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.

Best Bars in Boston? Here’s a perfect night out.

Where are the best bars, clubs, and places to get your drink on in Boston? We’ll we got a few laid out for you here, from the swank cocktail cathedral Industry (correction: now “Drink”), to the jazzy Beehive, cross town to Cambridge to the speakeasy Barcade, and ending up at the Rockwell for Shitfaced Shakespeare, this was a pretty good night all in all.

Dont forget to check out our 5 best breweries in Boston to keep the drink flowing – coming up in 2 days!

(Drink) Industry: Address: Congress St, Boston, MA 02210
drinkfortpoint.com

Beehive: 541 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116
beehiveboston.com

Roxy’s Barcade: 292 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
roxysgrilledcheese.com

Rockwell: 255 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144
therockwell.org

Shitfaced Shakespeare: http://www.shitfacedshakespeare.com/

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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.

dear cops. I bought pot.

That’s right fuzz. I bought pot. Lots of it. Pot you can smoke, and some you can even eat. And what’s more… I smoked it. In my face hole. Yup.

So whatchagonnadoboutit?

Nothing. That’s right. Mainly because it was legal, as I bought it in Denver, Colorado; the new pothead’s playground.

bud

This is the first of a series of posts about the adventure I’ve had out mid-west. It was an eye-opening experience, and anything but sobering. I’m going to break it down into a few different chapters:

• The Beer
• The City
• The Food
• The Hotel
• and of course, The Pot.

First, a prelude.

Beyond just going to the mile high city to get stoned (yep, dodged the pun. You’re welcome) it was my yearly boycation with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mr. Tom Taddeo. Tom and I lived with each other in a slick little Hell’s Kitchen apartment back when you could still smoke in the city. Since then we’ve been married, and some of us divorced, but  every year we set a long weekend aside to check in and check out a place we’ve never been. The choice to go to Denver went something like this:

Tom: “So where do you wanna go this year?”
Me: “Donno. Preferably somewhere with good food and beer. And pot.”
Tom: “So. Denver it is.”

And it was.

sxsw

It’s important, perhaps more than anything, to make the time to take the time in life. The younger version of me would be proud that I do that now, cutting out a few precious days to reconnect with an old friend who’s seen you drink your share, make a decent amount of bad decisions, and has become a ring in the trunk of your existence.

So I crossed the great divide to meet up with ol’ Taddeo and watched the fabric of the country roll out its quilt 30,000 feet below me. 29,000 feet later I was on land, but frankly it could have been the moon.

Denver, I would find out soon enough, is a very strange place.

Rs

plane

drinking where you shouldn’t.

Well at least you look good doing it.

Last week I checked out the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. For those of you interested in going next year, let me tell you, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME OR HARD EARNED MONEY. WORST TIME EVER.

That is all.

Garbage! Dont go!
Garbage! Dont go!

They gone? Sure? Ok… for those reading on not planing to ever go and risk changing it in any way, it was the most fantastic place to get shitface in the history of getting shitface.  King Tut getting pissed atop of a pyramid yelling “I’m king-tut-of-the-world bitches!!!”. Boring. Caesar doing a backstroke in a golden vessel filled with fine Roman wine? Snooze. Napoleon getting trashed with Marie Antoinette, panty-less, atop the Arc de Triomphe? Lame. (Lame but count me in.)

Let me explain how epic this event was by saying this: it’s the New York Public Library. You know. The big one. On 5th Ave. With that amazing reading room. Ghostbusters? Yep, that one. All 4 floors of it. All the rooms. Open… with open bars. 

Marinate on that for a sec.

First, I love the Public Library. Besides Grand Central Terminal it is, by far, my favorite building in New York. It’s massive, sprawling, heavy, and with such  tremendous history and such opulent design that I have walked straight into small children, trampled them really, because I was so engrossed looking anywhere but where I was walking. It’s a siren in a sea of concrete, and she calls you in and steals your heart.

And now your liver.

The event is nothing short of Gala status and seemed as if Fellini was the event planner, Hemingway the caterer, and everyone you know within 3 years of your age was on the guest list. For me, it’s the perfect storm of parties. First, the building itself is so entertaining, that you literally are walking through a conversation. You are able to explore rooms, and floors, that I’ve never seen before. Touch fireplaces and mantlepieces, gawk at exquisite chandeliers. All while boozing it. 

Next, you have mad crazy cool music. In every nook, hall, and room you will hear something. A funky jazz band, some old-timey bluegrass, or even, I donno… maybe… The Outkast? Sure why not. And yeah, Quest Love stopped by to spin for us while we were rolling around on a mirrored dance floor. All while boozing it.

Then you have food. Everywhere. Taffy, meatballs, little dumpling in little dumpling sauces. A perfect balance between ambrosia and nectar. In a building where a diabetic usually can’t bring a candy bar, you’re graciously dripping meat sauce down your tux like a maniac. All while boozing it.

Finally, it’s the people. Usually events are ruined by the people who go to it. In New York it can be hit or miss; over publicize and you got amateur hour. Too under the radar and you don’t know the other 4 people in the room. This was perfect across the board; people, pretty much around the same age, and more importantly all with the same agenda. To booze it up.

Not convinced? Here are a few “facts” from the event:

– over 25,000 drinks served (all in proper glassware, of course)
– over 7,800 lbs of ice
– 700 origami birds
– 400 lbs of pulled pork sliders
– 300 lbs of shrimp
– 200 lbs of Ora King Salmon sashimi
– 50 king palm trees 
– 10 feathered dancing girls
– 2 flashers
– 0 cocktail glasses left in Party Rentals’ tri-state inventory

You getting the picture here?

Sure it was a celebration of the grain, but there was something even more magical to it then just trying over 80 specialty cocktails from over 150 of the worlds best bartenders, er, mixologists. Libationists? Inhebriator enablers? Bartenders, whatever. There was a perfect energy, as if someone gave us all a second prom where we all knew we were getting laid later on. There was no stress, none of that pubescent frenzy, but all the innocent energy and hell-or-high-water bring it on fun. Everyone looked stunning dressed in that gown you have been saving since you cousins wedding 6 years ago and that suit you never found a good enough reason to wear after your court appearance. It was like we were in the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby if it were directed by Noah Baumbach instead of Baz Luhrmann (I would totally watch that Noah, just saying.). We all chatted, were friendly, let people cut in line with us, and shared the secret location of the 80’s dance room. We weren’t in a city anymore, we were floating down a river of best friend juice toward an ocean of sublime alcoholic solution.

So yeah, whatever you do, dont go. It sucked. I can’t believe it cost as much as it did, and I’m in a horrible legal battle trying to get the amount refunded, and I think I got hepatitis from a dirty glass. Quite possibly the worst night ever. Dont go. Please. Please dont.

Rs
*all photos taken with my trusty iPhone. Thanks Steve Jobs.

miranda_dancing