Spontaneous Order in the Cocktail Lounge

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It’s Friday night after a long week at the office. You gather a few tolerable co-workers and head out for some spirited refreshments. The elevator doors nearly meet before an arm halts their convergence. It’s New Guy from the marketing department, at once svelte and awkward. Not expecting him to accept the invitation, you ask him to join you. To your surprise, your cohort increases in size by one pair of thick-rimmed glasses.

While there’s unspoken agreement amongst your group that Corner Bar is the manifestation of mediocrity, it always ends up being the watering hole of choice. You’d be willing to venture down the street to East Tavern, but Julia would surely complain about the loud music. Likewise, West Café would be a welcome change of scenery, but Stan would protest because of the high number of “youths.” So, Corner Bar it is—familiar, established, and non-controversial.

Your group posts up at a table along the wall. After an uncomfortably long wait, a waitress approaches to take everyone’s drink order. Stan leads off with a rum and Coke, the alcoholic equivalent of white bread. Julia follows with a light beer, and Mike and Dana follow suit. Batting clean-up, you request a gin and tonic.

Now it’s New Guy’s turn. “Negroni,” he says with a reserved confidence. Stan leans over to Julia and snickers, “Sounds racist.” “Serve it up, please,” adds New Guy.

Within a few minutes, the waitress returns bearing libations. Starting from the left, she passes out the drinks one by one. The Negroni is last. New Guy proposes a toast in celebration of a hard week’s work. Everyone at the table merrily raises a glass and serial clangor ensues.

Once immersed in petty small talk, you become intrigued by New Guy’s beverage. “What exactly are you drinking?” you inquire. New Guy describes the drink in detail, answering your multiple follow-up questions regarding how he happened upon it, what he likes about it, and if that’s always his potion of choice. “Would you care to try it?”

You’re tepid at first. The drink’s nearly mystical aura makes you pause before accepting the generous offer. Delicately grasping the martini glass, you bring the liquor to your nose. A single waft is all you need to realize that the Negroni is unlike anything you’ve ever encountered. Sprightly floral gin, subtly sweet vermouth, and rich herbal Campari coalesce perfectly into a magical red elixir.

And then comes the moment of truth. Your lips touch the cold rim of the glass. For everyone else, this ephemeral moment is like any other. For you, it seems to last a lifetime. Time stops as the intoxicating liquor touches your tongue. You savor the liquid for as long as you possibly can.

Heretofore unfamiliar sensations overwhelm you. At once, you experience joy, fright, wonder, and insatiable curiosity. All of your past drink decisions are immediately called into question. You become bemused and annoyed: what took me so long? Suddenly, you feel inexplicably different from everyone else.

New Guy reclaims his drink as you summon the waitress to order a Negroni for yourself. Twenty minutes later, everyone at the table except Stan is drinking one. While no one realizes it at the time, you’ve each broken a lifelong pattern of playing by the rules and wondering why you’re not having any fun at it.

You consider ordering a Negroni for Stan. He must try one! If there’s one staring him straight in the eyeballs, he’ll be compelled to take a sip. Before ordering, though, you rethink your plan. Maybe Stan isn’t ready. How would you have liked it if New Guy ordered for you?

You realize your best strategy is not to force the Negroni upon others. That would only compromise its valor and charisma. You must set an example. Whenever it’s your turn, you’ll order with a reserved confidence. Like New Guy, you’ll stand poised and prepared. You won’t coerce others into ordering a Negroni; rather, you’ll let natural curiosity get the best of them.

Faces may contort at the first sip of the Negroni’s stringent bitterness. Its price may turn some away. The Negroni isn’t perfect, but it can always be improved: better gin, better bartender, better company.

Alas, there will still be a demand for bad drinks—those everyday concoctions with which people are so blindly content. At the very least, you’ll know that you’ve discovered something with more substance, more flare, and more livelihood. Even one other individual discovering it because of you is a win for both you and the Negroni. After all, it only takes one spark to ignite a flame and only one flame to engulf a forest.


Joseph S. Diedrich holds a degree in music composition from the University of Wisconsin, where he currently attends law school. He is a libertarian blogger, author, and speaker. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter (@JSDiedrich).

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