There was also a pretty good bar on the second floor.
The first time I went I got so sozzled on cocktails that I ended up scribbling my apartment number back in Fukuoka, not the room number, on the tab. Fortunately, I realized my mistake and had him recharge the drinks to our room the next day.
The bartender took it in stride. “It often happens,” he said.
This bartender was not only a decent person, but could also make a pretty damn good drink, which brings me to one of my pet peeves: bartenders in the States. In America, many states require you to have a bartending license to work behind a bar. Does this make you a better bartender as the Professional Server Certification Corporation claims it will? No. What makes a great bartender is not a piece of paper and a few weeks of “mixology” classes, but experience, good sense, a love of fine alcohol and food, and a reluctance to skimp, the very things that many American bartenders lack. In the U.S., where so many bars are more often than not suction cups on the tentacles of massive corporations, there is an insidious push to cut costs wherever possible. And so, in the country that once exalted the cocktail, raising it to an art form, the well drink and crushed ice now dominate.
Anyways, on our third day in Okinawa, I slipped out of the hotel room while my wife and son were napping to get a bite to eat. There was a taco stand about fifteen or so minutes down the road that I had seen the day before and was interested in trying out, so I hiked up Route 58 (“Goya”). Unfortunately, when I got there, I discovered that the shop was closed for the day. (Let me tell you, this has happened to me so often I am just one teikyûbi, or “scheduled holiday”, away from going postal and shooting up the next shop that inconveniences me.) While I was out, though, I was lucky enough to bump into for the second time in as many days what is possibly the most gorgeous woman I saw all summer. Drop dead-beautiful, tall, slender and tan, she had a pair of knockers that would go on to torment me in my sleep. It made the otherwise fruitless trek more than worth the while.
I had been taking a walk with my son when I first laid eyes on the beauty. She was with her dog, wearing shorts and a tank top bra, her tits jiggling deliciously.
“How do you like them apples, son?”
Today, she, like me, was alone, and as we passed, our eyes met. I smiled at her, she smiled back, and I damn near melted.
In my fantasy, I say something clever that stops her in her tracks. She turns around.
“Taco stand’s closed,” I say.
“You’re not missing anything,” she tells me.
“No? Anything around here worth eating?”
“Bon Apetit!” I say as she leads me back to her apartment.
Returning to the hotel, I dropped in at the bar. The bartender was polishing glasses.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Crowe.”
I took a seat near the window. The late afternoon sun was coming in through the blinds, intense and hot.
“Would you like me to close the blinds,” the bartender asked.
“No, no. I prefer it this way.”
For a people who supposedly worship the sun goddess Amaterasu, the Japanese sure do shut out the sun an awful lot.
“Bathe me in your warmth, oh Sun!” I say. “Dazzle me with your brilliance! Tan me! Make me as brown as a nut!”
“Would you like something to drink?”
“I would indeed,” I replied, squinting up at the bartender who had a halo of sunlight around him. I asked if he drank awamori.
“So, what brand do you drink?”
Tatsu was the answer. “I’ve been drinking it a lot recently.”
“Don’t believe I have ever tried that. Tatsu for me, then.”
“How would you like it?”
“On the rocks.”
“Certainly. I’ll be right back with your drink.”
The first time ever that I drank awamori was well over a decade ago in a past life, of sorts. It had been during my very first visit to Okinawa where I was traveling with a woman who would in less than two years’ time become my wife. (God help the two of us.)
As our room was being readied, we sat down at the lounge and had “welcome drinks”. While I can’t recall what my girlfriend had that afternoon, I will never forget what I ordered: awamori.
I may not have even heard of the drink before then and most likely selected it because it was the locals drank. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Sitting there in that lounge and looking through a wall of glass at the clear blue sea—like nothing I’d ever seen before—I took my first sip. The signature flavor of awamori filled my mouth—like nothing I’d ever tasted before—and I knew it was love.
Since then, awamori has been my drink of choice in the summertime and I have tried several dozen brands. I am by no means a connoisseur of the drink, but I know what I like when I have it and I really liked Tatsu. There are better brands, of course—Seifuku from the island of Ishigaki is still my favorite—Tatsu, though, is a keeper, something that my ideal bar would have on its lower shelf.