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Issue 62 - A ward of the bar

Whisky Magazine Issue 62
March 2007


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A ward of the bar

Jefferson Chase unearths a gem of whisky writing

Strange coincidences. Last autumn I was in London having a drink with an old friend, Michael Jackson, who mentioned an unusual memoir he had read.

The book was called The Tender Bar, Michael remembered, but the writer's name escaped him.

J.R. Moehringer, it turned out the next day, when I discovered said tome by complete accident in a used bookshop near Charing Cross Road. True to Michael's description, it was a colorful, nostalgic look back at an anything but model adolescence.

Abandoned by his father as a boy, Moehringer grew up in a bit of East Coast suburbia famous for its alcoholic excess.

Manhasset, site of the largest liquor store in New York State, was the only town on Long Island with a cocktail named after it (a Manhasset is a Manhattan, with more alcohol). The town's half-mile-long main drag, Plandome Road, was every drinker's street of dreams – bar after bar after bar…When one man torched his bar on Plandome Road to collect the insurance, cops found him in another bar on Plandome Road and told him he was wanted for questioning. The man put his hand over his heart like a priest accused of burning a cross. “How could I,” he asked, “how could anyone – burn down a bar?” Before long, young J.R. gets to see the inside of one of those establishments, called Dickens, because his Uncle Charlie works there.

He immediately falls in love with the sights, sounds and smells of the place and discovers among its regular customers not one, but a host of substitu...

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