“Act like you’ve been here before,” he teases and points the way to the rooftop.
“The roof wasn’t open any of the times I was here,” I plead for an excuse and plod up the long flight of stairs to reach above Llama Inn’s high ceiling interior. Plants hang everywhere inside the dining room, adorning the windows and rafters to create nothing short of an indoor jungle. I push open the door to find a terrace with a small bar, more plants, and some couches in two seating areas – very loungy and cozy.
He nods toward the bar and pulls out a stool as I slide into it. We are greeted warmly and promptly, relieving any anxiety that the closing time is less than 30 minutes away.
“We are about to do last call, if that influences your ordering, like shots or anything,” the bartender encourages.
Fans breeze our way, enhancing the refreshing drop in temperature from the day’s heat. A frozen drink machine clatters on the backbar, tempting both of us. A glass is filled with the pink mixture, always an adult indulgence in homage to childhood frozen treats. The contents (pisco, lemon, red wine, raspberry shrub) is delightfully bitter, nothing that would please a child’s palate. I order something with ron zacapa and mezcal, but fail to write down its name or ingredients (bad blogger). It arrives on crushed ice inside a zacapa branded ceramic coconut complete with a hole for the long black straw.
“That’s not what I expected,” he remarks. I agree and take a sip, the cold liquid washing a little sweetness over the lingering bitter from the frozen drink. It is more of a punch than spirit-forward and is perfect for an end-of-summer night.
“Do you two like rum?” the bartender inquires. “Would you like to share some rum with me?”
“Sure,” I say for the both of us.
“If I can reach it, that is,” her arm extended to an oval bottle. “This is Ron Zacapa XO,” she introduces, pouring a small sip for each of us and elaborates on its aging process that fuses rum and cognac. The rum blends ages from 6 to 25 years and is aged in french barrels that previously held cognac. We clink glasses and I know this is a small sip to savor, not a shot. I let it coat my tongue, indulging the rich, spicy-smooth flavors. It takes me away for a moment to a cabin in North Carolina by a fireplace sipping Zacapa 23 year in the moonlight before an early flight home.
The fan breeze brings me back to the rooftop. “Do they have this at any of your bars?” he asks. I shake my head no.
“Are you a bartender, too?” she inquires. We talk shop for a few moments, she relays her excitement of moving to a job that offers health insurance in the coming weeks. We listen, nod, laugh. “I think your friend is behind you,” she says, “unless he is a random stranger touching your shoulder.”
We turn to find our third in the party and he accepts the offer to order a beer or wine, as the bar for cocktails is now cleaned and closed. “They’ll get it,” he says. The two men banter at each other, lamenting about office job workloads. Shortly we close out, noting we should get out of the space and let our bartender finish.
“You all are great. You’re the most fun I’ve had all night. I’m still waiting for her,” she gestures to a couch I cannot see. “We call her the make-out bandit. She waits until the end of the night and brings different men up here to make out. She still hasn’t signed her check.” Our friend walks over to that side of the roof to examine the plants, gazing toward the couple enough to break up their entanglements.
We part ways with our friendly host, down the stairs and out the side door to the street adjacent to the BQE. Our group bids each other a good night and behind us exits a woman and man, slightly disheveled, and crosses the street swaying. “That’s the woman from the roof,” our friend says, “I’ll be sure to block her from all my dating profiles.”