Vodka and I have had a fickle relationship over the years. It began back in the days when I couldn’t legally buy vodka, but in those days, vodka was the spirit of choice because “you can’t smell it” – whatever that meant. Anyways, I remember being underage at a wedding and drinking screwdrivers thinking I was both so mature (how classy is that guy drinking the orange juice?) and so stealthy as an underage imbiber (yeah, sure, it’s just orange juice). You have your fair share of vodka when you move from high school to college. Vodka was easy in a dorm because you could hide a bottle in your closet and an RA would never know. You’d find someone who had ID and you’d ask them to get you a big bottle of Majorska at the package store and you’d be set for the weekend.
My relationship with vodka took a hard left at a point during our Homecoming weekend in college which was one of those days where day drinking was on the agenda. Somehow we were introduced to a drink that was called a ‘machine’ which was essentially a glass half filled with a mixer or juice and then you would fill the rest with vodka which you would pour through a facecloth so the vodka would kind of float on the top. Then you would gulp it down. To be honest, I’m not even sure if that’s how this worked, so don’t take that as a recipe, it’s just how I remembered it. The ending of that story involves the dark side of drinking and me leaning over a toilet for some considerable time. That’s when I swore off vodka.
Working in restaurants for the next 25 years, I watched a resurgence of vodka come to the market. First with the high end vodkas (Absolut, Stoli, Grey Goose) and then with the flavored vodkas (from Absolut Citron to Pinnacle Whipped Cream). It’s really come a long way. Somewhere along the line, I tried vodka again. I think I was baited into a lemon drop shop and to my surprise, I didn’t throw up on the spot. At some point, when looking for a drink to be my go-to wedding beverage, I started trying Stoli Ohranj with soda water and that soon became my beverage of choice. I’m a sucker for orange flavor and the addition of the soda water makes it a good refreshing beverage. So I was back on the vodka train. I’ll never go for a straight up vodka martini, but I’ve learned to live with vodka as an important ingredient in some great drinks.
To celebrate National Vodka Day, it being a Tuesday, we decided to return to the Irish Pub in Bristol for Trivia Night. I know, Irish Pubs are not your spot to truly celebrate vodka, but we got the trivia bug the last time we were there and wanted to go back. I opted for a Stoli O (that’s how us cool guys order them) and soda which was served pleasantly in a pint glass with a fresh orange slice. It was good, although not very boozy. As a server or bartender, I hated when people complained about their drinks saying there was no booze in them. Drinks are made the same every time and if they want more booze, they will have to pay for it. However my drinks really seemed a little light. Regardless, I raised my glass and toasted to the wonders of vodka!
We were up for a celebration but I hate to say it, our choice of restaurant kind of failed us tonight. First, they were super busy for trivia and the whole top floor was full. There was one bartender on who was taking care of the bar and all the tables. She had some help with people running drinks and food, but she was mostly alone. She was very capable and did great, there’s just no way one person can take care of all those people. That’s one of the operational troubles of Trivia Night. The place is full, but people are there for the whole night so you don’t flip your tables. Consequently, you don’t make that much money as a server because your tables only fill once. I assume they don’t staff up to allow their bartender to make some money but the service is affected. I ended up only having two drinks because the bartender didn’t come around for more. We ordered food which was ok (their chowder is excellent), but we also ordered some corned beef potato cakes which we asked for with mustard on the side. They came with mustard on top which was no big deal but I won’t eat mustard, so I sent them back (I never send anything back in restaurants). When they came out again, they had mustard drizzled over half of the cakes which we couldn’t understand. And really, why would that happen? It worked out ok, I ate the non-mustard ones and Lola had the others. It was just slow service which continued to the end of the night when we wanted our check.
Trivia was just ok too. We were in the lead after the first of two rounds and poised to be a top finisher. We missed a few crucial questions in the second round so heading into the final question we were down by 8 points. The final question is supposed to be a hard one but you are given 15 points to bet with, so you can go all in and make up some ground. However, whatever you bet, if you get the question wrong, you lose those points. It’s the final challenge and the betting your points wisely will make or break you in the game. The question tonight was worded terribly and the host even had a tough time saying it. So after she reread it, as a hint, she gave a little extra emphasis on the word “You!” and even added in a pronounced finger point. That kind of gave it away for everyone (it was a reference to the Uncle Sam “I Want You” poster). What should have been a challenge was essentially a gimme and there was no way to catch the leader. I also think I saw the leader using their phone during the game (a big no no). Maybe I’m just a sore loser. I was tasting victory but came up short. But I still feel that last question kind of changed the game. Maybe I was in the wrong frame of mind. It was busy and loud which was starting to get under my skin (some yahoo even stood up and yelled “SOCIAL!”to the whole bar – is that still a thing?) It was all a little much for me, but then again, I was still angry from not winning.
Once again, my friend vodka took me an another adventure and I guess that’s how I celebrated vodka today and how I celebrate every time. You just never know what you are going to get.
Today was National Taco Day too and I reheated my tacos from yesterday’s National Soft Taco Day for lunch, so I guess you could say I celebrated that too. Yeah, I’m still protesting some of these holidays due to their relationship to my former employers. I know, that’s petty, but it is what it is. Maybe that’s where the vodka comes in, to help me forget. We will see.
Next Up: National Apple Betty Day