Please note there are no published medical studies linking the consumption of Scotch Whisky to the rapid development of a Scottish brogue nor the sudden acquisition of Scottish idiomatic phrases as occurs with Mr. Garlington in the following story.
I was wildly excited as I stepped into the brilliantly decorated Three Dots & a Dash recently for a night of drinking with professionals. Monkey Shoulder Scotch and Employees Only had teamed up to celebrate local beverage staff with a wild night of Tiki drinks conceived from the devilishly alchemical minds behind Three Dot’s drink menu. Scotch and Tiki? Madness! As I expected, it was a fantastic event; very well planned, highly entertaining. Employees Only knows how to host. Monkey Shoulder Scotch is a surprisingly delicious base for sweet-savory Tiki. Yay! Drinking! Fun! I thought there’d be a monkey.
I go to a lot of events – not for my own edification, but for you, gentle reader, so that you may experience vicariously those rare delectables I consume IRL. Normally, even when free booze is on hand, I am a well-mannered pro who practices temperance on duty. But Monday nights are a night off for upscale barkeeps, beverage managers, and all the people who bring you the booze you imbibe; and Three Dots & a Dash is an internationally recognized landmark for killer cocktails; and Employees Only is known for celebrating local beverage professionals with great parties and come on, there HAS to be a monkey. I mean how can you have a business named for a monkey, with three monkeys in the logo, and not bring a !@#%& MONKEY! There would be a monkey and I was going to do shots with him. Or her. Simian gender is bananas.
I grabbed a Road to Zion and prepared myself for the unholy and inharmonious mingling of smoked whisky from a cold place with tropical juices from somewhere warm. I steeled myself with the reassurance that no matter how putrid, no matter how acrid, no matter how Malortish the concoction, I would drink it. And probably enjoy it. And report the flavor profile and probably remain upright. I was concerned enough before the event to relieve [My Attorney] of her duty to attend and instead bring my favorite Bar Operations Manager and accidental life coach, Lauren Parton, to help me navigate floral fluids and steer me away from danger as I am a lightweight who is easily excited and she has a right hook that can level a moose. Also, she understands booze better anyone I know and can check me on my impression of these cocktails and I will ditch her in a heartbeat the minute that monkey shows up.
You might think of Tiki drinks as bright, sugary, acidic horror shows. A mall bar hurricane tastes like a bright red Jolly Rancher left on the dash of your car for a week. In August. If that has been your Tiki experience and you’re thinking to yourself right now, yeah, that but with Scotch? Get me a bucket – you’d be right about the Jolly Rancher drinks. But If you’ve only had typical Mai Tais at tourist traps you haven’t tasted true Tiki. Well-made Tiki drinks are not sugarsplosions. They have a savory undertone. They’re garnished with mint and basil. They have a pinch of salt. There’s a monkey. I mean, there’d better be.
Employees Only curates events for beverage industry pros. You might think to yourself, ha, can’t they drink on the job? But you’d be an idiot because no, they can’t. Do you drink on the job? No, of course not. Neither does your bartender. But they deserve a night out and Employees Only gives it to them in spades, partnering with spirits looking to grow their brand into the hands of capable barkeeps.
However, I may have made a few assumptions about drinking with bartenders. First, I kept thinking over and over, look at me, I’m drinking with bartenders! In one of my favorite bars no less. I envisioned a galleon of manic pirates on a bender and I prepared myself to keep up. I laid an absorbent foundation of Moxy tacos in my belly. I gave myself a pep talk. You got this. You can do this. I’ve seen you drink people under the table. I’ve seen you drinking under a table. These bartenders don’t have a chance.
I threw myself into the drink menu with the intention of sampling each drink twice (professional). I gulped down a Number 23 like I was knocking back a shot. Parton was having none of it.
“What in the Sam Hill are you doing?”
“Drinking like a pro?”
“Pace yourself. I’m not dragging your drunk carcass up those stairs.”
I notice Parton is sipping her drink slowly. With class.
“But, you’re a bartender!”
“First of all, you witless hairy baboon, I am a Beverage Operations Manager. Secondly, look around you. These people deal with sloppy drunks all day. You think for a second they’re going to go ham when they’re drinking with peers?”
“But you guys are professionals!” I complained, spilling a little Tiki out of my glass.
“Exactly,” Parton glared.
I looked around. Yes, the bartenders were having a good time. Yes, they were enjoying the drinks. But nobody was getting hammered. Nobody was overindulging. I mean, no one except me. Parton introduced me to another professional. This well-known booze wrangler was enjoying an ice cold bottled water. I was wildly disappointed. But I reassured myself that the night would be fine because at some point, the sponsoring spirit would deliver said simian and hirsute hijinks would ensue.
I felt it was time to address the concerns I had with the event. Actually, only one concern, the egregious lack of monkey except that monkey monkeying around in the name of the Scotch, Monkey Shoulder, which I felt should be served at the bar by a monkey because branding. I know how to event and when one events for a client named Monkey Shoulder one events with an ape.
“Where’s mah monkey!” I Scottished. Eleventeen pairs of perfectly sober and world-weary beverage worker eyeballs turned toward me and I asked again. “It’s called Monkey Shoulder so I want a wee monkey fer me shoulder!” I wobbled in place waiting for someone to join in with and maybe chant but all eleventeen pairs of eyes turned away. And then I heard it, a wild, jungly screech, the very screech one hears under the opening credits music of such luminous teleplays as Johnny Quest and Archer. It was an unmodulated high decibel squawk that sent savage chills down my spine: finally, the monkey.
As pushed through the crowd gathering around the screeching animal, I saw a man dressed like a pirate with his arm held curiously aloft in a manner that could only mean it sported a tiny beast with whom I would share tiny shots but as the crowd parted I saw it was not my monkey, but instead was a garishly plumed parrot.
An [expletive] parrot.
As it turns out, there is a law the keeps monkeys out of restaurants and bars (if this doesn’t get out the vote, nothing will; #2020nomoremonkeyingaround). I resigned myself to drinking sans simian and tried to make friends with the bird, who told me his name was Marvin. The pirate told everyone Marvin’s name was George, but I looked at the Marvin and Marvin was all like:
“My name is Marvin.”
“The Pirate,” I explain, “says it’s George.”
“The Pirate,” Marvin explained, “doesn’t speak Parrot.”
“I wanted a monkey.”
“I could screech, if that helps.”
Someone brushed past us bearing a Port Royal, the infamous gargantuan three-masted schooner of a cocktail for 8, filled to the bowsprit with an entire bottle of Appelton Estate 21-year-old Jamaican rum and mysterious elixirs. An instance of instagrammers fell upon it armed with enormous plastic straws. They nearly sucked it dry but Marvin scared them off and we plowed through them and managed to knock back a couple of belts. Then two burly barkeeps brought in The Treasure Chest filled (Marvin said) with gold doubloons, rare rums, guava and passion fruit trailing a glowing cloud of fog. Marvin screeched an ear-piercing screech that parted the social media models like the red sea. We attempted to plunder this magnificent cocktail.
Marvin and I sampled more of the elixirs in the boat after having sampled more elixirs from the treasure chest and came to the conclusion the bar was closing and people were standing around staring at me with what, Marvin assured me, were benevolent glares.
We staggered out into the alley. I lost Marvin on the way. I don’t know how he got home. But Parton was there, perfectly sober, ready to pour me into an Uber. I never got to have a monkey on my shoulder, but I enjoyed – perhaps more than I should have – Monkey Shoulder in a grass skirt instead of a kilt, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
For your edification, my actual recorded tasting notes:
Road to Zion
Monkey Shoulder, fresh lemon juice, pineapple juice, ginger syrup, simple syrup, angostura bitters, mint, and cinnamon.
Bingo. That’s good stuff. Pineapple juice with ginger and lemon topped with a mint leaf, which works perfectly against the smokiness and the peat in the whisky and I think maybe we’re on to something here. I’m expecting a little bit of bagpipes down in the bottom, maybe a dirge on the back of the tongue, just a wee tune behind me teeth.
Monkey Shoulder, Silence Tea-infused Vermouth, fresh lemon juice, mango nectar, cinnamon syrup, orange bitters, saline, and an orchid flower.
This one is fer sure not got a drop of Scotch in it. It tastes too much like a ukulele. It tastes like surfing. But aye, there be Scotch. And now I’m wondering if Three Dots inna Dash is gainta keep Scotch on their beverage menu.
I probably should have asked why they put this simplistic dive bar staple on a list populated with such impressive potions. It’s not a drink. It’s a decision. A shot of (a very good) Scotch and a Coors. A drink that cannot be reviewed. As a journalist, you can only point at it and exclaim, “there, upon the bar, there be a boilermaker and a wee scunner it is aye.”
It’s Tiki Time is tart and hard and mean like a Winter on Loch Lamond, to be sure, boyo. And it’s a tart mean drink ye deserve.
Thunder is Paradise
Monkey Shoulder, Gonzales Alfonso Oloroso Sherry, Orgeat syrup, Fresh Lime Juice, Coco Lopez, Peychaud’s bitters, and a brandied cherry.
Aye, you’re all mouth and trousers! Mony a mickle maks a muckle. Whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye, soo doon’t bye a wee clipe. Lang may yer lum reek. Yer faither wisnae a glazier!