know what happened on the 50% of bedspace open beside me. Then again, at least I had my girl as a buffer, like those bumpers you throw up to help kids and retards bowl better. Likewise, I couldn’t complain as it was possible I had caused Brian’s company to get charged room damages for my bathroom dalliance.

Somehow, Brian woke the exact same time as me, and over top the shoulders of our sleeping lasses, we looked at each other and laughed. And then, OHHHHHHHHHHHH!, collapsed back to our shared pillows, our heads throbbing with the most epic fucking hangovers ever.

“SHIT!” Brian’s meeting was in just fifteen minutes. As he scrambled to get dressed, I tried to shake the bitches awake. I’ve always been amazed by how deeply somnolent my one-night stands can be. Girls are just wired differently than us I suppose.

By the time the girls were awake and tidy enough to walk of shame back to Yonkers and Hoboken–each of them cutely giving their respective man a business card should we ever want to have future contact with them (we wouldn’t)–Brian had already decided he wasn’t making his meeting and would just call in sick, cementing his status as a legend of vice.

We headed to a diner to grab brunch and recount the past fifteen hours ad nauseum.

B-

*Smi-dicks

Irish Carbomb

October 21st, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 8 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Guinness, Whiskey

ABV insignificant

The Vice Blogger quite notably hates shots. Catchers gear may be the so-called “tool of ignorance,” but shots are the libations of fools.  Shots are for people that don’t like the taste of alcohol.  They’re for people that like giving unnecessary high-fives and woowooing (not a coincidence that that’s a name of a shot).  They’re for men that wear sleeveless shirts to bar.  They’re for people that think the lead characters in “Swingers” are people to be idolized instead of dolts that Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn were actually mocking.

Why would one ever do a shot?  If you’re ordering quality alcohol you should savor it, drink it as slowly as possible.  Shooting some quality booze is like ordering an Elliot Spitzer-approved $1000/hour hooker, then seeing if you can come with a single pump.  Meanwhile, if you’re ordering shitty liquor…well, maybe you should just dump that in the trash rather than your face.

Shots are for movie characters that have just gone through a break-up or lost their job.  For stevedores that head straight from the dock to the local dive, ordering a shot and a beer every single round.  And those shots are straight up hardcore, rotgut.  They are not fit for real humans that check their coats when they enter the bar.  For dainty little people that use coasters and ask for the “lightest” beer on tap.

Doing shots is like cheating to get drunk, a shortcut for people that can’t handle the effort, can’t manage the marathon tippling it takes to get loaded some nights.  Shots are akin to using performance enhancing drugs. And I don’t like it. Which is funny because I actually have no problem with steroids in sports and don’t think they should be banned*.

Having said that, there’s a certain je nai se quois about carbombs that I do kinda dig. No, they’re not something you should have every time you go out, or probably even once every month. And, quite frankly, they’re kinda douchey.  But once every season, when a large group of friends has gathered, when there’s something to celebrate, or something to forget (usually a sports loss), they are a great drink.

I love the ceremony of carbombs, as your waitress sprints back to the bar stand with an “I don’t believe this” look on her face, forced to gather all bar hands on deck for the massive project of halfway filling up countless pint glasses with Guinness, making a complimentary number of Baileys and Jameson shots.

I love the guy, usually the fella that initiated the bombing much to many of his mates’ chagrin, looking around like a good host, making sure, “Everyone got one? Everyone got one? We ready?  We ready?”

I love the anticipation as everyone lines up as if in the starting block of a 100m dash. Their drinking hand firmly wrapped around the pint, their off-hand holding the shot glass above the Guinness. Every time I reach this step a bit of totally unnecessary nerves come over me–being an Aurelius stoic I never get nervous for anything–but car bombings makes you feel like something of deep importance, something of great gravitas is about to occur. And I’m not sure why that is exactly.  I think it’s kinda like a boxer entering the ring, not sure whether the remarkable (or miserable) will happen within the next ten seconds nor possibly not at all.

I’m always nervous that the shot glass will shatter upon it’s deployment, that the cannonballed beer will splatter all over the place. Alas, it never occurs.  I also am always worried about someone inhaling the shot glass down their esophagus. This has SURELY happened somewhere. Surely. Though I have never seen it in any of my career bombings.

AND GO!

You drop the shot and with the most melodic *CLINK* it rattles down the sides and hits the bottom of the glass.  You chug the entire concoction, watching out of the corner of your eyes how your friends are progressing.  I’ve never ever seen people bet even a nickel over a carbomb chug, yet we men go after them as if our lives are on the line, looking askancely to see how our buddies, nay competitors, are doing, hurrying up our drinking if necessary to catch up.  Whatever it takes.  A move that frequently leads to brown liquid being poured all down your chin and onto one’s shirt.  Yet another great reason the Vice Blogger is always a man in black.

Upon finishing, you slam your glass on the bar, wipe your face with the back of your arm in a continuous sweeping motion from mid-ulna to fingertips, and smile at your friends.  Triumphantly unfurl a belch if possible.  Like a gunslinger blowing the smoke from his pistols.  Ah yes.

Carbombs, they’re so childish, yet so…manly.  Maybe we should go back to calling them boilermakers like our grandfathers did.  That sounds more masculine, less Jersey shore “Yo, let’s go ‘ave some car bawmbs, yo.”  Boilermakers let you know the gauntlet has been laid down, “Oh, it’s gonna be one a’ ‘those’ nights,” everyone says.   Yes it is.

Maybe next time, children, I’ll tell you about truck bombs.  That’s a pitcher of Guinness with a plopped rock glass of Jameson/Baileys.

_____

*I say this neither to be transgressively contrarian nor ironically humorous.  There is no reason to ban performance-enhancing drugs in sports.  It is impossible to accurately monitor usage, impossible to consistently apply the rules (why is cortisone across-the-board legal?), it gets Washington involved in even more useless exercises of sanctimony than we could possibly need, and the health risks are debatable if not completely dubious.  Oh yeah, and fuck “the kids.”  For the best take I’ve ever seen on steroids please check out this year’s brilliant film “Bigger Stronger Faster*.”

Guinness Extra Stout (Original)

October 1st, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Guinness, Country: Ireland, Grade: A-, Style: Stout

6% ABV bottled

An only-drinks-macros-except-for-Guinness-(which-is-actually-kind-of-a-macro-too) friend picked up several sixers of Guinness’s Extra Stout for some afternoon football watching. After sip one of bottle number one from six-pack number one, he had a look of “What the fuck is this shit?!” come across his face. Clearly he expected the creamy, fluffy, uncarbonated, highly-drinkable, biteless quasi-stout he had been drinking for years on draught.

Little did he realize–just like most people don’t–that there’s actually a second version of Guinness, their Extra Stout. He was disgusted, the Extra Stout was far too potent and full-bodied for him. Fine with me, Extra Stout is superior to the “real” Guinness as he called it. Funny thing is, Extra Stout is actually the “real” Guinness*, the Guinness that’s been around since the days of Joyce and the other drunk Irish writers that no one reads any more but everyone has posters of in their bars. That nitrogen-infused milkshake shit was only invented in the 1960’s. I’m being a little harsh though. I don’t actually mind Guinness Draught and still have it from time to time, but it’s nowhere near as good as the Extra Stout.

Extra stout has no nitro-carbonation like the Draught does (both on draught and in it’s annoying widget-can forms) and that makes all the difference. Likewise, it’s 1.8% in ABV higher. That can’t be dismissed either. Nice, smoky, roasted barley, and hints of coffee. Still very drinkable–well, sippable at least–and no chance of getting a foam mustache.

However, I say the best thing about Extra Stout as opposed to the Draught is that your friends that visited Ireland once for a few days during college won’t be able to pontificate ad nauseum about how the Guinness in Dublin is so much better than the one you are currently drinking in America. And how the bartender–oh, shit! did you see what that IDIOT just did?!–doesn’t know how to do a “correct” pour. Guinness Extra Stout leaves no room for those annoying complaints and I love it for that.

Finally, not to get too profane–cuz that ain’t what we’re about here at The Vice Blog–but if you drink a ton of these like I did over the course of a Saturday, you will spend most of the next day on the toilet with a little Irishman’s revenge, a charcoal black enema constantly oozing out of you.

Turns out Guinness Extra Stout is indeed “good for you.” That is if you’re trying to clean out your entire insides and can’t afford a trip to the colonic spa.

A-

*Some might even say the Extra Stout’s not “real” either, the original recipe of Guinness said to be closer to 7% ABV.

Guinness Draught

June 4th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Guinness, Country: Ireland, Grade: B-, Style: Stout

4.2% ABV on draught

Needed a midday quaff to still (steel?) my nerves and an $8 (!) Guinness pint from an overpriced and empty corporate midtown NYC pub seemed like the perfect choice. I used to drink Guinness a lot when I was a younger lad but now not so much. Maybe it’s cause I don’t have as many Irish friends as I used to. Thick and milky but not as potent and heavy as I recall. I used to think myself a badass for polishing off five of these during a happy hour. Now I realize at 4.2% that wasn’t much of a feat. Quite frankly, I don’t find the beer that tasty or flavorable any more. No hops, no bite, and thus very drinkable. Probably why it was so beloved during my salad drinking days. Nowadays, I think I might enjoy drinking this more for the memories, the aesthetic, and the process than for anything else. I enjoy watching the bartender use the slow two-step process to pull it. I’m tickled when a cloverleaf is swirled into the top of the head to finish the pour off. But I don’t really love this beer any more. And, I’m certainly not one of those American douchebags who visited Dublin once during their junior year of college and now will spend the next 70 years of their drinking lives telling any one that will listen how much better Guinness is in Dublin. How us dumb Americans get a poorer quality product than they do across the pond. How we drink it too cold here. Or too hot. Or in the wrong, wrong, very wrong glass! How our stupid bartenders don’t even pour it correctly! FUCK, that one week in Dublin was awesome! You Yanks just don’t get it!!!

B-