Orla Mellimg on Barkeeping, Part 1

How did it begin? Me serving bar in the Green Man? Well, there I was, a little while before Christmas, sitting in the pub with Cat and moaning about the stress of deadlines that fall just before Yuletide, when the pixie waiter brought my hot blackcurrant drink. Steaming in a glass goblet, with a wedge of lemon, it was like a rich purple wine. Cat eyed the drink, and our chat turned to the subject of Irish writers and their reputation as fierce drinkers.

I quoted comedian Tommy Tiernan’s line about being Irish, 'People expect you to be drunk.' Then I admitted, in fact, that I was an ex-fierce-drinker.

That was when Cat reminded me that my favourite fantasy writer, Charles de Lint, didn’t take a drink either, and the subject changed again to the dearth of interesting non-alcoholic beverages. 'I wish the Green Man served more of a variety,' I said. (The only ones on offer that day were the hot blackcurrant I had ordered and Turkish coffee served in a silver urn.)

Ach, I should have known better than to utter fanciful words in that rarefied atmosphere! As the seanfhocail i nGaeilge, or old Irish proverb, goes: faigheann iarraidh iarraidh eile. Seeking one thing will surely get you another.

For no sooner had I spoken than I found myself compelled to glance over at an apparently abandoned alcove on the far side of the room. There, half-hidden in shadow, was a little bar of its own, with an undulating counter of dark mahogany carved with leaves, grapes, and merry bacchanalian faces. The counter was partnered by several tall stools with pedestals that you knew might spin whenever they had a mind to. Behind the bar was a misty mirror with shelves of bottles in the oddest of shapes -- ships, trees, vases, crowns, birds, animals, people. That curvy rose-and-cream-coloured one was definitely Marilyn Monroe in her wind-blown dress.

I knew instantly what I was looking at.

And I knew it was calling to me.

Now let’s be clear about this. I am no longer the spring chick who pulled pints of porter for farmers, cattlemen, and the occasional musician who tramped into the bar of my Aunt Betty’s hotel in Ballinamore, County Leitrim many summers ago. Nor am I the young woman who flung out pints, shorts, and hot whiskeys at a furious rate on packed Saturday nights in the old Bernie Inn on Nassau Street, in Dublin’s fair city, a good few years after that. But what the hell. Ní baois go seanaois. There’s no real tomfoolery until old age. I was on for it. I was ready to serve up and dish out non-alcoholic but nonetheless intoxicating ichor in my own budding corner of the Green Man Pub.