May 12, 2013

Author Q&A: A woman walks into a bar and finds community and culture

Thousands of hours of research give columnist Rosie Schaap stories about being a woman who frequents bars.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Rosie Schaap

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ROSIE SCHAAP will talk about her new memoir, then move on to LFK, a neighborhood bar at 188A State St. in Portland, for an after-party.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7) May 24

WHERE: Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $5 to $10 suggested donation

INFO: Sponsored by LFK, 899-3277 or

We think back to Hogarth and the horrible gin craze of the 18th century in England, when impoverished Londoners were dying and dissolute, and it was all because of this very cheap gin. That's very different from the gin we drink now, but I think the sort of perceived notions about gin have proved to be very powerful. I think there's a kind of knee-jerk reaction that many bar customers have against gin.

A friend of mine always teases me; she says my face can't hide anything, so I try not to furrow my brow or look disappointed. Rather than telling a person, "Oh no, you can't have a vodka martini," instead I'll ask a question: "When's the last time you had a martini made with gin?" And much of the time, they'll say, "never." They just know they don't like it, and it's going to mess them up. So I try to encourage them to try something different. 

Q: What's the next big thing in bars or cocktails?

A: You know, that's something I ask bartenders all the time when I go out, and I get different answers from every bartender. There's a new bar in New York that opened this winter that's been getting a lot of attention called The Dead Rabbit. It's a wonderful place. It's basically two bars under one roof. The first floor is like a traditional Irish pub, and the upstairs is just one of the great cocktail bars in the city.

I was upstairs last night with a friend and we had a great bartender, of course, and I asked her what she was excited about, and she is really excited about rum drinks right now.

But another bartender a few days earlier said, "Oh, now that the sun is shining, of course it's time to start making more gin cocktails." So I don't see any particularly clear trends with spirits.

One thing I've noticed -- and I'm certainly not alone in noticing this over the last few years -- is a real revival of rye, whereas a few years ago, most customers who wanted a Manhattan wanted it with bourbon. There's been a certain movement back to rye.

But what I'm also seeing is, I feel we've kind of reached a pinnacle of haute cocktail culture. People are loving their great cocktails, but I think they're wanting just a more relaxed, low-pressure bar experience. There are some wonderful speakeasy-style bars in New York that I really enjoy, and they're great places to go and try a cocktail -- you know, some 19th-century recipe that you might not be able to try elsewhere -- but they're not necessarily the kind of places that really encourage regularhood and the friendships that come along with that.

I'm noticing people just wanting this sort of simpler pleasure in their bar experience. There's nothing wrong with stopping by a bar after work and just having a couple of pints of beer and a good conversation. You can try that very special sour with 10 ingredients some other time.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


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