Scotland’s Best Bartender

MitreBarOne day, while living in London, I thought it would be fun to go to Scotland. So I did, the next day.  With only a couple of sketchy run-ins during my connection through Glasgow I made it to Edinburgh at 1am. Only one trip around the national gallery, alone, in the dark, later I found a cab that got me to my hotel. There, the exceptional night manager at the George Hotel made up for the evening’s adventures by upgrading my room to a king sized suite (thank you, Eric).

Then, in the process of a trip that included pretending the cannon ceremony in Edinburgh Castle for the Queen’s birthday was for my benefit, and aimlessly wandering the city in search of escapades and free booze I happened upon a pub. I had already stumbled on the tourist marvel that is the Scotch Whisky Experience- a thrill ride wherein you play the part of grain, that ends with many shots of the ‘water of life’ in the interest of flavor appreciation- and was quite a few sheets to the wind at this point. As such, food seemed like a reasonable idea, and the first pub I found wandering down the Royal Mile was as good a place as any. It turned out to be much better than that.

Looking oh-so-classy stumbling into the Mitre Bar at four in the afternoon, smelling like all of Scotland’s best distilleries simultaneously, I sat myself at the bar in front of Jamie the Hot Bartender. I picked the right pub.

“I would like some Scottish food please.”

“As opposed to what, lass?”

Before I continue some things need to be said about the Scottish accent. Namely, that hearing it will in all likelihood make you at least consider removing all of your clothes. Also, that my name with these intonations takes on a life all its own resulting in involuntary shivers down my spine.

With that understanding, and one that the April tourists on the Royal Mile are either elderly couples or travel weary honeymooners, what happened next makes a little (not a lot) more sense.

Jamie decided that the tourist trap I’d been through earlier in the day may have been successful in getting me sloshed, but failed horribly in providing me with any real education about whisky. And really who better to get a lesson from than a Scottish bartender? Whether that was the only thing I wanted to learn from him is completely irrelevant. Somewhere in between the shots that seemed to magically appear in front of me before I’d swallowed their predecessors I did eat some food. I don’t remember what it was, but I’m sure there was eating because there is no way I would have retained consciousness if there wasn’t. Jamie didn’t hesitate to put another shot in front of me- this one from Islay.

Now I didn’t know much about whisky, but I knew that there are those that slide down your throat into a cozy pool, and those that burn. And whatever they put in Islay whisky (I’m fairly certain it’s fire), it burns. So I refused- probably with more slurring and less courtesy than I normally possess. Jamie’s rather brilliant solution was to drink that one himself and give me a Speyside so deceptively strong that my vocal cords went numb.

“How’d you like that then?”

Couldn’t really respond what with the vocal incapacitation. But that didn’t seem to be the kind of response he was looking for anyway.

“Aye. I was hoping that’s what you’d say.”

And then Jamie leans over the bar and kisses me. Like really kisses me. Hand in my hair, eyes closed, just a little bit of tongue- all with a two foot bar and about twenty shot glasses between us. He let go as I swayed rather precariously on my bar stool. Honestly, I was all set to clear the bar and pull him on top of me right then, but I was having trouble remembering how to use my legs, so I settled for smiling.

There were other patrons in the bar and it was technically his job to serve them so the amber bottles and I would occasionally be left to our own devices. This made for really the most pleasant afternoon a girl could spend- interspersed with quick, intense kisses and Jamie saying my name just because he could tell I trembled down to my toes every time he did.

Eventually I had to leave and catch my train. I regained enough use of my legs to make it out the door and down the street, but not enough sense to realize that the process works better when you’re facing the direction you’re walking. I tripped over the threshold as I savored my last few seconds of eye contact with Jamie the Hot Bartender. Totally worth it.