Tiny umbrellas among the hazards of mixed drinks
It can happen in the best of drinking cliques.
Laughter, frivolity and good-natured ribbing all are part of the bar scene, wherever you’re stationed.
Until someone in a group orders a mixed drink of bizarre color and — heaven forbid — sporting a cute little bamboo umbrella.
Ordering a Blue Hawaii or a Pink Cadillac is a sure-fire way of separating the men from the boys when it comes to drinking matters.
But is it a concern among savvy aficionados?
“Sometimes after eating a meal of ribs, I like a sweeter drink like a Screwdriver, or a Blue Motorcycle,” says Eric Perando a seaman with the Navy’s Mobile Mine Assembly Detachment at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. “It really depends on my mood.”
He sees nothing wrong with ordering a drink that may raise an eyebrow among drinking traditionalists.
“I really don’t have preferences when it comes to drinking,” he said. “I like to taste everything in a bar over time.”
Some mixed drinks sporting colorful motifs can be pretty potent, said Airman 1st Class Micah Simpson of Misawa.
“There’s a drink sold off-base here called Chu-Hi,” she said. “I’m not sure what’s in it, but it can sure get you messed up.”
Another favorite: an Ammo — made of grapefruit juice and an unspecified amount of alcohol served in a large bowl or tankard.
“It’s made for two people and comes with straws,” she said.
But, Simpson said, she never has a problem with ordering mixed drinks that could garner a giggle with her friends: “I prefer straight shots when I’m drinking.”
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Caleb Moore has tried a Bolalaki served at a Russian eatery near Misawa’s front gate. It’s made with vodka and mixed with sweeteners.
“It’s not a bad drink; it’s different,” he said. “But if you want to play it safe, just order beer, then mixed drinks aren’t an issue.”
Yoshihisa Akao, chief barkeep at Paddy’s Irish Pub, said no teasing is evident among the clientele at the popular pub about a two-minute jaunt from Misawa’s front gate.
“Most of our customers are on their good behavior,” he observes with insightful knowledge gained from working his side of the counter since Paddy’s opened three years ago.
About 50 percent of the customers frequenting Paddy’s are Japanese and the balance are Americans, said co-owner Kazuko Fukuda.
She said customer tastes in the bar are mostly traditional — the Japanese order whiskey and water, while Jack Daniels and Coke is a popular mixed drink among Americans.
“Men don’t seem to care when it comes to drinking,” she said. “They want a strong drink. But women don’t; they tend to ask about the alcohol content.”
Neither Fukuda nor Akao can recall anyone coming into Paddy’s and asking for a Blue Hawaii or a Grasshopper.
“People here don’t order those types of drinks; they’re more popular in Tokyo,” she said.
Akao said most Americans stay with what they know from living in other parts of the world.
“They’re pretty conservative drinkers, they go with what they know,” he said.
While Guinness stout, that smooth and creamy draft, is popular among Paddy’s regulars, Akao said several mixed drinks can be ordered that won’t elicit snickers from friends sitting at your elbows.
Bunratty Mead is an Irish whiskey mixed with honey; it sports an alcohol content of 14.7 percent.
“It’s popular with women because of the low alcohol content,” he said.
Most Americans, Fukuda said, “drink it with ice, and it’s quite tasty.”
Another is Blackthorn, a dry apple cider from Great Britain and a popular item in Irish pubs.
“Ordering Bailey’s Irish cream is always a safe bet not to raise eyebrows of those around you,” said Akao who has attended three Guinness training courses, including one requiring him to demonstrate he can top off a glass of stout with a frothy head many millimeters thick.
But if you want to avoid the ridicule of your drinking buddies at the Misawa pub, he said, don’t order a tropical drink made with those pretty bright colors.
“We don’t serve drinks with bamboo umbrellas,” Akao said. “But maybe since it’s usually cold and snowy in Misawa, we should serve drinks with little snowmen instead.”