Quest For The Drunken Lime
Epic beverage odyssey begins with boozy fantasy and ends in refreshment
by Aidan Morgan
I am not an adventurous drinker. Sure, I’ll go to any bar you drag me to — an Irish pub, a small-town hotel bar with bathrooms from the Middle Ages, a nightclub with a beat like somebody thumping the DJ — but once I get there I’ll stick to the few drinks I know.
Those few drinks are called beer. Sometimes, if the bar is a wine bar, then the drink will be a wine drink. But for me, ordering a beer is a reflex, an automatic reaction to a bartender’s raised eyebrow or a server’s smile.
The world of mixed drinks is a treacherous unknown jungle to me. The ingredients are endless. Martini menus go on and on, like a lousy joke teller who keeps adding context to the punchline. But most daunting is the cultural code of cocktails, the accumulated history of a drink that broadcasts to the entire establishment what kind of person you are. Is a Tom Collins manly enough? Or too manly? I have a beard, and that’s manly. On the other hand, my beard is tended and trimmed to the edge of metrosexuality. What cocktail pairs well with a careful beard? Wait a minute, do cocktails pair with anything? Or is that just wine? Who is Tom Collins and why does he want to screw with me this way?
You see my dilemma. And you’re glad you’re not me.
I realized one night — I think it was on the rooftop of La Bodega — that the best way for me to crack the cocktail code was to create my own perfect drink. And thus was born the quest for a new kind of cocktail. A drink created anew with every order. A drink that put my fate in the hands of bartenders. A drink that would bypass received cocktail wisdom.
A drink I call the Drunken Lime.
1. The first rule of a Drunken Lime is there is no such thing as a Drunken Lime.
2. When I ordered a Drunken Lime, I made it clear that the drink did not exist. The ingredients and presentation were entirely up to the bartender. In return, I promised to drink whatever he or she came up with.
3. I set an arbitrary limit of 10 dollars per drink, just to avoid getting a shot of Johnny Walker Blue in a highball glass.
4. All the venues I visited would be downtown, within stumbling range of each other. For safety.
And so began my journey.
DRUNKEN LIME #1: THE ODYSSEY BEGINS
THE BAR: La Bodega (2228 Albert St.)
THE TALE: This was the first Drunken Lime I ever ordered. It was a spontaneous move, half joke, half dare, and as such I made several mistakes. First off, I was already pretty drunk when I explained what I wanted, and my enthusiasm may have had a touch of surliness. Second, I didn’t think to ask what I was drinking until I’d finished my third. I only knew that it was green, a deep emerald green that seemed to drown light in its depths and burn my throat like a chemical fire on the way down. After that I remember very little.
ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Absinthe, something sweet to cut the ungodly bitterness of absinthe, a lime wedge
VERDICT: More like a cautionary tale than a proper drink.
DRUNKEN LIME #2: DON’T TRUST THE IRISH
THE BAR: O’Hanlon’s Pub (1947 Scarth St.)
THE TALE: I ordered this Drunken Lime on a molasses-slow Sunday afternoon in the midst of a summer heat wave that had driven most of the city out of town. The drink was muddy orange in colour an tasted largely of orange juice. When I pressed the bartender for a bit more information on his choice of ingredients, he shrugged and said, “I just threw some stuff together in a glass.” A pint glass, I might add.
ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: White rum, Green Apple Sour Puss, Yukon Jack, bar lime, orange juice, cranberry juice, four lime wedges
VERDICT: Not the best-tasting drink I’ve ever had, but not too bad — a sneaky summer cocktail that feels refreshing until the halfway point, when the alcohol wakes from its chilled slumber and punches you in the liver.
DRUNKEN LIME #3: A PORTENTOUS MEETING
THE BAR: Crave (1925 Victoria Ave.)
THE TALE: I met my editor on the street and hauled him into my web of drunken experimentation. We ordered an appetizer with almond-crusted goat cheese, several species of olives and something called “diva chips”. Yum.
ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: White rum, bar lime, lime wedge
VERDICT: Come on. This is a vodka special with rum, or maybe a slightly tweaked Havana Club Ricky. I don’t know much about cocktails, but I can recognize a lack of effort when it’s charged to my Visa.
DRUNKEN LIME #4: THE SOPHISTICATE
THE BAR: Beer Brothers (1801 Scarth St.)
THE TALE: If I were handing out awards, the Beer Brothers’ Drunken Lime would take home the Iron Bartender prize for best presentation. Served in a wide flute-style glass with a little mound of white sugar at the bottom, the drink featured a thin wheel of lime underneath the ice. Get it? It’s drunken! The bill read “Girly girl martini.”
ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: White rum, gin, soda, sugar, bar lime, lime wheel
VERDICT: Clever and light-tasting, this is a patio drink meant to stave off the punishing summer sun. The sugar gives it a bit of sweetness when you hit the last third of the drink.
DRUNKEN LIME #5: AMONG THE GROWN-UPS
THE BAR: Hotel Saskatchewan Lounge (2125 Victoria Ave.)
THE TALE: This one felt like a variation on already established themes, combining the citrus and colour of the O’Hanlon’s version with the sparkle of the Beer Brothers. Unlike the others, this one had a slightly sharp citrus aftertaste that bit down briefly on my tongue before letting go. I like a drink that fights back a little bit.
ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Citron vodka, soda, orange juice, lemon juice, pineapple juice
VERDICT: Probably the most adult-feeling drink of the lot, but that may have been influenced by the lounge atmosphere. Sweet, but not too sweet to cut the sharp citrus.
DRUNKEN LIME #6: A QUEST COMPLETED
THE BAR: Cathedral Village Freehouse (2062 Albert St.)
THE TALE: Bingo. I must have a sweet tooth, because I ordered two of these sugary drunkmakers. I’m not sure I liked the red cranberry colour, which reminded me of a low-key Caesar. But with the tequila and lime slush it felt like a margarita in disguise. Clever.
ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Citron vodka, tequila, white rum, lime slush, bar lime, Sprite, splash of cranberry juice, Sprite, lime wedge
VERDICT: I’m calling it: the Freehouse makes the definitive D