Back From New York
New York is such an amazing city. When my wife and I head to the Big Apple we try to walk as much as possible because we like to look at everyone on the street and what they're wearing (also because we have to burn off the excessive amount of food we eat). I've become much more interested in fashion over the last few years because many of the same issues that I ponder regarding whiskey apply to fashion as well - namely, the desire to express what we're about. Showing a picture of yourself standing in front of your Pappy collection is really no different than carrying a Louis Vuitton purse with the LV logo plastered all over it. My wife and I have found so many similarities between our two interests that the crossover has been amazing (I actually identified former Project Runway contestant Austin Scarlet walking down a Greenwich Village avenue).
Needless to say, we went to a few bars while in New York, but not one of them served classic, Bay Area-style cocktails. This wasn't by design, it was just that measuring out fancy, esoteric ingredients never occured to most of these places - they simply poured it in the glass and handed it over. Juxtapose that with San Francisco where every single restaurant is scrambling to update their menu in an attempt to fit in and it makes for a totally different scene. You can't even go out for pizza in SF anymore without seeing a Martinez or Bees Knees on the drink list. That's not to say that you can't get classic cocktails in New York - it's just to say that we didn't run into one bar in Manhattan that catered to that crowd.
Just like I didn't find one classic cocktail, I also didn't see one person wearing exercise clothing on the street (unless they were actually exercising). Compare that with the Bay Area where every single person in line at Starbucks seems to have just come from the gym (even though they're not sweating). The people in New York are some of the most beautiful in the world - both the men and women. There are models everywhere, but, regardless of one's God-given attributes, everyone is making an effort to dress nicely. Working out is for the gym. The point of doing it is to fit into that amazing outfit you just bought so you can wear it on the street. Here in the Bay Area, working out seems to be the actual fashion. Women wearing yoga pants with fancy handbags and bling bling jewelry. It's as if the act of working out is more virtuous than the result.
There's a clear parallel with the booze world and in how my two favorite cities sit down to drink. San Francisco is so hung up on ingredients, that sometimes we forget about the pleasure involved with certain activities. Sure, organic produce is healthy. Sure, pre-Prohibition cocktails don't have all that sugary goop. Sure, exercise is important and is something to be embraced. However, while our bodies are sacred, I'm not willing to buy into this lifestyle unless the actual result is pleasurable. I want to eat organic produce because it tastes better. I like classic Cocktails because they can taste unbelievably vibrant and pure. I like to exercise because I feel good when I look good. New York seems to understand that having fun is the ultimate goal. People don't need to show others they work out - anyone can go to the gym. People in New York care about dressing up and hitting the street. When they stop at a bar, they're not obsessing about the cocktail or the ingredients - they're packing into a small room and they're socializing. That's not to say the drinks aren't good either! Everywhere we went there were various options for great libations.
I'm wondering what makes the Bay Area that way? Why is the act of something more regarded than the point of doing it? I'm not sure I have the answer yet, but I'm going to do everything I can to focus on the goals of my actions. When I hit the bars, I want to have fun. I've been to so many places in San Francisco that do it right (Smuggler's Cove, Bar Agricole, Slanted Door, Heaven's Dog) but so many others that are just plain drab. They're way too cool to have fun because they're so hung up on how good their drinks are. Meanwhile, in the West Village, I watched over one hundred people of all types pack into a corner Mexican restaurant called Tortilla Flats for cheap margaritas and beer. They were all having a blast!