So good you are bad: The tale of Scott the Bartender

When they moved Wade’s a popular foreign bar, so that it was a block from my house, I didn’t much about it one way or the other. It was the bar I frequented most often, but that didn’t say much. I did figure I would be going there more often, but I was pretty ‘meh’ to the whole thing.

Then I walked into the place. It had a proper bar. If there is one thing I miss in China its bars. The are lots of them, but for some reason patrons avoid them, and bar staff tend to use the bar area as a place to get things ready. All of this is much to my infinite annoyance, as I am one who enjoys having a seat at a bar and just taking it all in.  I was expecting the new Wade’s to pretty much be like that. But one day I sat at the bar and waited for a friend of mine to show up, and while I was sitting there I noticed that it was actually enjoyable to do so; none of the staff made me feel like I was in there way and the bartender was working behind the bar and not fucking on it. I then noticed something else.

China is a country of extremes. Things are either on or off and there is no nuance here. The bartenders I have met here have either been excellent or laughably inept. Case in point would be the bar that was serving Moscow Mule specials with bartenders who had no idea, nor inclination to learn, just what the hell a Moscow Mule was, and thus served me Vodka, lime, cucumber and soda water in a rock’s glass. Now, I am generally all for a little bit of variation here and there, but this monstrosity couldn’t be further from a god damn Moscow mule, and nor did it at all taste good. It was on every level a failure. This is par for the course, as this is the country that can’t figure out the ingredients for a Scotch and Soda. However, there have been a few exceptionally good bartenders, and it turns out that Wade’s had one. His name was Scott, and as I sat there watching him competently make something else, I figured I would test his skills by asking for something at random.

“Vodka gimlet on the rock’s!” I barked at him. At this point in my my life I had never actually drank a vodka gimlet, but there was once a regular customer at a restaurant I ran that would order them. Scott made me a fantastic Vodka Gimlet on the rocks. And then something slightly peculiar happened. I tipped him.

I don’t know if it is a cultural thing here in China, but that single tip sparked a bizarre kindness arms race, where me and Scott suddenly found ourselves trying to one up each other’s kindness. After that first tip, I found myself getting a free shot here and there. So I tipped a little more, and the next time I came I started getting lots of the free shots. Well, extrapolate this to your heart’s content. I as of this writing pretty much paying for the cheapest drink available and getting infinite free refills and all the shots I can put back. Nor is this something that is limited to me, but applies to whomever I turn up at the bar with. I once went there hoping not to drink, sat way out at the other end of establishment with my boss, and found that Scott came to us with a series of shots.

At this point I have figured what is really going on here. The drinks are his kindness towards me (I pay 40RMB for my first drink and put them back all night long). However, the shots he keeps pouring for me and my friends are Scott’s way of feeding his own alcoholism. It is never just a shot for me, its always a shot for us.

Well, if this man dreams of liver failure, who am I to stand in his way? I happily take whatever shot Scott throws at me. The problem is, he’s started to throw flaming sambuca and absinthe my way. You see, Scott also seems out to maximize his own entertainment through everyone else’s inebriation. And despite stereotypes, I’ve met fucking sailors who can’t keep drink down like this guy. Which means that he will be at best buzzed when you are falling over shitfaced, and he will also be a little off his better judgement when he starts calling himself ‘Dr. Scott’ and dispensing advice as to what you should do for that cold you got coming on (hint: its whisky). What I don’t know is how or why he made a me a very special drink the other night; a Bailey’s Irish cream, blue Curaçao and Galliano’s served in an emptied out lemon rind instead of a shot glass.

I have no idea.

In short, I will either leave China soon or Scott will send me back in a box.



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