Posts Tagged alcohol
Okay, let me explain. I am not guzzling wine in some sort of pity party, lamenting my singleness and crying while watching Nicholas Sparks movies. No, far from mourning the romance of Valentine’s Day, I’m celebrating it. Or, more specifically, I’m celebrating the month of February. Because February means it’s time for the Niagara region’s annual Days of Wine and Chocolate festival. Wine. Chocolate. I can think of no combination that could make me happier on a cold February afternoon.
I met her after a long day in Havana. I was alone in a bar in a quiet part of La Habana Vieja, called Dos Hermanos. It’s the other Hemingway bar. Everyone goes to La Bodeguita del Medio, where the mojito is rumoured to have originated, but I wanted something more authentic, more removed from the touristy crowds of Calle Obispo.
She was the bartender at Dos Hermanos, and we bonded through the silence that our language barrier presented. She seemed to know that I just wanted rest and quiet in a city that keeps you buzzing from dawn until your head hits the pillow.
Read more in my article, Havana’s Other Hemingway Hangout, on Travel+Escape.
“Dos mojitos, por favor.”
The bartender shook his head sadly. “No mint,” he said.
I turned to my friend Erika in horror. Here we were in Cuba, home of the famed cocktail of rum, sugar, lime, soda and mint, and I was being denied. We had just arrived at our hotel in Veradero, and I wanted to christen the start of our vacation with the country’s national drink. Heck, I had been drooling at the thought of tasting an authentic Cuban mojito since our plane had taken off from Toronto.
Perhaps because it was late in the day, we reasoned. There’d be more mint tomorrow. But the next day, the same. And again the following day.
I was in the land of the mojito with no mojito.
This article originally appeard in the Hamilton Spectator, February 2008.
Chris, my friend and tour guide while I was in Los Angeles, had ordered a death sentence of tequila. Called the “Blood and Sand,” I swear it’s a drink meant for those with numbed taste buds, livers of steel, or just a serious desire to do a face-plant into their peanuts. As I watched in horror, the bartender set a cocktail down in front of us, glowing purple and reeking of sugary rum. With a dramatic flourish, he raised a bottle of Jose Cuervo in the air, its spout in the shape of a bull’s head, and began pouring. And pouring. And pouring. Soon the mug was overflowing with tequila, and as he poured, the other customers yelled out “Toro! Toro! Olé!” with such ferocity I felt like I had stepped into the ring at a Barcelona bullfight and not into a pub in Hollywood.
Fat Tuesday—the last day of Mardi Gras—always gets me thinking about a trip I took to New Orleans several years ago with some girlfriends. By bus. (If I could offer just one piece of travel advice, it would be this: Don’t take a bus from Toronto to Louisiana.)
Common sense should have told us better than to venture on a cross-continent bus trip. And after thirty hours, five McDonald’s stops, and a 26er of duty-free vanilla vodka (don’t ask), I felt like I had abandoned my sense of adventure somewhere near the Windsor border. Our bodies ached from being in cramped quarters, and our bus mates were grating on our nerves. But then, we arrived in New Orleans. Which is when I realized—if I could offer just two pieces of travel advice, the second would be this: No matter how miserable the ride, the destination can make it all worthwhile.