What can I get you?
He leans across the bar. Kindly looking into my bewildered eyes. A simple question he has asked numerous times this evening. He expects a simple and quick reply.
It's 6:30pm on a week night and the place is already buzzing with after-work imbibing. Hipsters and the like winding down the day - or maybe just getting started for the night. It's loud, the energy of the place palpable. It's a familiar scene from what feels like a distant past. Before set routines, before children. A time when meeting up for drinks at 6:30 pm didn't require extensive planning.
Can I get you something to drink?
I look back at him, stunned. I've lost the ability to order a drink for myself. The vibrant energy of the place doesn't match my scattered focus. I can't settle in. I've spent the day picking up, dropping off, deciding what to make for lunch and breakfast and then making lunch and breakfast simultaneously, driving the lengths of Los Angeles freeways, cursing said freeways, worrying about being late for pick ups and drop offs, deciding what's for dinner for the six and under crowd, barely making it here... I'm at a loss for words as to what I could possibly want to drink. I cannot make another decision.
She'll have a Campari and soda.
That's it. That's what I want. He knows. This man with the warm and reassuring voice seated next to me. He knows exactly what I want.
But why don't we change it up a little. Do you have any suggestions for a Campari cocktail?
And so they begin to conspire. These two men. One a complete stranger - the bartender. The other - my husband. They discuss my likes and dislikes, and they come up with a drink that would both satisfy and surprise my taste buds. No decision-making on my part. Finally.
We were on our way to join some friends at an event. On a whim we decided to meet up just the two of us for a quick drink beforehand. We hardly do anything on a whim anymore. It felt adventurous, secretive. A stolen moment.
I'm not much of a drinker. These days my preferred beverage of choice is often something that will energize, refresh, and see me through the day. (A smoothie, my green tea, my black tea, simple and oh so enjoyable water, perhaps a spot of my husband's lastest project of the month, kombucha.) Alcohol often has the exact opposite effect on me. But I do enjoy that one glass of something every now and then. Anything over one glass, and fatigue, headache and general irritability quickly set in. So that one glass has to be a drink I thoroughly enjoy. The glass of red wine - dry, aged and full-bodied - to accompany dinner, that first and unmatched thirst quenching glass of beer enjoyed on a hot summer's day, the perfect martini - dirty with extra olives please - shared with friends; and my all time beloved aperitif - campari. I like my cocktails sour, a little bitter with a slight hint of sweet. And this campari cocktail satisfies all these requirements.
He carefully places the pink concoction in front of me. It's the color of those LA sunsets we marvel at every now and again. Other-worldly, surreal, a magical light I can only associate to this expansive city of ours.
I feel both mens' gazes intensely watching me as I take my first sip. Conspirators - the stranger and my life partner.
It's perfect. I say. Great, enjoy, says the bartender, and he casually moves on to tend to the needs (anxieties?) of others. I turn to Drew and just like that I feel myself giving in. My body shifts, I lean one arm on the bar, chin resting on hand, the weight of the day is transformed and absorbed by the cool marble bar top. I settle into the gaze of my husband, our conversation (mostly about the girls), this stolen moment, our little spring fling.
Happy Mother's Day.
Spring Fling - Campari and Vodka
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Vodka
1 ounce fresh squeezed orange or blood orange
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice or lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (optional)*
* I don't like to add any syrup to my drink but go ahead and add if you like.
1- Fill your martini shaker halfway with crushed ice. Add all ingredients and shake away.
Serve in a chilled martini glass or glass of choice. Sit back and enjoy.