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Batch CCCXXIV. Schwarzwald, Tuesday November 21, 2017 NO. 47
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Jim Meehan

Shake The drink – Not Your Body

To drink is to pray. Drinking correctly, however, needs to be learned – and this is especially true for cocktails. It is no coincidence that this art has matured to perfection in the USA, from where cocktails conquered the world. And as much as Americans are willing to forgive, a bartender who simply does his job and nothing more will be punished with contempt. At least in New York City. At his bar PDT ("Please Don't Tell") here in East Village, Jim Meehan cultivates the fine art of high-strength indulgence. Anybody who fails to observe the good old rule ("Shake the drink, not your body"), has to look up recipes, or is unable to say anything about the drinks, is out of place in his team. Bartending is not a job; it is one of life's philosophies. Meehan, previously a celebrated mixer in the Pegu Club, is one of the industry's straight talkers. In spite of, or maybe precisely due to, the less-than-promising conditions he initially had to endure. Because he was unable to get a license, he affiliated himself with the hot dog joint, Crif Dogs, which had one. You enter PDT through an old-fashioned telephone box from the hot dog area. And there is not a trace of glamour. "When we opened in 2007", says Meehan, "flamboyant Wall Street-type behavior was totally out. This suited me perfectly because what I wanted was customers who look rather unassuming, appreciate quality, and abide by my motto: First come, first served." He got these customers and they have transformed this unpretentious bar into a terrific speakeasy-type place. The atmosphere becomes denser, but never physically to the extent that you cannot bend down to tie your shoelaces because the room is so packed. As Meehan says, "A lack of space creates discontent and aggression. We're just a small place. I want inspired people here, so I have to give them sufficient space, also for their fantasies. And cocktails are pure fantasy." Meehan can't help it if irritated customers have to stand outside or eat a hot dog or burger while they wait. Reservations are a good option, but with a maximum of 20 reservations a day, it's not always the solution. Meehan values the stories behind the cocktails, and he appreciates the mysticism of the names he gives to his new creations and the frequently silent interaction between the barkeeper and the guest. And he practices predicting what new guests will order. "It's a sixth sense. If you've got it, you stand the best chance of making a guest happy." PDT is governed by clear rules. Guests who are already visibly intoxicated are turned away. Phones take a break. Rules such as these are conducive to contemplative reflection. Meehan himself also likes empty bars. And sometimes he orders drinks that are quite light on ingredients. Maybe a beer or wine. You can get both at his place, too: "A decent choice. As long as the quality is right, why not keep it simple?"

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