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Thompson’s berry-infused gin sour was robust and subtly sweet and, with each sip, melted away the author’s worries. Photo by Christina Berger

Some moments are so intense that every detail is seared into your memory. Others happen so quickly and unexpectedly that everything’s a blur. Before last Wednesday, the only blurry moments I’d ever experienced had been frightening car accidents — and a few booze-filled escapades in my terrible 20s.

That is, until I was unceremoniously escorted from my office building by police one sunny afternoon.

About an hour later — after sitting dumbstruck in my car, oscillating between sobbing and raging as I attempted to recount any of what had transpired mere minutes prior — I came to be perched on a barstool at Birdie’s Social Club in the West 7th corridor.

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I’ve celebrated most work-related events at Birdie’s: a farewell happy hour or two for a couple colleagues, a mini reunion with another group of work-weary folks, and now a parting of my own. This time, two of my closest confidants (“the survivors,” as one coined our trio) joined me as I gulped down a Backyard Mule and lamented the “elimination” of my position. Maybe I had hoped Birdie’s pastel, cheery colors would somehow lift my spirits … while I lifted more and more spirits to my lips.

The social media team for Birdie’s took advantage of the windy yet temperate day by standing atop tables to snap aerial shots of food and drinks. In perfect timing, just as I polished off my saccharine blackberry-enhanced twist on a Moscow Mule, a young woman from Birdie’s entourage approached and offered us a free margarita. “It hasn’t been touched at all. We only used it for photos if anyone wants it.”

Some cherubim or seraphim had smiled upon (read: pitied) me. Or perhaps one of the Birdie’s staff had overheard my friend’s improv comedy special detailing all the hypothetical ways I could exact strange and hilarious revenge on my former employer. Either way, I nabbed a complimentary, refreshing frozen marg and a show, so the crappy hour tipped a tinge more toward “happy.”

A survivor no longer, I continued to lick my wounds at Thompson’s Bookstore later that night. I’d become just another casualty of my department, which has been hemorrhaging talented people in the ballpark of one a month since I started there about a year ago. Funnily enough, even the ebullient bartender at the speakeasy beneath Thompson’s could relate, having not so long ago lost his luster under the same leadership (or lack thereof). Somehow that was consoling, and the whirlwind of an afternoon seemed less a disappointment and more a relief.

“Oh, shit! You got diet fired!” the tapster exclaimed after he’d coaxed the truth out of me with his sympathetic eyes and comforting “Wanna talk about it?” And who’s to say whether or not he would have offered a free shot had I not opened up to this complete stranger and, as it turns out, fellow fallen comrade? The ounce of well-balanced lemon, lavender, honey, and vodka went down smooth as we toasted our shared trauma with a four-letter word.

Given the small-world connection, I left it to my cohort behind the bar to whip me up something unique. When I said I preferred drinks made with gin, his eyes sparkled deviously. The next thing I knew, a gorgeous coupe glass topped with a thick layer of egg foam and a skewered blackberry appeared before me. (How did he know I have a thing for blackberries?!) The berry-infused gin sour was robust and subtly sweet, and, with each sip, I felt my shoulders slowly release from my earlobes. Good hootch will do that to ya.

My companion’s Smokey and the Bandit looked even more beautiful. Served in a coupe rimmed with barbecue salt, the blend of mezcal, orange and chile liqueurs, lemon juice, and bitters was smoky and salty with an added kick. It’s a mix of class and grit — James Bond meets Dirty Harry — distilled and shaken (not stirred).

Thompson’s Smokey and the Bandit is James Bond class meets Dirty Harry grit, distilled and shaken (not stirred).
Photo by Rosa Summers

At some point around 10pm, the midweek church crowd descended, flooding the recently renovated blind tiger. This hidden hangout, previously called the Rx, once featured vintage anatomical paraphernalia throughout. While modernized in a way that still harks back to the Prohibition era, the space lacks some of its original personality and charm though probably more closely resembles a classic speakeasy without the added brand confusion.

An older, rotund man with cartoonish facial features and a brusque manner, who almost immediately identified himself as the church group’s pastor, loomed over my pal and me and peppered us with leading questions as he bumped me with his belly. When he sussed out that we’re members of a church choir not of his particular denomination, he blurted, “The devil will find you!” and, teetering a bit, spilled some of his drink on me before returning to his rowdy flock.

I wish I had retorted, “Too late.” After all, I hear idle hands are the devil’s workshop — and, now that I’m “funemployed,” it’s only a matter of time. If (when?) Lucifer finds me, I hope it’s over a craft cocktail. As he drags me into the depths of hell, let it be a perp-walk to remember.

Birdie’s Social Club
Backyard Mule $13
Margarita $5

 

Thompson’s Bookstore
Smokey and the Bandit $14
Gin sour $12

The well-balanced lemon, lavender, honey, and vodka went down smooth as the crew toasted its shared trauma at Thompson’s Bookstore downtown.
Photo by Rosa Summers

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