Ramona

“I’ve heard of this place,” I say.

“I’ve never been here,” he replies. It is midway into a night of meandering through our neighborhood, just after tacos and one of the worst pool games of my life, and I presume of his life as well. Another couple requests the pool table and saves us from continued humiliation. We move on, the warm weather propelling us onward. I am not paying attention to where we are walking and we enter Ramona, a bar I have read enough about but neglected for no other reason than I rarely patronize my own neighborhood. It quickly becomes apparent I should have begun drinking here long ago.

Like the waters of the Red Sea, the crowd around the bar parts to release two seats. We look at each other appreciating the marvelous timing. The bartender promptly welcomes us and clears the space. I am already impressed by basic and swift service as well as a smile – these are things I rarely ex

perience in Brooklyn. “I feel like we are in Manhattan,” I say as a reflection of our welcome.

The space smells like a combination of the off-gassing of new plastic and new rubber. The beautiful white and wood interior reminds me of the Ordinary in Charleston with its high ceilings. The music is Charles Bradley; we get comfortable.

I order my first absinthe-based cocktail, the Werewolf Season (St. George abstinthe, ancho chili liquor, lime, honey, fresh orange, egg whited, mexican mole bitters, grated cocoa). It is herbal, delicate, viscous – well done. His is the Boxer, Beetle (blackberry bourbon, Elsa’s rosehip grenadine, lemon, allspice dram,

rosemary). It is also a gloriously executed cocktail.

“I want to go back to Ramonas and take notes,” I text.

“Do it,” he eggs me on. “I’ll go with you if you want.”

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Suddenly we are recreating the highlights of the night before, and of course I take barely any notes. He selects the cocktail I knew I wanted, the Hotel Danger (peach mezcal, chipotle agave, lemon, aperol, grapefruit twist) and I choose to be adventurous knowing I can trust the talent behind the bar. I order the Glassine Stamp (earl grey gin, yellow chartreuse, dry vermouth, vanilla, marachininco, angostura) and predict it will come in a coup with a lemon twist. His arrives and looks immensely refreshing and delicate in the smallest rocks glass. He wins; the cocktail is why the example of a spicy summer mezcal drink. Mine arrives as predicted but the tastes nothing like I expected – a cross between a cough drop and those lemon drop candies that always remind me of lemon cleaner. Drink envy sets in but I sip slowly, hoping the chemical burn will mellow into some delicate flavor. While I have fantasized about the existence of Campari cough drops, the inverse of a cough drop as beverage is not quite the same.

The drinks last a long time as we enjoy the slow nature of Sundays, the warmer weather, conversation. We settle up to retry our efforts at pool. Even as we exit, I cannot wait to sit back down at this bar and explore the other flavor combinations concocted with expertise.

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