I just don’t get ‘going for cocktails’ and never will
Just a pint for me please, mate
Confession: I am stingy. Very stingy. I go food shopping at 8pm to buy the reduced trolley food and would rather get the night bus home in the pouring rain than fork out for an Uber. So when someone suggests “drinks after work”, my heart sinks. When this escalates to cocktails, it plummets.
Most people drink to relax or get pissed. Cocktails fail to help you achieve either of these things. Obviously there’s the sheer irrationality of handing over a tenner for something that is, in essence, a splash of spirit crowned with ice cubes and a mint leaf in a jam jar.
The stress about the price means I never really enjoy them – I think, with miserly anguish, “this sip just cost me £2.80” – and the meagre alcohol limit won’t even come close to the three pint feeling I would otherwise have enjoyed for the same amount of money.
But that only happens if you’ve managed to order from the sticky, syrup-stained menu. It’s enough to make someone give up hope. The outlandish names and “experimental” ingredients make ordering a cocktail harder than predicting this years’ Premier League winners. What the fuck is a “Bend Over Shirley” or a “Monkey Gland”? All I want is something with gin and a bit of lime, but no – that’s far too simple. Instead there’s just an assortment of popcorn, chocolate, asparagus, bacon – flavours you never see together in close proximity anywhere else, perhaps for good reason.
Then the whole cocktail etiquette is confusing. You awkwardly stand there as a bearded guy with a pen behind his ear and bow tie and braces concocts his drink with the focus and fastidious dedication of a doctor performing heart surgery. It’s an agonising three minutes before the drink arrives. Am I meant to be impressed? How am I meant to show this appreciation? A knowing nod? A tip? Much better to get a jug of Woo Woo from Wetherspoons and avoid this dilemma all together.
The atmosphere of cocktails bars only plays into this claustrophobic, contrived dynamic. The speakeasy-style wooden bars, lurid coloured bottles, neon “mood lighting”, overeager bartenders, checkered tables, Chesterfield sofas, cheap jazz music – all this amounts to a stuffy, faux-seedy setting that takes itself far too seriously. As do the clientele. This is the worst thing about cocktails and cocktail bars: their inherent exclusivity marks them out as a symbol of social prestige, something the metropolitan elite in the City seem to champion as a necessary indulgence, just another accessory for the moneyed lifestyle they lead. It’s an integral piece in this mosaic of consumption – just like doing cocaine in the toilets at lunch or collecting Mulberry handbags.
Of course, this is what all indulgences are: unnecessary and overpriced treats you ought not to buy but do anyway just for the hell of it. But indulgences are also meant to be enjoyable. And the whole experience of going for cocktails – from the price to the atmosphere and the very meaning behind them – leaves a sour taste in my mouth.