"I don't like jail, they got the wrong kind of bars in there." Charles BukowskiI was supposed to meet G-Man for a drink. He texted me that some of his Czech colleagues wanted to go out. And they wanted to hit their favorite cocktail bar.
So, we ended up at Bukowski's in Prague's Žižkov neighborhood.It was pretty empty at 8:00 pm on a Friday. We scored a table near the bar.It's a cozy drinking establishment with some interesting style points: fold-down chairs from a theater, a chandelier and other light fixtures made from bottles, and something a little unusual for a cocktail bar in this town -- carpeting.
There's a bigger main room in front and a small space in the back.That turned into a clubhouse for a couple of groups later in the evening.
For my first drink, I had my usual -- a gin gimlet. A pretty good version with a lime twist.G-Man's colleagues tried it and liked it enough that they were ordering them later in the evening.
Don't ask me what this drink or any other cost. Bukowski's has no website, the tab was written by hand at the end of the evening with drinks counted by hash marks, and I didn't look carefully at the menu. It's safe to assume the cocktails cost less than in the center.
I sampled G-Man's drink, something I'd never heard of before. It was a Jamaica Mule.It is made with rum, lime juice, ginger or ginger beer and sugar or syrup. He liked it. I thought it was tasty and interesting. I'd order it again.
Someone had a Cosmopolitan. A good version.The drink is still as popular as Sex and the City reruns on TV.
There was also some kind of chocolate-flavored martini on the table.I expected it to be completely horrible. That said, it wasn't that bad, perhaps benefiting from low expectations. There was just a very slight hint of chocolate to it. However, it is not something I'd ever order.
G-Man hadn't eaten, was really hungry and needed something to soak up the alcohol. However, Bukowski's has little food to speak of. Just some spicy nacho chips from a bag. We had three rounds of those.
By 9:30 pm, the place was really getting packed. I'd say it was mostly expats in the mid-20s to early 30s range.The cute waitresses still got to our table to take our orders. But the crush caused something of a meltdown behind the bar. Quality declined rapidly.
I ordered a mojito.It was the worst I've had in a long time. It had one positive aspect -- plenty of rum. Otherwise, it tasted like alcoholic ice water with a hint of lime. The sugar rested at the bottom, mostly unmixed.
Feeling tired, I ordered a Cuba Libre for a sugar and caffeine boost.Yes, it is a boring and simple drink. But I've enjoyed it more at places like Tretter's, where they juice it up with an extra infusion of lime. But Tretter's is often a crowded, yuppie meat-market, and I haven't been there for ages.
Bukowski's Cuba Libre had just a couple of squeezes of tiny lime slices and was little more than rum and slightly flat Coke.
G-Man ordered a Whisky Sour. I don't think I'd heard of anyone ordering this drink for 20 years. I don't know what a good one is supposed to taste like. If you like lots of whiskey and little sour, this is for you.
Someone ordered a Mai Tai.It was quite sweet. Sort of a Hawaiian Punch with rum.
Toward the end of the evening, we ordered a round of Gimlets for our table. We were sitting next to the bar, and the bartender asked me to pick them up, since the waitresses were so busy.
The drinks were in lowball glasses filled with ice cubes. I was confused.
"Are these Gimlets," I asked.
"We ran out of martini glasses so I had to put them in something else," he said.
"Why are they full of ice cubes?"
He just gave me a half-smile, a shrug, and turned to other pressing matters. At this point in the evening, the cocktail's finer points didn't seem all that important, anyway. Explaining the situation and relating the conversation did get a laugh back at the table.
Finally, even the waitresses started to snap under the strain. G-Man ordered a final Jamaica Mule and was very unhappy with it.
"This doesn't taste like a Jamaica Mule," he told the waitress.
"You ordered it!" she shouted above the din.
"Yeah, I know, I just wanted to be sure it was what I ordered."
She told him it was. He figured in the end that she was right, and that it was just poorly made.
Here's the thing about Bukowski's. It really did have a cool, lived-in neighborhood bar style. If you like hanging with expats with some Czechs mixed in, it could be a blast. There was a real house party atmosphere.
But if you go there on a packed out Friday night looking for precision mixologists who will consistently blend you the perfect cocktail, you're in the wrong kind of bar.
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