Before I even start, let me remind you that Oahu is an island, and a small one at that. So when I say this place is the best bar there, remember that the competition can only be so stiff. Disclaimer done.
Just kidding, one more disclaimer. The people in Hawaii are nice. Not just please-and-thank-you-nice, either. Lobotomy nice is more like it. Try driving there, it’s maddening. People bend over backwards to give each other the right-of-way. And the bartenders are just as nice. As a result, I got many a free drink at Lewer’s lounge, and my memory is accordantly fuzzy. What’s worse, we went three or four times. Ok, disclaimer done for real.
NO. Not done. I’ve only just remembered. Whatever Noelle says is a damn dirty lie. There was no one in that bar but us, the bartenders and servers, and the pianist when I sang Shenandoah. What’s more, the pianist asked me to, thankyouverymuch.
The first night at Lewer’s was... nice. I think I’m going to get just as tired of writing that word as you will of reading it. The atmosphere there is just short of perfect; dim lights, but not too dark. Lovely jazz from the pianist (sometimes there's a duo: Piano and upright bass, with one of them singing), and comfortable seating. Well, I assume the seating is comfortable, we went straight for the bar. Whatever, you get the picture, the atmosphere was nice enough to have me belting out American classics while still sober.
The bartenders are good folk, though they’re lacking in some of the basics of proper mixology, like measuring and ice and water content. I think they all have something of a sweet tooth, too. My first drink was a gin (or was it tequila? Yikes.) and passion fruit concoction. It was darn drinkable, but I don’t know if I would pay $11 for it if the setting weren’t so nice. Nevertheless, a fine drink.
Free drink number one: Unnamed, submitted to the annual Grand Marnier competition, conducted in Oahu
-Lime Juice – ½ oz
-Pineapple Juice 1 oz
-Grand Marnier ½ -1 oz
-Creme de Menthe ¼- ½ oz
I was peering over his shoulder as he made it, so I don’t know how accurate the recipe is, but something tells me it doesn’t matter so much. Shake everything but the Creme de Menthe and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the Creme de Menthe; the result should be a pale, lime colored drink with a beautiful dollop of dark green Creme de Menthe on the bottom.
This is a tasty drink, but it’s almost too sweet. To be honest, I wouldn’t buy it. It’s pretty much the definition of a girl drink. Plus, there’s no hard liquor, which means it goes down smooth, but it lacks depth of flavor. There is a very pleasant mint aftertaste, though.
Free drinks two and three were relatively unremarkable. The first was supposed to be some kind of apple shooter, but it didn't taste like apple to me and I didn't see what went into it. The next was a supposedly grape flavored shooter. Noelle loved it, so I'll leave that one to her. I thought it was so-so; it was another of Rico's (the mint flavored disaster's creator) children.
Since we went to Lewer's so many damn times, I was able to do something I can't normally pull off: Try a classic. So I ordered a Sazerac.
I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about it. It was a disaster. So, let's start in the past.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of imbibing this classic, let's get up to speed. According to legend, it's the first cocktail...EVER. While that may be an old wive's tale, or unknowable, it's at least one of the first.
Hailing from New Orleans, this drink began as a way to trick people into taking their medicine. Mr. Peychaud (you may recognize that name, since it's plastered on one of the two most important aromatic bitters around) figured out something that Mary Poppin's neglected to mention: Sugar stops working when you grow up. So instead of using sugar, he used brandy, and probably a damn sight more than a teaspoon.
The way I make this drink, credited to John Avery, the Baron of Booze:
- Absinthe wash
-Absinthe is legal now. Enjoy in moderation
-To perform this technique, pour a teaspoon or two of absinthe into a clean old fashioned, preferably chilled. If you have any glasses that are smaller than an old fashioned but larger than a shot glass, use it! Roll the absinthe around until you've coated the entire glass. I was taught to pour the absinthe back into the bottle ("Waste not, want not: There are sober children in China." God bless John Avery). This may seriously contradict alcohol rules, I don't know.
-In a separate glass, chill (with plenty of ice, always use plenty of ice) and stir a mixture of 2 oz Rye Whiskey and 1/4-1/2 oz of simple syrup. Splash in a dash or three of Peychauds bitters. Stir for some time, 30 seconds or more, depending on how strong or weak your pallet is.
Strain the drink into the prepared glass, and be ready to enjoy.
That's what should have happened at Lewer's. Here's what really happened:
-First, the bartender sputtered something about "house recipe," and there may have been a "forgot" in there somewhere.
-Then, out came the Angostura. Enough said.
-I didn't catch this next part, but I can guess: He put in 1/4-1/2 oz of Pernod. I don't know if you like licorice, but I don't.
I smelled this drink before I tasted it. One word. Ugh.
But, oh joy, the bartender noticed me sulking (it only took 30 minutes) and gave me a free drink... a poorly made whiskey smash. Hey, the conversation was good, though.
So please, go to Lewer's. Don't make me beg, it's definitely the best bar in Oahu. The prices are beyond competitive, considering how much you will pay elsewhere, for a much worse drink. I gladly dropped 30 bucks there, plus a $15 tip.