Sorry I’ve been gone for so long. Let’s pick up where we left off…
We stand from our seats to greet David: someone who likes to move. He needs to move. And you’re happy to move alongside because his energy is so catching and alluring. Therein lies his ability to befriend most anyone and most everyone. We exit the Oyster House and walk west down Sansom Street—the sunset is gone. “Where should we grab a cocktail?” David asks, “There’s Franklin Mortgage…”
“Yeah, that sounds good. They have good gin cocktails,” I say and we pick up the pace a bit—perhaps we hear the song of the long-forgotten siren Juniper calling our names. As we approach Franklin Mortgage a doorman standing at the top of a short flight of stairs uncrosses his arms and looks down on us, lifting his head up from his phone-glow. “Is the upstairs room open tonight?” David asks. What upstairs room I think.
“No, only weekends. Would you like to go downstairs?” He’s deadpan, but seems straightforward and promisingly helpful.
He guides us down bleacher stairs, past the edge of the street lamps above, opens the door and seats us against one wall. (Doorman is the host: I like this.)
The room is dim, narrow, long and although we receive a seat immediately, I notice all other tables are full of people laughing and sipping their cocktails. The energy is taking over the bunker and apparently we have perfect timing. The menu is divided: titled categories such as Required Reading, The Flowing Bowl, and She Brought Me Gasoline, classify batches of beautifully designed fluid dioramas.
The waitress arrives and smiles at David (must know him). I order a Gloom Raiser, which consists of classic Beefeater gin, Noilly Pratt dry vermouth, grenadine, and absinthe, served up—a true drinker’s drink. High alcohol content yet the grenadine mellows the absinthe’s bite and the vermouth softens and dilutes it to sipping-strength. David and my dad order and I miss it. We’re all drinking and sharing restrained gulps. “David, yours is delicious, what did you order?” I ask.
Looking down at his menu, “Calling Card Punch, off The Flowing Bowl section.” I look down at my menu as I take my sip. It uses one of my favorites, Death’s Door gin: a Wisconsin based distillery that manages to create a stellar spirit with the use of only three botanicals (juniper berries, coriander, and fennel). It’s fresh tasting and great for cocktails.
Everything is delicious and this young couple that know David spot him and join us briefly—introductions and laughs only—stand above and do not sit. We all shake hands and then disburse back. We are only ten feet from the door and the whistling Philadelphian street above, but we may as well be in Paris. (Just like Franklin on his sabbatical of negotiation and play.) We each take our final mouthful in unison. It’s dim and I’m feeling older by the moment. We pay the bill and stand.
Probing for that extra bounce in my wobbled step we ascend the exterior staircase. “Alright, Thanks for a great evening”, I say.
“Let’s walk towards David’s house and we can grab a cab”, my dad to me from behind. As we walk, passing A.Bar, David remarks “They have great cocktails here,” and points through the glass window. I thought we were done. We are not done. “Let’s go.” And so the night continues on. ___________________________________________________________________________________
We sit at the bar and I take turns glancing between the cocktail menu and the bar line. This bar is the exact opposite of Franklin in atmosphere. Not better, not worse, each has a distinctive vibration that pulls a patron into its pleasantly unique seat. A.Bar is a bright beacon in the night and the street-level windows revive my dim-lit hypnosis. It’s not that crowded, but the atmosphere is alive—directly due to an attentive barman—and I feel that. A.Vod, what’s that? I think to myself and then ask our server.
“That’s our house vodka. Made special for us by Philadelphia Distilling Company. Makes a great Vesper and compliments their gin, Bluecoat,” he tells me.
“I’ll take it.”
My dad orders the same, forgetting about his three-day fast beginning with the sunrise. (Back on my side.) David orders something else. Shit, I keep forgetting to take pictures, you know, in case I want to write about this. Did I get any at Franklin? No. (The barman’s right in front of me. I don’t want to pull out my phone.)
I lean against the bar and spy with my bibulous eye a bottle of yet to be released Bluecoat barrel-aged gin. The barman sees me. “Just got slipped a bottle. Isn’t out yet. Wanna taste on the side of your Vesper?”
Yeses all around. You can definitely taste the oak barrel and its taste is complex and long. Barrel-aged gin is becoming more and more popular and I have taken to it, adding it to my tool belt of tactics used for converting those more suited to whiskies and brown liquors to our Siren Juniper.
Probably time to hit the pillow: the look I give me dad as the last drop of Vesper goes down my throat. Yes, he seems to silently say.