Cheap Booze Handled with Care


There’s not much that could pass for décor at Local Bar, an urban watering hole that appears to attract both downtown denizens and the dazed and confused tourist who has stumbled blinkingly up from the nearby River Walk. There is the bowdlerized logo, an irreverent “Come and Drink It” take on the famous Gonzales flag, and some attempt has been made at upscale lighting, but the place is otherwise the essence of ordinary. The most prominent bottles on display sport names such as Razzmatazz, and drinks on the angled chalkboard overhead tend toward the starfucker sort. So it comes as a surprise that Local took second place in the recent Rivertini Pour-Off in early June. The drink’s name is now the Local-Tini, and it’s worth ordering—though at the end of a string of happy hour drinks, not at the beginning

Happy hour, which runs from 3 to 7 p.m. daily, offers admittedly cheap booze: $3.25 for “well” pours ($2.75 on Tuesday) which basically means low-end liquor with nothing more complicated than soda, tonic or maybe Coke added. This is not always a bad thing. A Scotch and soda with Cluny 8-year old was refreshing—and didn’t need its lime wedge; a gin and tonic with Gordon’s did need a citrus squeeze but was also an adequate quencher. “I’ll have to charge you more than $3.25 [for a gin martini], as it’s a double shot,” warned the bartender—and then she proceeded to make a very serious version, chilling the glass with ice and water while she vigorously shook the, yup, Gordon’s. She then rinsed the glass with Cinzano vermouth, poured in the icy gin and garnished the drink with four, count ‘em, four, olives.

Just so you don’t get a mistaken (though not necessarily wrong) impression, these drinks were not all sampled on one visit. It wasn’t until round two that I decided to go for the Local-Tini, and, as its preparation involves serious muddling of mint and cucumber, I was even more impressed by the bartender’s professionalism. Yes, this is a vodka martini, and, yes, it’s Gordon’s, but done with care. Olives would not have been appropriate in this case and none were served, the accent instead being an unexpected but effective chile-salt rim. Not damn bad for under $7.

On one visit, a tourist couple, apparently intent on deepening their acquaintance with the drink of the day, asked if there were any snacks to soften the blow. “Only microwave,” the bartender said, effectively cutting off that avenue. The object of their attention was the Hollywood shot, which, upon questioning of the ‘tender, turns out to be vodka (wanna bet Gordon’s?), the aforementioned Razzmatazz and pineapple juice… “I think I can pass on that,” I said. “Good for you,” she replied.

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