There was a new bottle among the liqueurs behind the bar. It appeared to be crystal and had a fancy stopper shaped like a water drop. The label was hand-lettered and read “White Male Tears.”
“Where did this come from? It’s a joke, right?” I turned to Mikhel, truly puzzled. We have a lot of specialized liqueur bottles behind the bar, but I’d never heard of this.
“No joke,” he said with a grin. “It’s a little something new from the distributor. Give it a try.”
That was enough to make me suspicious. Mikhel’s “distributor” was a person of indeterminate gender and age who showed up every week in an unmarked silver truck loaded with cases of alcohol and kegs of beer. A lot of it was stuff that wasn’t available elsewhere. I’d never seen an order or an invoice, but it made me wonder where it came from and how the bar could possibly afford to stay open. I assumed without asking that Boss didn’t need to make money on the venture. And it was clear that Boss was very fond of the distributor – She always groomed Herself right before the silver truck arrived and greeted them with a familiar meow.
I pulled out a shot glass, opened the bottle, and gave it a sniff. It smelled of citrus and spice and caramel. I poured just a bit into the glass and took a sip. It was amazing. Not sweet, but rich and smooth. “Oh. Oh my. This is incredible.”
Mikhel chuckled. “I thought you’d like it. Not everyone does.”
“How can anyone not like this? Though truthfully, I expected it to be salty with a name like that. What’s the deal?”
“Quite simply, it tastes different to different people.”
“Most things do – people have specific tastes.” I reluctantly put the stopper back on the bottle and put it back on the shelf.
Mikhel pursed his lips. “No, this actually tastes different, depending on the relationship the person who drinks it has to. . . . well, to white male tears.” I gave him an incredulous look. “No, really.”
“Uh, okay,” I said, although I was not sure it was okay. “So, what does it taste like to you?”
“Salty. Like it needs a beer chaser.”
“Huh.” I couldn’t think of anything to say to that. “I guess that kind of makes sense. In a weird way.”
Mikhel gave a little shrug. “I thought some of our guests would enjoy it.”
I recognize a challenge when I hear it, so I decided to find out that very evening.
Vlad came in with his spouse, Toni. They were regulars – good folks although their viewpoints were more conservative than my own. Vlad and Toni were soon joined by a group of friends, one of whom brought several pizzas. Someone had the football game streaming on their smartphone – they had lobbied hard to have the games broadcast on the TV screens, but Mikhel would have none of it. “Floggin’ Brews is not a sports bar.”
At a different table, Indi and a handful of her friends were planning some weekend canvassing. Election day was approaching, and Indi was volunteering to help elect the first openly queer candidate to the county board. There was some chatter back and forth about targeting, and whether certain neighborhoods were “walkable,” but the group was mostly focused on their iPad screens and sharing several Oliphant beers: Medium Talent imperial stout, Hunkboy porter, and Honees Honees ale.
Indi came over with some empty glasses and asked for refills. While she was there, I decided she was a good candidate for my unofficial taste test. I poured a shot glass full of White Male Tears and set it in front of her. “Here, this is new and I’m trying to figure out if it would be good in a cocktail. Can you give it a taste and tell me what you think?”
I kept half an eye on Indi while I poured her beer order. She gave it a sniff and her eyebrows went up. Then a sip and her eyes went wide. “Oh wow. Wow. Ret, what is this?”
I set her beers on a small tray in front of her. “Like I said, it’s new. What do you think?”
“It’s fabulous. I’ve never had anything like it. It tastes like. . . like honey and cream and cookies. Wow. What’s it called?”
I told her and she snorted. “Ha! I always thought Male Tears would taste good, now I know: better than I ever expected. But don’t mix it with anything – it’s perfect just the way it is. Can you pour me a glass to share with my team?” I did, added an ice cube and maraschino cherry for garnish, and Indi took it back to the table. From what I could tell, it was a big hit.
Now to try it on Vlad.
His table was big into lagers, and I had been told to keep the Schell’s Firebrick coming. Vlad came up to get the next round, and I asked him to try the Tears. He wrinkled his nose but apparently decided that since it was in a shot glass he might as well give it a try.
“Pah!” He almost spit it out and set the glass down in a hurry. “Ugh. No, that’s awful. What the hell is it?”
“A new liquor – I’m trying to decide how to use it in a cocktail.”
I handed him a beer. “Here. You can get the taste out of your mouth. If I can ask, how would you describe the taste?”
Vlad sipped the lager and visibly relaxed. “Bitter. Like burned-out fuses.”
“Thanks for trying it for me – sorry about the taste, sometimes you just don’t know.” I handed him a couple drink tokens. “Here’s toward the next round.”
“Thanks, Ret!” Vlad pocketed the tokens and headed back to his table with the beers.
The shotglass was still on the bar. I would ordinarily dump it, but I decided to take a sip just to see. Still tasted of carmel/citrus/spice awesomeness to me.
Mikhel appeared beside me. I hadn’t heard him coming but I was getting used to that. “You were right,” I said as I put the crystal bottle back on the shelf. “This tastes completely different to different people. So – how do I decide who to serve this to?”
“Oh, you’ll know. It will be someone who is fighting to change the powers that be, and who needs a little liquid reassurance.”
I nodded. “We get quite a few people who fit that description.”
Mikhel looked happy at that. “Yes, we do.”
“So, if I can ask. . . “
“What else can your distributor recommend?”
Mikhel’s eyebrows went up. “You’ll have to ask Boss.”