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.

New Orleans: I love you.

The following is a love letter I wrote to the city of New Orleans for Get Lost Magazine. At the moment, NoLA is getting hit pretty hard with COVID and besides my hometown of NYC, it’s one of the worst places affected. My heart goes out to everyone, especially the vibrant, loving, passionate people that makes New Orleans my favorite city on the planet.

It’s so much more than drinking and partying. There is an ecosystem of creation there that cannot be rivalled, that spills from art, to science, to soul in dizzying fashion. This is probably why they have perfected drinking and partying.

While this piece focuses on Mardi Gras, it really applies to any day of the week in New Orleans for Mardi Gras is always New Orleans as New Orleans is always Mardi Gras.

Besides the people of NoLA I dedicate this film to Lisa Dunn & Peter Boggia … two natives that took me in and showed me what real New Orleans magic is like. I also dedicate this film to Aubrey Rector & John Greco for being the simply the best there is.

Stay safe out there folks, and consider donating to the NOLA Relief Fund if you feel moved to. Otherwise just be good to each other.

-Rs

New York City, my birth city, is hard to beat. It has everything from glitz to gore, and will feed you well, in stomach and in spirit. There is no city as cool as new york.

Except for New Orleans.

New Orleans, or Norlans or NOLA doesn’t care what you call it. This city doesn’t know it’s on earth, yet its connection to humanity from gutter to steeple is unlike any other. There is something unique about NOLA’s beauty. both rough and gentle like satin covered sandpaper. Somehow vulgar in a very polite way. The streets here are lined with salty dreamers who wear their passion on their sleeve spilling it on cheap folding tables for wanders to consume. It’s a city where there is no such thing as an inanimate object; spirit here permeate every aspect of life.

I consider this a truly american city where “America” refers to its namesake Amerigo Vespucci, who upon reaching the correctly identified new continent quotes “The victor here eats their vanquished, and the women are intensely desirable being very lustful, [they] cause the private parts of their husbands to swell up to such a huge size that they appear deformed and disgusting”. That’s the feeling I get from this city.

What NOLA loves:

NOLA loves gas lamps.NOLA also loves it molding. NOLA really loves being covered in patina. NOLA loves in all sizes. From the grandiose to the two step manor, to the one step railroad, to the tiny bywater shack too adorable not to sigh a smile at. Perhaps what NOLA loves best, is a good party. A party to New Orleans is more than just a good time; it’s a hall pass from bullshit, where who you are, who you really are, is all you are allowed to show, and smiles become the only currency you need buy a good time.

In NOLA you quickly find yourself forging ahead with two best friends into the streets seamlessly becoming part of the fanatic fabric of festival. Without effort you are now part of the parade, among the fellow freaks and fantasy folk who seem to be there not only to entertain each other, but themselves. The streets are a river of color and shimmer where “spectacle” takes on a new meaning that forever removes it from your daily vocabulary. Here there is no wrong, or off color or incorrect, just the perfect marriage of fantasy working in reality.

These are not costumes like they are in other cities in other festivals. These are expressions, deep and obtuse who’s meaning shifts throughout the day depending on how much you’ve seen or how long you’ve been on mushrooms.  While it may all seem fractured and without curation, there is one common line that connects the madness. A bass line. A second line. A line of music that rumbles through the city, overlapping, fading in and fading out, driving forward and igniting movement. From the streets to the roof it chases you through the city relentlessly.

No city celebrates inebriation like New Orleans. They have perfect the art of imbibing and have found ways to reinvent the act of getting shit-faced a thousand times over. The city is a giant house party. Living rooms become street corners, and kitchens become oilbarrel bbq lined sidewalks. It’s BYOB and no one’s parents are home.

Bourbon street may be sluttiest street in the world. It doesn’t care who you are, you’re getting in its pants. An aroused army of revelers storm the street looting beads from every balcony, every perch, every outcropping. Here you see things you simply can’t explain, both comic and tragic in an Orwellian way.Here spirits run free, and there is dancing and magic everywhere. Where even dropped fishbowls of booze somehow don’t spill. Pure sorcery.  Then there are the parades; flotillas of frenzy that slice through neighborhoods, flooding the streets with the echo of stomping boots and screaming brass as you trip the light fantastic.

The quarter bell tolls and it’s time to switch up the scene, so you descend down frenchman to familiar caves filled with some of the best damn music you’ve ever heard. When that tires, you head over to One Eyed Jacks and perhaps fortune favors you by witnessing the legendary Quintron and Miss Pussycat break off a piece which sets off the dance floor stupid crazy. When you need to bring it down a notch, you mosey over to Saturn Bar to sing some sea shanties with the Valparaiso Men’s Chorusand whoever is left standing in the Bywater. When that quiets dies down you take it back to the beginning: back to the streets.

The cloak of night darkness is pierced by led lights and sulphurstreetlamp which guide the funeral procession to the parties final resting place. Along the tracks and down cobbled streets everyone dances the festival through the last stretches of town, clamoring and hugging lost friends found along the way. finally, reaching the levy, the frenzy ignites its primitive roots in effigy as you stand humbled.

You have been up now for 24 hours.

Many emotions, drugs, and experiences have passed through you and you find yourself in a Fellini film walking the crest of a levy in the purgatory of the party. Nothing makes sense which makes perfect sense. The movable feast begins to roll like a magnetized ferrofluid and collecting under a broken warehouse canopy you are presented a puppet show. It’s both callow and complex, much like this strange time, in this beautiful unique experience which is simply called, New Orleans.