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Dog Bites 

The labor-intensive Mojito is reaping grim effects on bar efficiency – and patron patience

Wednesday, Oct 6 2004
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Muddling Along

In the '80s Americans widely embraced the wine cooler, or at least that's what Dog Bites gleaned from the many hours we spent as a youth sitting cross-legged six inches from the TV, watching two old men hawk those colorful Bartles & Jaymes drinks. (Wine coolers and cocaine must have paired nicely.) A decade later the rosy, limey, Sex and the City-ish Cosmopolitan proved popular. Those fey, sweet martinis did the job well, they did. A few years down the road, tragedy struck when our livers were introduced to the sickly sweet, unnaturally green Appletini. (If you haven't had a drop of it ooze down your throat, think of vodka joined with sour apple schnapps, resulting in a fermented green apple-scented scratch-and-sniff-stickers taste. Vile.) Thankfully, that Kool-Aid-like beverage received an early death.

Now, over the past few years, the Cuban Mojito (a tasty, difficult-to-prepare cocktail that combines rum, soda water, ice, sugar, and mint) has found its crisp, slightly exotic way into almost every glass at almost every happy hour in town. It's this generation's must-get-wasted-off-of drink. But unlike, say, a Cosmopolitan, a Mojito is time-consuming to prepare, prompting bar patrons throughout the Bay Area to politely ask, "Where the fuck is my drink?"

We witnessed the Mojito's grim effects on bar efficiency while relaxing at the Castro's new, Trading Spaces-décored restaurant/ lounge, Lime. After a gaggle of tan men -- who, in poor judgment, sport sleeveless shirts, confusing an evening on Market Street for the sands of Miami Beach -- order a round of Mojitos, the bartender lets out a soft, cranky sigh. (A sigh Dog Bites recognizes from a brief stint at Baskin-Robbins as a fresh-faced teen. Whenever a customer ordered a labor-intensive milkshake, or, worse, asked for a "dip" instead of a "scoop," we breathed that sigh of controlled rage, too.)

"Why so sad?" we ask our bartender.

"[Mojitos] take too fucking long, man," waifishly handsome Lime bartender Jared Kurtz, 28, explains. "And everyone keeps ordering them, and then gets pissed when they don't get them right away! Like, that's all they fucking drink now, I swear to fucking God!"

Oh dear.

Kurtz takes a breath and goes on to tell us that this drink alone is responsible for a nightly buildup of impatient customers and even angrier colleagues who have seen a dip in tip revenue because of the slow-process cocktail.

With much fervor, Kurtz details how the classic martini takes an average of 20 seconds to make, whereas the Mojito takes over one minute. Why? Because the Mojito's mint leaves need muddling. The sprigs of mint, along with sugar and ice, need pulverizing within the glass in order to incorporate the sugar with the mint's extract (not to get all Cook's Illustrated on you).

With Mojitos posing such a problem at Lime, the management, bartending staff, and owner called an emergency round-table meeting. Their solution?

Hiring Evie France, 38, of the Mission, solely to muddle mint.

France -- a chatty, kewpie doll-like lady who contrasts her dingy white apron with a smart pair of sapphire earrings -- spends her nights downstairs in Lime's kitchen with a mortar, bunches of pungent mint, sugar, and glasses, and preps anywhere from 60 to 100 Mojito glasses a night, freeing the bartenders to medicate more of the masses. Ever mindful of job security, France has branched out, learning to infuse vodkas with lemon and orange rind (citrus scrapings that are perfect for that cold glass of white Lillet, which we wouldn't mind seeing override the commie-pinko Mojito. That or ZIMA. Seriously).

After all, like all things too good, the Mojito and its muddling process will fly too close to the sun, lose popularity, and walk down the path of obscurity already trod by the once-popular Manhattan (which Dog Bites still adores) and the equal-parts-rum-and-whiskey Gorilla Fart. OK, we're not sure the latter was ever popular, but we'd like to see it trump the Mojito, if just to hear the sleeveless, bronzed himbos at Lime say "fart," time after time, all night long. (Brock Keeling)

Ahead of Themselves

We've always loved those journalism-review features designed to make fun of newspaper headlines so poorly constructed that they convey several meanings, at least one unintended and hilarious. No, we're not talking about "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar"; that's a headline so resolutely insensitive it's become a classic. We mean headlines like this one from the Dayton Daily News (as related by the American Journalism Review):

"Fatality casts paul over races"

In keeping with its style in such matters, the AJR felt compelled to ask a follow-up question:

"Where Were John, George & Ringo?"

OK, these are easy, lazy, unfair shots at extraordinary faux pas made by hardworking daily newspapermen on crushing deadlines. So let's take them a step further. There are, after all, other headline problems, and other snarky ways to play with them. We are talking about what might be done with the mystery heads that seem endemic to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Although they take the same form as other headlines, these strings of type do not explain the news stories that they sit atop. Like the people in a Chagall painting, the Chron's mystery heads have a separate, floating, disembodied existence. They approximate statements of eternal condition. They give you no idea what you might read in the news article below.

They are charming. They go something like this:
"San Francisco

Ex-lawyer felt 'absolute panic'"

No, actually, they go exactly like that. The above two lines constitute a complete, totally real headline for a recent Chronicle story about a former attorney who felt absolutely panicked about ... something or other. You guess, bucko.

With the Internet and search engines, it would be a snap for you to find the actual news article that ran under this six-word non sequitur. So don't do that; it would be passé, and recherché, and a wide variety of other haughty, accented, foreign-sounding predicate adjectives.

Instead, send Dog Bites the date, section, and page number for all the mystery Chronicle headlines you encounter. Eventually, we'll amass enough to fill an entire page with easy, lazy, unfair, and snarky copy no one had to write or edit. And then, once we get ourselves booked onto a cable TV talking-head scream-show, Dog Bites will feel just like a big-time journalism critic.

Bay Guardian Wank of the Week

Speaking of journalism criticism, the most hilarious example we've run across this year shows up weekly on a blog called Hooray for Anything (www.hoorayforanything.com or www.hooray.blogspot.com). Some guy not necessarily named "Jon" started the blog three years ago. A self-described "sporadically employed thirtysomething who does not claim to have had Barry Bonds' 700th home run ball," Jon says he has a dream of appearing on a VH1 show in which he can make fun of celebrities.

Of course, Jon's dreams have nothing to do with Dog Bites' interest in his blog. Dog Bites likes Jon because after taking "the occasional pot-shot at the Bay Guardian, either for dumb-ass politics, dumb-ass cover stories, or dumb-ass reviews," he started posting "random quotes that I thought were particularly laughable." He says he received a positive response and decided to give the people what they want: the Bay Guardian Wank of the Week.

The Wank of the Week often focuses on the pretentious and obscurantist prose that fills the alleged publication. Other times, the Wank just points out BG incompetencies with the English language. Always, the Wank makes its point with a couple of paragraphs so horrid they induce shivers, and a minimum of icy commentary. A sample from Sept. 8:

This week's Bay Guardian Wank of the Week isn't as much something that's totally pretentious as it is a train-wreck of a sentence. Here's the first sentence of an article praising a local band that I've never heard of, Tartufi:

"In a world -- or at least a city -- of costume bands, nightmare-streaked new wave, and sweaty, naked, sexually assaultive backup dancers, the rock 'n' roll trio known as Tartufi stand up for certain classic traditions, like verse-chorus-verse, infectious melodies, comprehensible lyrics that aren't afraid to stomp on your heart a bit, and the kind of anthemic songs that make a girl want to start a band, leave town on a long road trip, or find someone to make out with outside the club; the kind it would be wrong not to accompany on vocals when alone in one's boudoir."

For those scoring at home, that's a ninety-nine word sentence. Did the copy editor fall asleep?

The Wank is entertaining enough to have gotten the attention of another blog Dog Bites loves, the SFist (www.sfist.com), which is offering prizes for people who send in SFBG paragraphs even worse than "Hooray for Anything's scientifically-determined Bay Guardian worst two paragraphs of the week!" We're not sure we want to read the full results of a competition that looks for the worst prose published by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, but we're glad to know there are dedicated people seeking, each and every week, after the perfect Wank. And then the more perfect one.

About The Author

John Mecklin

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