Last Call: My four-martini dinner
By Joh Sedtal
Place: Dos Jefes Uptown Cigar Bar, 5535 Tchoupitoulas Street
Atmosphere: Subdued but light. Good for a Casablanca moment, especially on muggy Nola nights. There's live music nightly, too.
Drinks: The classics, made by people who know the importance of a full glass and can't bear the thought of you seeing the bottom of it
Clientele: Anyone from recent grads to the people they hope to someday work for
Best Time to Go: When you've lost your man card and need a replacement, ASAP
Every now and then I get this rumble in my belly. I don’t really know what it is, but it is always followed by an inexplicable desire to pursue what I like to call the manly arts.
By this I mean drinking, smoking, and, in general, anything Humphrey Bogart or Ernest Hemingway would do. My favorite of these pursuits is the three-martini lunch, a tradition that has regained some cultural relevance thanks to Don Draper and the rest of the Mad Men ensemble.
The other night, the feeling crept over me: that uncontrollable desire for masculine immortality. I needed a three-martini lunch in the worst way. Given the timing of this impulse, a three-martini lunch would have been difficult to achieve. My manly instinct would not be stifled. If lunch was unavailable, I had better make it a dinner.
The destination my liver desired was a place where I could go to smoke cigarettes, drink martinis (served “up” of course), and, to put it bluntly, feel dapper. These parameters of my search left me with only one real option: Dos Jefes. After putting on a shirt and tie, buying a pack of American Spirits, and downing a shot of Balvenie 12 Year for good luck, I began what I hoped would be a low key but gratifying night out.
Dos Jefes is a small cigar bar Uptown, on the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Joseph streets. From the moment I sauntered in, I couldn’t help but relish the utterly irresistible tone of the décor. Lining the walls are photographs of men and women smoking cigars. Even the mounted fish above the bar has a stogie protruding from its elongated jaw.
The sound of hand percussionists emanated from a corner of the bar, as Los Tres Amigos did what they do so well. Perfectly positioned amidst the small, intimate tables in the foyer were small collectives of former frat bros, middle- to later-aged men, and the occasional lady accompaniment. I would be willing to guess the ratio numbered something like four to one men to women.
The mood was subdued but cheerful as I grabbed a seat at the fine wood bar and ordered a painfully dry dirty martini. The music was ambient but upbeat, and the gathered crowd listened respectfully. During breaks in the music, the musicians came into the crowd and caroused with customers, clearly friends and regulars.
The martini was well prepared and, most importantly, filled to the brim. The bar masters were polite and well intentioned, eager to serve and equally willing to rib a disheveled patron like me. I was most appreciative of one particular bartender, the one in the Hubig’s Pie t-shirt, for informing me that I had just ashed my cigarette into my drink. Oh the joys of being oblivious.
I was relieved to find that I was never allowed to see the bottom of my glass and that each subsequent drink was more enjoyable than the previous one. Four martinis, a pack of cigarettes, and one well-prepared absinthe later, I felt as though my testosterone had successfully been flexed.
Retreating to the door (over which hangs a truly appropriate picture of Clint Eastwood in one of his spaghetti Westerns) with nothing but a sense of dignity and the receipt of my very robust tab, I stepped outside to call a cab. It had been a good night; but, even more, it was a subtle but necessary ode to manhood, something all us men need every now and then.
Come to think of it, that rumbling in my stomach maywell be the start of my first ulcer. I guess I should drink to that.