Haunted Bars or Haunted Bartenders?

the mysterious ‘White Lady’ at Paul, Palm Springs

Yeah.. I have worked at a haunted bar or two. Even the most sceptical STEM-bro, if he were to work in enough bars, would eventually have something happen that he’d have a hard time ‘sciencing the shit out of’.

 

What is it about bars that attract such strange energies?

I can’t say for certain, but perhaps it is a multitude of factors.

  1. bars are places full of life and energy- it only makes sense that the energy would linger, or at least imprint something on the mind to suggest continuing human activity after such activity had ceased.
  2. people drink at bars- our faculties as guests (and yes occasionally staff, especially after closing) are sometimes compromised, or perhaps more open to phenomena we would normally dismiss
  3. closing/opening staff are often alone- when you’re alone, sometimes you see or hear things that aren’t (?) there
  4. people die/suffer trauma at bars- sad but true, maybe the trauma leaves a psychic residue

So perhaps it is all in our heads; I don’t believe that but you’re entitled to if you like. I have two stories I can’t for the life of me explain, but I will save them for the podcast. Let’s get on to the cocktail!

It’s surprisingly difficult to come up with a ‘ghost-theme’ classic cocktail. I mean there are plenty of spooky names for drinks and plenty of corny Halloween cocktails online; but very little to work with in the classic sense of a ‘ghost’. I chose the ‘White Lady’, and went with the recipe from the Savoy Cocktail Book as it has claim to being one of the first recipes. It is what I would classify as a ‘daisy’- a family of drinks including the Sidecar and Margarita. The definition of daisy is loose, but it should contain a base spirit, citrus, and orange liquor as a sweetener. Soda water is optional, and then you basically have a Collins anyway, but I digress. The Savoy version is just two parts dry gin to one part each Cointreau and lemon juice, simple, dry, elegant- but a little lacking in body. Most bartenders I know use a beefier version with egg white, and make it into a gin sour.

White Lady

(modern version)

2oz dry gin

1oz lemon juice

3/4oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Shake without ice, then shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, apply bitters in little dots and dashes on top as you see fit

Why did I choose the White Lady? I feel like a ‘Lady in White’ is one of the most common apparitions reported at bars and hotels, and in general. The scorned bride who died tragically at her own hands, or the hands of another, or through some accident, is a common theme in folklore. She is a sad and elegant reminder of a bygone age, an equally scary and sympathetic figure, who calls us back to the edge of belief in an afterlife that may not be any happier than this mixed bag of existence. So therefore let us toast to her, all of the versions of her, and wish her soul some relief this Halloween!

The Dark Watchers..

Ever feel like you’re being watched? Well you are, but let’s leave the NSA, Russia, Amazon, Facebook, etc, out of it for awhile (hi guys!). If you find yourself in the Santa Lucia Mountains of coastal California, perhaps in search of a nice Pinot Noir, you may end up with some company. According to Jason Offutt in his book Chasing American Monsters, the Chumash Indians were the first to see mysterious silhouettes standing on the mountain ridges, silently staring. [edit 03/22/21 Ken Layne on his Desert Oracle podcast clarified the tribe as the Essalen, a tribe nearly wiped out by the Spanish, and from whom the Essalen Institute took its name.] Spanish settlers recorded seeing these vigilantes oscuros, and a quick search online (specifically the comments section of the Weird California page on the subject [unsecure link, not sharing it]) shows that these things are still being seen regularly today. Back to Offutt, “Legend has it these humanoid creatures rarely appear to anyone who is carrying a gun, or is dressed in weatherproof clothing; they only reveal the themselves to people who wander the mountains in more old-fashioned garb.”

Pepé, the protagonist of the John Steinbeck short story ‘flight’ had a gun, and little good it did him shortly after seeing the Dark Watchers.

Once, on a white barren spur, he saw a black figure for a moment, but he looked quickly away, for it was one of the dark watchers. No one knew who the watchers were, nor where they lived, but it was better to ignore them and never to show any interest in them. They did not bother one who stayed on the trail and and minded his own business.

Pepe looked up to the top of the next dry withered ridge. He saw a dark form against the sky, a man’s figure standing on top of a rock, and he glanced away quickly not to appear curious. When a moment later he looked up again, the figure was gone.

John Steinbeck, ‘Flight’

Steinbeck was interested enough in these mysterious beings that his son, Thomas, collaborated on a book (In Search of the Dark Watchers) about the subject with artist Benjamin Brode. Apparently lore of the Watchers was deeply ingrained in his upbringing, his grandmother even claiming to have traded with them- which is lore altering if true.

Poet Robinson Jeffers, in his poem ‘Such Counsels You Gave to Me’ also mentioned “the watchers, who are often seen in this length of coast range, forms that look human to human eyes, but certainly are not human. They come from behind ridges to watch.”

So, what are these ethereal observers? Are they like the ‘shadow people’ many observe in their bedrooms at night? Are they ghosts, or the remaining vibrations of a people long passed on? Perhaps it is a form of alien intelligence, curious about our hiking habits? Whatever they are, I thought they deserved a cocktail of their own. Luckily the boys at Bootlegger Tiki were up to the task and helped me whip up “The Dark Watcher aka the Poor Pepé”.

old-fashioned garb and all

1 1/2 oz Singani 63

1/2 Demerara syrup

1/2 lime juice

1/4 oz fallernum

barspoon grenadine

barspoon açaí pureé

shake with crushed ice, Collins glass, garnish with edible flowers to accentuate the floral aspects

It’s refreshing and dangerous, and just dark enough to add a sense of mystery. If you ask the bartenders at Bootlegger nicely, I am sure you could get them to make you one.

It’s watching me..

..and if you see something dark watching you on the horizon, just leave it be.