This is my first story to a series I affectionately titled Myst, yes I'm aware it's spelled wrong... that was on purpose. I hope you enjoy, it's a rather charming story which will tie in with the Shanghai Detective. The stories which tie into the Shanghai Detective will be marked, and of course he's a frequent customer. As for the story I hope you enjoy, I am aware there is a manga called Bartender which some of the dialogue sounds similar to. I found the manga after writing the first story, which irritated me a little however don't criticize I didn't have the heart to not post it.
That aside, please note that the chapters for this work will be called a "Glass" simply because this tale focuses on the history of liquor, and in all honestly it's really more appropriate.
I hope you enjoy,
Uzuki Kei has returned from spending time abroad in Europe and America. Rather than looking in the classifieds for a job, he goes to a bar in hopes that a fellow bartender will tell him which bars have open positions. Only to find a very flustered woman who is about to destroy the atmosphere of the bar. Kei steps in only to end up running off to a job interview at the end of the week for the new hotel Scion? Kei decides to attend only to meet a man whose been on his feet too long, slept too little and had worked far too hard. Tonoin who simply doesn't understand a bartender's work so he criticizes it. Kei responds only he might have cost Misaki, the woman from the bar who recruited him, her job.
Glass 1: The Bar Stool
It had been years since Uzuki Kei had been in Japan, he had spent a vast amount of time abroad and Kei began to wonder how much Ginza had changed. The streets were still lined with elaborate florescent and neon displays pointing out where bars were. Among these glaring signs was a smaller one call Orchid Lounge. Kei stood outside the door and slowly opened it. Everything was as he had remembered, tables lined the sides of the shop and a large bar spanned the entire left side of the bar. It was warmly lit and the small space gave a feeling of peace. Kei sighed with relief when he noticed the bar master mixing another one of his special cocktails.
Sitting at the bar were several customers, a pair of happy salary men, two young women chatting and one young woman sitting by herself. Her long blond hair rolled over her shoulders and the bartender slowly placed a glass before her. She was scratching away on a memo pad, the pencil sounded as though it would go through the paper at any moment. It was apparent she had been through a lot that day and seemed to only be torturing herself further. "A Gin Fizz, please," said Kei as he took a seat next to her.
The bartender nodded and pulled the ingredients to mix a Gin Fizz. He listened to the sound of the shaker as the bartender mixed his drink. Kei watched the bartender pour the drink out of the shaker and into the highball glass, the ice slowly floated from the bottom as the drink rushed in. "This place fails too," muttered the young woman next to him. The bartender slid Kei's drink in front of him and said, "Your Gin Fizz." Kei nodded and lifted the glass to his lips, it was sweet yet there was a slight tang of lemon with the taste of Gordon's Gin. She scribbled a number on her memo pad and dropped her pencil. What ever she had been thinking about was consuming her to the point that it even began to agitate the bartender. "Ma'am?" asked the bartender cautiously, the young woman rose from her seat and leaned on the bar. "Face, 57 points," she said harshly. The bartender stood in shock he was unsure of how to respond. The woman took a sip of her drink, pursed her lips and slammed the glass on the bar counter, "Gross," she remarked.
The bartender became even more flustered and shouted, "Ma'am please stop, of course it tastes gross." She glared and Kei closed his eyes for a moment, "Here it comes," he muttered as he took another sip of his Gin Fizz. "What was that?" she responded, "What a horrible bartender, getting mad and telling me of course it tastes gross." Her voice was even more elevated than before, she wasn't drunk yet however she was still perfectly capable of causing chaos. "It's not that he's bad, he's not," said Kei and the young woman turned her attention to him. Kei felt as though he had become a target in her scope, however he wasn't about to let the atmosphere of the bar be destroyed. He smiled a little and held out his glass, "How about trying a sip of this, it's not bad. It's a Gin Fizz though," said Kei.
She took the glass from his hand and Kei noticed the hesitation in her eyes. He smiled and realized that it would be best to offer her an explanation, "Cocktails should be finished in 3 sips," he noticed the bartender relax a little as he continued, "and longs should be finished with in 10 minutes, or so I've heard." The young woman's shoulders dropped and she looked a little calmer. "Bartenders tend to get nervous when the drink leaves their hands," said Kei. The bartender had crossed his arms and said defensively, "The ice could melt." Kei nodded, and watched the young woman lift the glass to her lips and take a sip. "You're right, this is great," she exclaimed, her brown eyes looked down at her memo pad. Kei hadn't noticed before but there was a magazine under it. She blushed and muttered, "Sorry I'm just brooding over stuff," her voice faded as she looked at the materials in front of her. Kei smiled and responded, "It happens, just take it easy on the bartender." He noticed how her dress shirt collar was folded smoothly and her blazer was perfectly tailored for her. Suddenly she looked up at Kei and picked up the magazine, she looked at the article. On one of the pages was a picture of the young short black haired oriental with black eyes sitting next to her. She then looked back up at him in shock. Kei leaned on the bar and the bartender whispered, "She's trouble man. I'd be careful if I were you." Kei looked at her; the young woman's jaw had dropped as she stared at an article in the magazine. Kei had a very bad feeling about this; however he had no idea why.
The young woman began to read aloud, "Uzuki Kei, Age 25, Winner of the European Food and Cocktails Contest for the past 3 years." Kei knew instantly he was in trouble and slowly pulled two olives from the martini he had ordered to replace the Gin Fizz she had finished. "One of the first Asians to serve cocktails to VIPs from many different nations," she continued, "He is currently employed at the Ritz Hotel as Chief Bartender. The taste of his drinks is called, "The Devine Glass", and is surprisingly full of delicate flavor." She slowly looked up and Kei said playfully, "Well now here we use olives," as he closed his eyes and stuck them on his eye lids, "Now I'm awake even when I'm asleep." The young woman's confidence faded as she stared at him nervously. The bartender burst out laughing and she asked nervously, "You really are Uzuki Kei aren't you?" Kei removed the olives and looked at her, "Yeah," he responded.
She stared in awe and he asked, "One question, how do you know my name?" she was silent. Kei became nervous and realized the way she was dressed suggested that she might be a hostess, "Oh I know! You must be the Cabaret Girl from that club last night. Sorry there were lots of girls that night and I couldn't remember." He scratched his head nervously; she smiled mischievously and sprung up. Kei jumped back and stared in confusion as the young woman shouted, "Please!" She grabbed his shoulders as though she were about to shake him and shouted, "I've got someone that absolutely must taste your cocktail!" Kei stared at her in confusion and realized that he should have run away when he had the chance. "Okay," he responded nervously, as he slowly removed her hands from his shoulders. "Great and just in the nick of time, be at the Shidome's Hotel Scion tomorrow," she said in a rush. In seconds she had a business card extended to him with her name and the name of the Scion Hotel on it. Kei took the card and watched as she shoved her things in her bag, "Um Aoe Misaki?" he asked slowly.
She turned and said, "It was a pleasure to meet you," she bowed before darting out the door. "See you tomorrow!" she called. He watched her run out the door. It was as though a hurricane had just left the bar. "What just happened?" he asked in confusion. The bartender was leaning on the counter; he was staring at the door and responded, "I think you have a job interview tomorrow for the Scion Hotel." Kei looked at him, his eyebrows knit together and he asked, "The what?" The bartender sighed and pulled a rag to wipe the counter down. "The Scion Hotel is the newest in a long chain of hotels owned by Aoe Takumi," said the bartender. Kei looked down at the card and said, "Aoe? Did I just talk to his Grand Daughter?" he asked in confusion. The bartender shrugged and walked away. Kei was left sitting at the counter to cover the tab of not only his Gin Fizz and Dry Martini but her drink as well. He sighed and pulled a wad of Yen from his pocket. He placed it on the bar and said, "Thanks for the drink." The bartender picked up the cash and slipped it in his apron before taking away the glasses and whipping the counter once again.
The sun was high in the sky and four bartenders stood behind a counter in the soon to be opened Sky Lounge of the Scion Hotel. Aoe Misaki stood before the group, a legal pad in hand and pen tucked between her fingers. She was wearing a black women's suite and a lavender shirt. "Welcome to the Sky Lounge, today each of you will make your finest cocktail and serve it to Tonoin. He will evaluate you on presentation, skill and of course taste. After doing so, he will deicide who will be hired as the Chief Bartender," she said loudly. Three of the bartenders nodded and she continued, "Tonoin is in charge of drinks here and will conduct the practical phase of the interview." The three bartenders were silent and each around thirty years old. Tonoin stepped out from behind Aoe and said, "First off, I don't have any expectation of you gentleman as bartenders." There was silence and Aoe glared at him once again he had stepped over the line. "I am thoroughly marketing this bar in preparation of the hotel's opening, as a place where everyone's needs are fulfilled to the fullest capacity," he said coldly. He continued, "You bartenders will do essentially what I say," he glanced toward the window to find the youngest of the group staring out the window.
"What are you doing over there!" he shouted angrily. Kei continued to look out the window and commented, "Whoa this place is really high up! Where's Mt. Fuji?" Tonoin glared and shouted, "Does that even matter?" Kei looked at him and shrugged before saying, "But you know people who are afraid of heights will never come here." He smiled and Tonoin grumbled, "Aoe-san it was your idea to bring this idiot here with the rest of the bartenders, right?" Aoe paused and responded, "Yes he's the youngest of the group but he has an amazing amount of experience." Kei ignored what they were saying, once again someone was pointing out the obvious. He was well aware that he was the youngest in the room; however that didn't mean he couldn't make a good cocktail. "Wow the wind really blows through here too," said Kei, he looked up at the ceiling to notice the skylights which had been put in. "He just returned to Japan but I forced him to come here," said Aoe.
Tonoin turned his back to her and said, "I've told you many times that this isn't that kind of bar. This isn't a place where bartenders will be known for their experience of skill. They will simply become another piece of furniture. Even if the customer knows the name of the designer they will never know the name of a single bartender." Aoe glared and sighed, Kei could tell that these comments were a normal occurrence. As well as the fact that Aoe didn't like Tonoin's idea at all. All four bartenders were behind the bar at their stations; Tonoin walked over to the first bartender and asked, "What will you make?" The first of the four smiled, he was a French foreigner with greased back hair and a mustache. "How about a Martini?" asked the bartender. "Sounds fine," said Tonoin, he was indifferent to the entire event. The bartender measured 15 ml of dry vermouth and 65 ml of dry Gin. He poured the ingredients into the silver shaker over cracked ice and stirred them with a bar spoon. Once it was mixed he attached the strainer and slowly poured it into the martini glass. Once had finished doing so he dropped an olive in the glass. He then placed the glass before Tonoin who picked it up and immediately took a sip.
He looked down at the glass and remarked, "I wonder if I am finished eating or haven't eaten yet?" The bartender stared and was quick to respond, "You didn't say anything about that!" Tonoin placed the glass on the counter with a tap and said, "A martini is a strong cocktail. How dare you make me one without knowing whether my stomach is full or empty, an ignorant fool would serve this to a customer without knowing something that important." The bartender simply looked at the glass on the counter and Tonin smiled in triumph. "Next," he said as he walked over to the next bartender.
The next of the four had rather long brown hair and a pair of blue eyes. "Well I will make a Grasshopper," said the bartender. Tonoin glanced off to the side and said, "Good idea, make it Pousse-Café Style." The bartender jumped and nervously looked at the empty glass he has set out. Kei heard Tonoin's order and remembered the first time he had attempted to make the drink. Pousse-Café Style is when each liquor used in the drink is poured into the glass in such a way that it layers, similar to how foam sits on top of a cappuccino. Only the layers are to never mix in order for this to be done successfully. The bartender slowly poured 15 ml of Crème de Menthe in the bottom of the Collin's glass. He then picked up a bar spoon and turned it over, he held the spoon in one hand and poured 15 ml of White Cream de Cacao over the back of the spoon. Once again he used the back of the spoon to pour 15 ml of cream on top. Once he finished the drink he said, "Your Grasshopper," as he slid the glass toward Tonoin. He looked at the glass and remarked snidely, "You mixed them." The layer of White Cream de Cacao began to mix with the bottom layer of Crème de Menthe. The bartender was furious and as he shouted, "You suddenly changed your order!" Tonoin ignored him and responded simply, "Customers are cruel."
Kei noticed the look of anger in Aoe's eyes and he knew instantly it was over the fact that Tonoin had asked for the bartender to make his best drink and then changed it to his most difficult. "By the way what do young people drink these days?" he asked. Aoe responded promptly, "Generally they order a Fuzzy navel or Cassis Orange some times I see someone order a Maccha Oolong." Tonoin turned away and said, "It was foolish of me to leave you in charge of bartenders with those kinds of drinks." Aoe looked even more agitated and she muttered as he walked over to the third bartender, "Kei please just knock his socks off." Tonoin stood before the third bartender and asked, "What will you make?"
The third bartender responded, "How about a Sidecar." He was a simple looking bartender who looked around 32, in moments he had placed ice in his silver shaker. Then he meticulously measured 60 ml of Brandy, 30 ml of Cointreau and 5 ml of lemon juice. He closed the shaker and began to shake the ingredients, however something was off. Kei listened to the sound the ice made in the shaker, it sounded off and in moments he was digging for a bin. "What's with all the noise!" shouted Tonoin. Kei was out from behind the bar with the bin in his hands, "Sorry give me ten minutes," he said as he dashed out of the room. Aoe watched nervously as Kei ran out of the room, "He can't possibly be surrendering before he's even made his cocktail," she whispered. Tonoin smiled arrogantly and said, "He ran away before he could be scolded by me huh?" The third bartender looked up; he had finished straining the drink into a cocktail glass, "Your Sidecar, sir." Tonoin picked up the drink and took a sip, the flavor was okay, however it wasn't impressive. Kei returned with the bin and placed it behind the bar.
"Sorry for the wait," said Kei with a smile. Tonoin was slightly disappointed as he responded, "So you didn't run away." Kei smiled and responded, "Of course not." Tonoin grit his teeth angrily it was clear that he found Kei to be irritating, and was unwilling to take his cocktail seriously. Kei noticed this and said, "The job of a bartender is to fallow the recipe exactly and use exact amounts of alcohol required, that's all." Kei was chiseling a piece of ice with a pick and Tonoin said, "It's such a simple job and unbelievably you get paid to do it." Kei picked up a pair of ice tongs and place two pieces of ice in a glass. Tonoin became even more impatient and he said, "I don't care what you make; just do so quickly."
Kei placed the tongs on the counter behind the bar and said playfully, "First a quiz." Tonoin was taken back and he asked in confusion, "What?" Kei held a metal 30 x 60 ml jigger between his fingers and said, "There are two professions in the world in which you can not betray the customer." Aoe was furious he was the one person which was supposed to show Tonoin what a bartender should be like. Yet he was acting like a child in her eyes, "What the hell are you going on about?" she yelled. Kei finished measuring 30 ml of whisky and then measured water and poured them into the glass he had put ice in. "One of them is a doctor or pharmacist," he said as he stirred the drink with a bar spoon, "What is the other one?" Kei looked up at Tonoin, Kei's brown eyes were filled with confidence, and all Tonoin did was watch the technique Kei was using to mix the drink. The spoon was held perfectly and didn't make a sound as he mixed the drink.
"A Bartender," he said with an heir of confidence. He pulled the spoon out and said, "All of them can fallow the same recipe but can sell you either poison or medicine." Kei smiled as he gently pushed the drink to Tonoin. "Here's your drink," said Kei. Aoe stood in shock, there was no way he would dare to serve something so simple. "You," stuttered Tonoin. Kei smiled and said, "This is my cocktail." Aoe stared at the light amber colored liquid in the glass and wondered whether that was one of Kei's Devine Glasses. Kei closed his eyes and said, "It's a Water Cut."
Tonoin turned beat red and shouted, "Enough of this, I have no time to be playing with the likes of you! Get Out!" Kei smirked as he turned to leave, "It's disappointing that the drink isn't to your liking." He began to walk away and Aoe stared at the glass on the counter, there was no way this was a Devine Glass. Tonoin was outraged; he began to yell, "Who was it? Who brought that bastard in here! I'll have you busted down to handing out pamphlets outside of the train station." His voice echoed and Aoe began to tremble, Kei might have actually cost her more than she had anticipated. "Besides whiskey companies in Japan are the only ones who cut their whiskey with water, in an attempt to make more money," he ranted, "It's amazing some bartenders don't know that these days." He began to laugh; he took a sip of the drink and froze. It was like nothing he had ever tasted, he stood in shock and Aoe who was about to break for it noticed the expression on his face. "This is a water cut?" he exclaimed, he looked at the drink and continued, "There's a faint smell of the cask it was in and the firm sweetness of the grain. The edge is taken off the alcohol and is soaking into my tongue. Yet it doesn't taste like water at all." He stared at the bottle of whiskey on the counter and noticed it was a popular brand of whiskey "It's got a thin taste for a water cut, I didn't know such a thing existed," he said as he placed the glass on the bar. He stood there with his hands at his sides and stared dumbfounded at the place Kei had been standing. The 27 year old bartender with brown eyes and ink black hair, he seemed childish and yet he knew what he was doing. Aoe picked up the glass and took a sip, "That's delicious," she exclaimed, "There's not as much alcohol in it so it's easy to drink. Yet the taste is untouched." She smiled and turned to him, "This isn't just a whiskey cut with water! This is a Cocktail!" Tonoin stared at the empty glass on the counter and Aoe turned to the other three bartenders. "Thank you for participating today, we will call you if you are hired for the position." She bowed and noticed how Tonoin hadn't moved from that spot. She smiled and whispered, "Thank you Kei. Thank you."
Kei sighed and leaned against the bar of his favorite place the Garden. The bartender laughed hysterically as Kei told him about what had occurred. "It was the worst I'm serious," said Kei. The bartender was polishing a glass as he continued to laugh, "What terrible luck you have Kei, you just got back to Japan too." Kei sighed and lazily picked up the glass of Long Island Ice Tea with one hand around the rim. He sighed and said, "I know, man, I was bullied into going in the first place. Only for that guy to yell at me." The bartender snickered and said, "Hang in there Kei. I know you can handle it." Kei took a sip of Ice Tea when he heard a familiar voice behind him, "By 'that guy' you mean me right?" Kei nearly spit his drink on the bartender. He stared to find it was Tonoin who had said it. Tonoin ordered a beer and took a seat next to him at the bar. "I've been drinking for 20 years, but I've never had a Mizuwari as great tasting as that one," said Tonoin softly. Kei had braced himself for a slew of insults only to find his defense useless.
He realized that Tonoin wasn't interested in criticizing him anymore. "Tell me, what made you Mizuwari so different?" he asked. Kei scratched the side of his nose and began, "There is a tired customer in front of me. He hasn't gone home for days and he's working toward opening a new hotel." Tonoin was shocked and he exclaimed, "How on earth did you know that?" Kei smiled sweetly and took another sip of his ice tea before continuing, "Your shirt sleeves, they're pretty dirty which is rare for a hotel manager. It's particularly rare for anyone with complete control over everything." He placed the glass on the bar and continued, "Anyway this customer always argues with the younger staff over their opinions, and the stress tires him out. Even so he can't sleep, so he resorts to drinking. I felt a regular Mizuwari with 1 part whiskey to 2.5 parts water would be too strong for a tongue which has gone through that." Tonoin was even more confused and said, "No your Mizuwari was thin but the taste was untouched."
Kei smiled as he held the glass up to eye level and said, "That was the ice." Tonoin looked at the glass in Kei's hand and eagerly waited to hear an explanation. "If you drop the alcohol level too low the ice will melt. So you need fairly solid ice to keep the balance," said Kei. He place the glass back on the counter and suddenly everything made sense to Tonoin, his eyes lit up and he responded, "Ice! That's what you went looking for? For one Mizuwari?" Tonoin was impressed, Kei had come off as childish and uneducated, yet it seemed as though he was the one who didn't know anything about cocktails. Tonoin sat quietly at the bar and Kei looked at the grain of the counter. "Do you know the meaning of the word Bartender?" he asked quietly. Tonoin was silent and he slowly looked over at Kei. "A Bar is like a stool and Tender meaning Gentle," said Kei, "So it means a Tender Bar stool." Kei knocked on the bar and continued, "This wood here is the bar, just a board you put alcohol on. However when a bartender is present; you put bar and tender together you get Kindness."
Tonoin felt a wave of guilt sweep over him, earlier he had treated the bartenders as though they were less than human, in fact they were more like dogs to him. "I guess guys who call bartenders barkeeps instead don't have the right to be customers," said Tonoin he was embarrassed by what he had said earlier and wished that he could simply erase it. Kei paused before taking another sip of his drink, "No, it doesn't matter who you are, but if you're standing in front of the counter a bartender will call you his customer," said Kei. He smiled cheerfully and turned to Tonoin, "I believe I said that before. Cheers!" he said as Kei's and Tonoin's glasses touched each other. There was bright clink as they toasted and Tonoin realized the most fundamental of a bar wasn't the counter nor furniture. It wasn't the liquor or the glasses that made a bar, the most important element, was the bartender. It was then that he realized his bar wasn't a bar yet, it looked like one but it was missing the kindness Kei spoke of and the warm hand which had slid the glass across the counter.
"How about it, will you work for us?" asked Tonoin. Kei sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, "Sorry, it's a nice offer but I want to check out some other bars in Japan first," said Kei. Tonoin sighed and thought about the fact that there was still a bit of time before opening, so it was possible to get Kei to be one of their bartenders. Tonoin paused and suddenly remembered what Kei had said about the ice. "By the way where did you get that ice?" he asked curiously. Kei smiled crookedly and responded "That," he paused and continued, "It was an old bartender's trick."
Aoe had finished cleaning up the bar only to be called down to the kitchen. Her job was safe however that didn't mean she could stop working. Kei's Mizuwari had given Tonoin a wake up call, to the point that he went to find Kei. She entered the kitchen to find the chef standing there tapping his toe. Aoe was confused and she asked, "Why did you call me down here?" The chef pointed at what was an ice sculpture of a swan and shouted, "Who broke the ice sculpture! Who? Did someone use it for the damn bar?" She stared and noticed that the head and large portion of the neck were missing from the once majestic swan sculpture. Aoe smiled nervously and responded, "Er no of course not." The chef's eyes narrowed and he said, "I don't believe you, don't let it happen again!" Aoe bowed and walked away as soon as she was out of the kitchen she shouted, "That Bastard!"
Tonoin was about to leave when Kei sneezed, "You better not be coming down with a cold," said Tonoin. Kei snickered and responded, "No I don't think I am, someone's just thinking of me." Tonoin shrugged and turned to leave and Kei called "One for the road."
End Note: Please Read Before Reviewing
In case you are wondering, yes the recipes are from various books and websites, they are the reason this story is marked T for Teen which is anyone above 13. I thought that was a safe marking since legally kids can't buy alcohol under the age of 21 in the US and 20 in other nations. Any similarities between real people and events is entirely coincidental and should be disregarded. Drinking underage is illegal and also a really nasty habit to kick. This story was written for the sake of telling stories about different struggles with people, and telling the interesting history of alcohol. Believe it or not, there is a story behind every cocktail.
So don't get too irritated, I love bar tending and I think it's a cool job so naturally I put the real stuff in there.