One for the Road; The Bourdain of Booze.

That title may be pretentious but I’m a sucker for alliteration like most drunk poets (I’m looking at you Seamus Heaney). After a not-so-dry January, I’ve decided to take a look back at my long and wonderful love affair with alcohol.

My first drink was probably a drop of J&B on the gums as a teething baby. Although not Irish but Italian, no one puts grappa on a kid’s gums because that would be insane. Whiskey is the correct drink for a baby, this is a well known and documented fact. My real career in drinking began like most in college at UCSB (U Can Study Buzzed was thrown around often), where I was an avid reader of Hemingway because I loved the idea of making a living by writing drunk, boxing, and travelling the world. My drink of choice was a Rusty Nail, the drink my father called his favorite, a man who to this day claims he has never been intoxicated, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen him drunk. That said a Rusty Nail for me is 2 parts Scotch Whiskey to 1 part Drambuie and not to be messed with unless properly trained. I remember going to the legendary ancient jazz dive Arthur’s Tavern in NYC when I was 22 and asked the salty waitress for one. She paused giving me a hard look over and said plainly “you’re too young for a Rusty Nail, I’ll bring you a rum and coke” and proceeded to do so. Pure NYC.

a young, and perhaps sober Roberto, heading for Italy at 17.

From humble beginnings beautiful booze has brought me as many fond memories as it has clouded. I remember 50 cent giant cold Touborg beers on the veranda of a 16c. villa turned youth hostel just outside of Florence, falling in love with an Australian girl named Eva Toussaint. My parents, both airline employees, and Eva, just being an Australian, made a career of being a professional backpacker at very early ages, and like two international jet setters that didnt have two dimes to rub together between them, we would meet up in far-off places around the world in a blink of an eye for a shot and kanpai. Eventually I would move to Brisbane to be with her, fall in love deeper, be introduced to the true Dark and Stormy while watching the State of Origin on the tele, and ask her to marry me, all because of a cold Tuborg beer in Florence.

Unfortunately I was just turning 22. Man, writing that makes me laugh.

The proposal didn’t work out, I had to go back to the states and finish my degree and become a human. I left, heartbroken, unsure if I did the right thing, and confused about the future. Obviously I made a beeline for my local; Tom Bergan’s, the only real Irish bar in all of Los Angeles.

Tom Bergin’s was hallowed ground. It’s where I would go after a grueling day of work and school. My friends would pour in and we’d drink Guinness and Jameson all night, and when “Sweet Caroline” would come on the juke we would all pound the bar “Da Da Da, good times never seemed so good SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD” like a drunk soccer chant (is there any other?). After 2 A.M. they would do a “lock in” with the regulars, and I would smoke cigs while my best friends Dave Hanson would talk about the plays he was writing (and later become a fantastic playwright) and Chris Sullivan would talk about the parts he would want to play (and become a famous actor) and I would talk about the places I wanted to go. We sat under the South-West corner of the U-shaped bar, beneath three green shamrocks cut out of a Mickey’s case of beer that had each of our names on it; a badge you were awarded if you were a true regular, and not easy to earn.

It was in Tom Bergin’s that my life would change forever over a drink.

I was there, crestfallen from recently breaking up with the first true love when I heard over the already rowdy bar the distinct intonation of an Australian. It’s an accent that is immediately recognized anywhere in the world, like the sound of a leaf blower or a glass breaking in a restaurant. In my semi-sauced state I saddled up to this nearly 7 foot lanky Aussie and made fast friends, as I knew I would with anyone from the great Oz, presumably to tell him of my woes and tales of love lost. Predictably our conversation turned to drinking at which point I made a startling discovery.

“You never had an Irish Car Bomb?”

There are few accolades I take true relish in. One is having a film in the permanent collection at the MoMA. Two is meeting Anthony Bourdain. Three is teaching an Australian something about drinking.

Jimmy the barkeep was always listening and without having to ask two half filled pints of Guinness and a shot of ice cold Baileys slid before us. We dropped our shots in the pints and opened our gullets to let the elixir slide down our throats. I can’t say it’s a drink I enjoy often, but I’m always amazed how much it taste like cake to me. Justin, the Australian, must have enjoyed it too because he never forgot this interaction, which would end up making my dreams come true.

A few years later I get an email from my long lost drinking buddy Justin saying that he runs a travel magazine in Australia, and remembers me telling him (somehow) that I was a writer and traveller. He was wondering if I would be interested in writing a local piece about NYC (where I was living at the time) for the mag. Boy was I.

I had never written an actual travel piece before but it came pretty naturally, especially about NYC a town I knew better than most others. Justin thought I was a natural and immediately started offering me other assignments. First hitting up random destinations like Memphis and Miami, then much more exotic ones like Peru and the Canadian Arctic. I have discovered rooftop Jellyfish Bars in Manila, elite speakeasies under the Little Nell in Aspen, and had muktuk shooters at the Northernmost Stripclub in the world. I have been writing with Get Lost Magazine for over a decade and have experienced some of the worlds most sublime adventures because of it, exploring the frozen North-West passage while sipping cold Corona’s in the hot tub on the deck a Russian Research (spy) ship. Drinking chicha (spit beer) along the Inca Trail while staying at the world’s most luxurious hike in lodges in the world, or a fermented ayahuasca drink in the Peruvian rainforest while studying Macaw parrots at the Tambopata Research Center. I’ve learned the secrets of distilling the northernmost whiskey in the world in Iceland (hint: it’s made with sheep dung). I’ve sailed to the illusive Marquesas islands in French Polynesia on a half cargo-half-luxury-liner named the Aranui and got tattooed by a chief in the bay where Melville wrote “Typee” while sipping warm champagne. I’ve eaten in the 3rd greatest restaurant in the world, Central, an elevation dining experience, and the oldest restaurant in the world, Botin, serving suckling pig for 500 years. I’ve done all of this because of a drink in a bar with a friend and never forget that.

Booze has intoxicated me more then just physically in my life and I would have it no other way. So here is a moment to look back at some of the finer moments I happened to document were a good drink has made magic happen.

3A.M. Shanghai Bar Tattoos

You know any video with me screaming “LET’S GET TATTOOS!” as I drinking snake infused baijui at 3 A.M. in a very dimly lit back alley Shanghai bar has to top a list somewhere.

Belgium is the Beer Capital of the World

Most every country makes a form of beer, from Makgeolli in Korea to Kvass in Russia, but in Belgium people’s viens run with barley and they bleed Lambics.

5 Oldest Bars in NYC

Good history only makes drinking better. NYC is rife with watering holes that precede the countries formation, and which is the oldest is seriously debated. One day in June I decided to get to the bottom of the debate and visit each one to hear first hand who could claim the crown.

Making 2000 year old Roman Vermouth.

Ancient history also only makes drinking better. During the pandemic with some time on my hands, my friend and I attempted to faithfully reproduce a 2000 year old recipe for vermouth found in one of the oldest cookbook in recorded history. All I can say is we didn’t go blind.

Booze is Better on a Boat.

Amsterdam might be best known for its smokable delights, but for me it was it’s rose colored ambrosia that stole my heart. Boat culture is something that many travellers overlook when exploring Amsterdam, which is a shame, because there is nothing more fun than cruising the canals with chilled rosé making new friends.

New Orleans

It’s hard not to think of drinking when you hear New Orleans, and for good reason because the streets run with rum down there. Fortunately I was with a Bywater local that showed me all the back alley spots locals wet their whistles at, letting me go full Bourdain in one of my favorite love letters to an amazing drink-centric city.

Spain Loves Monday Nights

Barcelona and Madrid both hold special places in my heart. Barcelona’s dolce far niente (or I guess dulce hace nada?) attitude rivals Madrid’s deep tradition of good living (they do have one of the best, and oldest, restaurants in the world). They also love a good party, and choose Monday as their day to let loose. Between Madrid’s “Fucking Monday” and Barcelona’s “Nasty Monday” it’s hard to choose where to be hung over on Tuesday (Hint: it’s Barcelona;)

Berlin is more than Brews

You know by now I’m a big fan of beer, but what I really like is finding the unusual, and if you can have a drink when you find it, all the better. So while travelling in Berlin we decided to scope out the more hidden gems, like a bar that serves drinks in a ketchup bottle, a bar that hasn’t been closed a day in over 40 years, and a parking-lot-bar-art-gallery that boasts the best view of the city.

Boston’s 5 Best Breweries

5 is a magic number for beers it seems, so when WOW airlines (remember WOW?) chose my friend and I to be travel ambassadors, the first exotic location they sent us was … Boston. I joke but Boston is one of my favorite towns, and if you even remotely like beer, you gonna love Boston, so we curated a brewery tour that took us to our favorite places and learn every variety the beer-centric Boston has to offer.

Jakarta’s Illusive Smokey Negroni

It’s usually pretty easy to find a drink anywhere I go in the world, save for one place: Jakarta. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, which means no demand for alcohol (which is largely illegal), so to find a bar, let along a booze temple that boasts a magical smoky Negroni, was a very unique find indeed and required on the spot documentation.

Edinburgh’s Scotch Malt Whiskey Society

In Leith, on the waterfront of Edinburgh, if you are fortunate enough to meet someone that is a member of “the secret vaults of the Scotch Malt Whiskey society”, you might be asked inside, and if you ever so gently ask to interview their caskmaster, he might be willing to talk casually over a delicious dram. Lotsa maybe’s went into this. (on a side note, I have to add in Flokí, the Northernmost whiskey distillery I visited in Iceland, who flavors their mash the old style, that being, with sheep dung. It’s … impressive)

Liquor in LA

Let’s get one thing straight. The greatest bar ever to grace Los Angeles is Tom Bergin’s. That said I would never make that information public on a YouTube video. I would offer three more elaborate pics to show off the flair and pageantry LA is known for. A stripmall speakeasy, a NYC dive in WeHo, and a rooftop looker should do the trick.

The Brewhaha

Lastly, a blast from the past, and one of my first videos I ever made. Back when craft beer culture began to explode I thought it would be a great idea to make a beer variety show called The Brewhaha. It had beer news, skits, some history, contents, and a reference to the Snooki on the Jersey Show (this was like over 10 years ago, give me a break). I produced, shot, and cut together a pilot episode, and learned a lot about beer in the process that I have a hard time remembering.

The Brewhaha – Sizzle


The Brewhaha – Pilot

This has been so much fun to write, I don’t even know how to put it in words. I’m lucky I made films of some of these experience, to keep the memories sharp and the colors vibrant in my mind. Alcohol has provided so many interesting experiences in my life, from professional ones like doing commercials for Belvedere, Absolut, and Guinness, to drinking parking lot “tuba” wine in Mindanao and driving from LA to Hyder, Alaska in a straight shot, only to get “hyderized” at a bar and drive back (I failed that midterm). It was never about getting drunk, it was always about learning and connecting with people and places through something that is rather universal. There are so many styles, techniques, and varieties of drink out there that stretch back to the beginning of human culture, and is such a part of the human existence.

So nice to look back at a life well drunk, and here’s to the next round. Here are some pics … each has a special story … all have a drink to go with them. Salute!

>> Roberto Serrini is a travel journalist and filmmaker for Get Lost Magazine. He has explored the world making hundreds of video you can watch on his YouTube Travelclast channel, and works professionally as a commercial director when not out getting lost.

AMSTERDAM Travel Guide.

Cheap, good and off the beaten path, so excited to share with you a few of our favorite places in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is so much more then cheese, sex and pot (although they have that all as well and it’s fantastic) … what makes this town so rad is how well they know how to live. The folks that live here love life, and love loving life, and show it in everything they do, from their culture, to their food, and especially in their love for boats…

And if you want to get into the deep culture that is Amsterdam there are plenty of places to go deep. Sure they have world class museums like the Rijks and Anne Frank Museum, but there is so much more to explore, check it out.

 

Now you’re probably so frigging hungry you considered eating some of that cat nibble you saw at the cat museum (no shame if you did). Fear not there are a ton of great places to get your grub on from great Asian street food, to classic Apple Cake and cafe, to food halls that simply cater to all tastes.

 

Obviously you’re going to need to wash down all this deliciousness with something, and thankfully the Dutch do drinking well. From great beer, smooth Rosé and some intense old-school gin, you can wet your whistle in many different forms.

 

Lastly, it’s bedtime my friends, and time to rest your heads… there are a ton of great fashionable hotels, and of course, AirBnB’s galore, but if you looking for something budget, that is definitely an interesting experience, consider the Hotel School. Yeah. It’s a school, for hoteling, that you sleep in. You are basically the students homework. Surprisingly the service is top notch, and the cost extremely reasonable with a quick 5 minute tram ride to the city center.

That pretty much wraps up Amsterdam for us, stay tuned for the 10 other cities we traveled to this summer for WOW Airlines. You can read all about the experience at our other site, The Travel Agency. 

Jellyfish Bar Manila

I’ve seen a few unique bars in my life … there is Harley’s Hard Rock in Yellowknife, the northern most strip club bar in the world. There is the Caverna Antica in Ischia which is in an old Roman wine grotto that you have to spelunker to. The one that might be the most mind blowing is simply atop the I’m Hotel in Manila, where a thousand jellyfish wait to drink with you.

I didn’t know that Jellyfish could be such a rewarding drinking buddy. Their, wandering, devil may come lax attitude makes sipping a cold Singapore Sling while watching their slow mo dance a lot like sharing a cold beer with the Dude. It’s pretty chill.

Turn around and you are afforded perhaps the best view of Manila that the city has to offer. 360 panorama’s that come alive as the sun sets and the city becomes electric.

Theres lots of great sitting areas, a cool lit wall, and even a pretty decent menu to get your nosh on. Down below the insane Makati streets are teeming with traffic, prostitutes, and hawker stalls, but up here, closer to heaven, it’s just you, your cold drink, and the Jellyfish ballet.

Rs

 

Roberto Serrini is a professional Filmmaker who records his adventures in wordphotography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

The Five Oldest Bars in NYC

I’m a native New Yorker, and so my history lies deep with this town. I’m also adoptive Irish, so my liver runs deep as well. So it was fitting to merge these two passions of mine and seek out the FIVE OLDEST BARS IN NEW YORK CITY.

The result may surprise you … well, frankly, it may surprise you how many dead people are buried behind the bar at your favorite watering hole.

Briga-where?

Brigantine you fool! What you never heard of Brigantine New Jersey? What, you live under a rock or something?

Maybe you know it as “City of East Atlantic City” which it was once called. Maybe you know it as “the place with the WAWA before you get to Atlantic City”. Maybe you know it as “that shithole you stayed at because the Borgata in Atlantic City was full”. Whatever you know it as, I doubt you have seen it in all its glory. Thats why during a job photographing Congressman Patrick Kennedy (I mean if its good enough for a Kennedy, right?) I got to experience Brigantine for all it was worth, and lemme tell you, it’s a hellova place.

First, lets mention what Brigantine is famous for (other then teenage pregnancy). It’s majestic lighthouse.

Brigantine-Lighthouse-0

Glorious no?

You may notice that its in the middle of the road. Not surrounded by water. Anywhere. Thats because this lighthouse was built in the 20’s as a tourist attraction, and it was unfortunately not tall enough, and not close enough to either body of water, to be at all useful. In its day it has been a police station, a gift shop, and a way for drunks to find their way home from the Rod and Reel (or Cop and Feel as my amico Jamie Ward, a native, used to call this classy bar).

Now, on to our sleeping accommodations.

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No, its not the set from the acclaimed Martin Scorsese film Shutter Island, it’s the Legacy Vacation Club! While the website will not tell you when it was built, the chatty staff will say it was built around 1929, and may or may not have caused the stock market crash. Either way while it wasn’t built yesterday it has that Shining charm that makes you want to write a novel and murder your family, I mean, lay at the beach.

For me, its the perfect hotel. I loathe cookie-cutter, personality-less joints. This place exudes character. It’s historic, has a great view, and has a hipster TV. Yes, thats right … A TUBE TELEVISION. Bet that’s worth money.

Attached to the hotel (perhaps against it’s will) is a nice little restaurant and outdoor bar, that was pretty damn lively for a weekday, or maybe not, it is Jersey. Our bartendress was a badass, and made our drinks long and strong. She had an interesting coin hanging from her neck so I asked her about it. “Oh yeah,” she said, wicked good accent, “my pop gave me this before he left. I was young. Donno what it is.” It was heavy and didn’t look like a repo. So I took a picture of it and sent it to a historian friend of mine.

Turns out it’s a Spanish Piece of 8. Could be worth a few grand. Just hanging round her neck. No big deal.

Thats the kinda joint this was. Adventure!

The town of Brigantine is quaint, quiet, and quixotic. Maybe not quixotic but I ran out of Q words, but I will say that it is a typical east coast seaside town. Everyone working is like 15 years old and wears a t-shirt a size too big and their hair in a ponytail. Mom and Pop stores have little signs on doors that say “be right back” and thats about all the info you get. It has the comforting feeling that they set this town up about 30 years ago, stepped back, and said “Yep. Done.” and kept it that way and everyone was cool with it.

For a traveller, it’s these little towns that make me happy, because they are real, organic, and alive. Everything you find here is here because it’s supposed to be, not because someone willed it there with demographic research or any desire to invest. Which brings us to The Cellar.

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So. I’ve eaten at French Laundry. Even Per Se. Twice. The Cellar is the real deal. You see, there is no restaurant in the world that is also a liquor shop. Or rather, there is no liquor shop that is also a restaurant. Take your pick, either way, when you experience The Cellar you are basically experience what Darwin would call “Environmentally Influenced Evolution”. It just happened to a business and not to a finch.

Basically you are sitting in a liquor store, eating dinner, served by 15 year old’s who are someones daughter. It’s perfect Jersey Shore, YEAH BUDDY. Here’s the thing… the food? IS FUCKING AMAZING. Sure, you have a bucket of beer helping you taste, but no joke, the pork chop? LEGEND.

A quick aside about pork chops….

I donno when, maybe about a year or two ago, I started going on a chop kick. Whenever, I mean whenever I see a pork chop on the menu, I order it. And lemme tell you… I’ve never been disappointed. My theory is that a pork chop is either one of two things… good, or fucking horrible. So if it’s the latter, well, it wouldn’t be there.

So far my theory is in perfect standing.

That was it for Brigantine, where the people are super friendly, the restaurants have liquor stores, and the hotels are not haunted a lot. I highly suggest you come stay, visit, and enjoy as it’s much better then it’s flashy neighbor AC. Good on you Brigantine for changing your name. You are much more then East Atlantic City. You’re Brigantine.

And oh, they have scrapple.

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Rs

addendum… Patrick Kennedy is an amazing man. Super lovely, intelligent, and someone that really makes you believe again in politics (and human beings). Also his house is beautiful and has some of the most amazing shingling I’ve ever seen. All in all, photographing his portrait was a wonderful experience, and the fact that he calls Brigantine his home makes me love him, and the fine town of Brigantine, even more. You can see more pictures from that here.