Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bar none

Janet B. wrote in response to my post about green tea liqueur and other spirits, asking about the photo of my bar.

It's one of my treasured possessions, I must say — and not because I'm a lush. It's an old Victrola cabinet. The antique record player was in my family, one of those pieces that was hauled around from attic to attic in every move. No one knew what to do with it or how to display it. My father once remarked offhand, "I'd love to pull the turntable out and make a bar out of it." When I moved into my first house, I lobbied for the Victrola to do just that. It was a great weekend project. Lifting out the turntable works was easy. I put down felt at the bottom of that well — voila, instant dry bar.

The cabinet below was slotted with about a dozen narrow shelves, each with a curved notch in the front, for storing the 78 rpm discs. I removed all but three of these, lined the remaining ones with felt, and that's where I store glassware. One of the shelves I cut in half and attached to the top on hinges — so there's a small surface area on top to work on, or to display a nice or new bottle.

There were still records inside the thing when I got it. Many of them — being early-century popular music from just before and after Prohibition — have cocktail-themed titles. In our current condo, I've hung several of them on the wall next to the bar: "The Alcoholic Blues," "Rent Party Blues," "The Moon Shines on the Moonshine," "Just a Little Drink (Fox Trot)," etc., plus the cover to Jackie Gleason's "Music, Martinis & Memories," about which my pal John Wooley wrote a stirring, sentimental essay in a book we published years ago about lounge music.

I'm not this crafty, really. Or maybe I am. It's a fitting tribute to my Dad. One his favorite quotations is on a small brass plaque I keep on top of the bar: "Leave the barroom walking backwards so they think you're coming in."

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