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Long Island Screaming
Sloe Sex on the Beach

Novelty drinks come and go--keeping up with the latest in liquid oddities is a full-time job

By Traci Hukill

What the snob said: Recently, an acquaintance related the story of a client who committed a grave faux pas at dinner in a popular restaurant. Brunch was just ending as the client began his tale, and he pushed his chair away from his empty Mimosa glass and crossed one huarache-cradled foot over a hairy knee. He had just returned from a Caribbean honeymoon and sported a tentative tan and a not-so-tentative belly.

"So this woman from Atlanta was--well, inexperienced about drinking," he began in a voice musical with mirth. "And here we are in this incredible restaurant with the finest selection of Scotch in town and for the first round she orders ..." he paused for effect, "a Sex on the Beach!"

As if on cue, eight orthodontic masterpieces topped by small, round shades opened into peals and hoots of laughter. The storyteller mopped tears of merriment from his eyes. "I mean, how long has it been since you had one of those? '87? '88?"

As the others chortled appreciatively, an icy chill crept up my spine. My last Sex on the Beach was younger than cheap red wine, I recalled uncomfortably--'95, '94 at best. What about Melonballs? Zombies? Chi Chis? How many power brunchers were mocking me at that moment? I began to perspire.

And there, on that spring morn, I swore a solemn oath. If I had to lie, ape, copy or choke down Scotch, I would never, never order the wrong drink again.

What Timothy Said

I enlisted the help of a friend, Timothy, whose primary qualifications for the job were that he wore Cole-Haans and subscribed to Wired. Timothy, I was sure, would guide me along the path of righteousness.

"It's not going to be easy," he warned over the phone when I supplied him with a list of my preferred poisons. "You have a lot of unlearning to do."

I admitted that a weakness for catchy drink names had until now informed my choice of beverage, but that I was willing to leave the '80s behind once and for all.

"Good," he pronounced. "Then we can get started. Meet me at C.B. Hannegan's for happy hour."

I found Timothy on the patio, looking suave and relaxed.

"You cut your ponytail!" I gasped by way of greeting.

He made an impatient gesture. "It was time, that's all. This is much easier." He stared moodily at the floor for a few moments, stroking the nape of his neck before he remembered himself. "I purposely positioned us near the bar. We'll know what everyone in the whole place is drinking."

I nodded, impressed, and picked up the plastic tent on the table. "Long Island Teas!" I exclaimed. "I love those." Timothy looked perplexed.

"Nooo. Actually, the whole family's out. Long Beach, Nuclear, Texas--all the teas are out. Too obvious. Subtlety is back in style." Just then a waitress approached the table next to us. Timothy tilted his head in that direction. "Listen."

The woman ordered a Piña Colada, the man a Sloe Comfortable Screw Up Against the Wall. Timothy winced.

"Learn from this," he admonished in a hushed voice once the couple had resumed their conversation. "Froufrou drinks belong on the beach! Your Piñas, your Daiquiris, your Chi Chis and Mai Tais have no place inland! Same with Bahama Mamas and Blue Hawaiians: tropical vacations only! And that Sloe Hot thing he ordered ..." He shook his head. "The sex name drinks are passé. These are different times. Sex can kill you now."

I was a little disappointed about the Chi Chis, but the waitress came up, and while Timothy ordered, I stole a look at Piña Colada and Sloe Comfortable Dance With Death. He wore a mustache, feathered hair and a terry-cloth shirt. Blue dust had settled over her eyelids, and she swung a stiletto heel back and forth under the table.

"As I was saying," Timothy continued when we were alone, "sex drinks are out. There go your Blow Jobs, your Orgasms and Screaming Orgasms, your Sex on the Beach. Boom." Ouch, thought I. I had fond memories of swilling Screaming Os on Thursday Pub Nites in college. I had less fond memories of Friday mornings.

I struggled to absorb this information. "So are body-part drinks out, too? Fuzzy Navels, Purple Hooters, Slippery Nipples? What about Brains? Are they out, too?" I knew I sounded bitter, but I couldn't help it. It seemed my whole world was démodé, and it was just a little hard to take.

"It's like this," he explained gently, sensing my pain. "Shots are--well, their time has passed. They belong to another era, a simpler time when the aim was to get drunk. Prairie Fires, Gorilla Farts, even B-52s--there were just too many ingredients. It couldn't go on. People's hangovers were too severe. And their names were too ridiculous."

"Fuzzy Navels aren't shots," I returned sullenly.

"No, they're not," he carefully agreed. "But they are fruity. Peach Schnapps and Midori ..." His voice trailed off as he shrugged. I didn't have to hear it. We sat in silence. There went the Melonballs.

"Well, what is in, then?" I asked.

Timothy indicated the waitress, who was walking up balancing two martini glasses full of pink stuff on a tray. "Let's ask her."

What the Waitress Said

'Two Cosmopolitans," announced the waitress. Expertly she flicked two napkins on the table and set down the drinks without spilling a drop.

"Excuse me, miss, do you have a moment?" Timothy asked. "We were wondering what drinks are the most popular here."

She hesitated only a moment. "Micro-brewed beer, Kamikazes, Hurricanes, Margaritas, these." She gestured at our drinks. "Most anything with vodka in it. Scotch."

"Would you say people aren't drinking just to get drunk?" queried Timothy, attempting to lead the witness into supporting his Extinction of the Shot theory.

"Nope," she answered unequivocally. "They're just trying to do it with style now. You know, like how hats are back in. It's a retro thing." And she was off.

"There you have it," my mentor said, and lifted his glass. "From the source. Cheers."

"Cheers," I returned, and savored my first Cosmopolitan sip.

"There is one person we should talk to," Tim thought out loud as he gazed into his drink. "Follow me."

What the Bartender Said

The bartender was sweating. He was also taking a break, as luck would have it, at the end of the bar while his buddy frantically measured, shook and poured.

"Martinis," he responded to Tim's question. "Up. Golden Eye."

Ah.

"People come in and order vodka Martinis 'shaken, not stirred,' " he continued disgustedly. "That's about a gin Martini. Shaking bruises the flavor of the gin. It doesn't matter either way with vodka."

I made a mental note not to give myself away like that. The bartender excused himself to assist his co-worker, and Timothy set about summarizing the lesson.

"So. No funny names. No more than two liquors in a drink. Nothing with an umbrella. Extra points for anything neat--double that for single-malt Scotch. Got it?"

I thought I had it.

"You'll be just fine," he said.

And indeed, I need never fear the fate of the woman from Atlanta. If I have any doubts about what to do, I simply order what the highest-paid person in the group is having. If anyone notices that I nurse a single cocktail all night, I smile wanly and say I have a cold. Come to think of it, the boss is impressed with my singular good taste. Could it really be this easy?

You bet your Purple Hooters it could.

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From the June 13-19, 1996 issue of Metro

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