The sun retreats behind the bricks of Fort Mason, but I barely notice the change in the room. The wood panels, the yellowed clippings, the dark oak tables glow under the lamps, and at the center of my vision sits a drink that almost defies me with its noxious smell.
It is an Irish Coffee.
This is no ordinary Irish Coffee. This, as legend has it, is THE Irish Coffee, the original Columbio-Celtic concoction delivered as and where it was introduced to these shores sixty-odd years ago, thence to become a late-night mainstay of bars around America in a range of bastardized forms. I have had “Irish Coffee” a few times before and have even tried my own hand at making them, but after swilling consistently Gawd-awful concoctions of bar coffee and Bailey’s Irish Cream, I had developed a gag-reflex at the very mention of the drink.
And yet, here I am, at The Buena Vista. The salad and fish & chips are in my belly. All that is left is for me to sample the cocktail for which this pub is famous.
The drink is before me, alternately tempting and repulsive.
I gird myself, and take a sip.
The first taste is ridiculously smooth.
I cock my head. A fluke, surely. And sip again.
And it is even better.
My body and mind transform, turn inside out. I suddenly love whiskey and corned beef. My inhibitions leave me like they’re late for a train.
Another, longer sip. Well, okay, a slurp.
I check. All communications with my toes have been lost, and the lines are falling throughout my lower body. Somebody call the SFPD and the Coast Guard: there is an emergency here.
The hotel is two blocks away. I’m not sure I’ll make it. But at least I won’e feel cold.
I shake myself a bit, reluctantly discarding the temptation to have another while I still have a sense of direction. You know, like which way is up.
It’s 7:30pm, and I just barely retain the common sense to dread the dawn.
Now I know why people shouldn’t drink alone, and why we go into bars. With a drink like this, much less two, one cannot afford to be unsupervised at any time.
I pick up my notebook and rise slowly from the table. With great deliberation, I push my chair back in, straighten up, and walk carefully out the door and down the steps, and turn toward Hyde. I’m not walking, but floating on a mist of whiskey, cream and coffee.