Bar Eden Hall is a place of unwinding, where the cares of your busy, every day life just slip away. The mellow atmosphere and attentive bartender are there to soothe your agitation. What will be your spirit of choice? Will you leave the decision up to the bartender and drink a possible Glass of the Gods?
The White Russian
I still remember my first alcoholic beverage, experienced when I was under the legal drinking age and grieving for my recently deceased grandfather. My high school friends took it upon themselves to cheer me up with a spur-of-the-moment party. I was too young to know what sort of alcohol would interest me, so I let my more party-savvy friends choose.
The White Russian is an elaboration on the Black Russian, which just includes vodka and a coffee liqueur. To make it “white,” cream is added. This was my first cocktail and one which will always remind me of both my grandfather and the friends who wanted to cheer me up. This is the closest experience to a Glass of the Gods that I’ve had, where the drink and its maker’s intentions to heal were conveyed so clearly. The bitterness of the coffee flavor mixed with a creamy sweetness perfectly captured my feelings at the moment. If I didn’t hate cigarettes, I probably would have had one in memory of my grandfather who loved them so much. To this day, I have avoided the White Russian unless it was the anniversary of my grandfather’s death since the emotions attached to the drink are so strong.
Comparing the Anime and J-drama
The anime Bartender follows a slow, episodic plot format, where one or two cocktails are featured along with the peoples whose hearts need consoling. Bar Eden Hall is headed by established genius Sasakura Ryu, a surprisingly young man with perfect skills and an astounding knowledge of liquor. Those who frequent Eden Hall can always depend on Sasakura’s ability to see right through them and use his skills to heal instead of harm. This is an important distinction to make, as alcohol has the capacity to be both a medicine and a poison depending on the amount and application. For the most part, the anime romanticizes alcohol, going into the background and meaning of various drinks, and never going into excessive consumption. There are a few scenes where the partaker shows an ugly side, but Sasakura is usually able to assuage the ill temper.
The quicker-paced live action actually takes place before the events of the anime, when Sasakura was still a struggling young man trying to figure out how to be a “true” bartender. Having made a grave mistake at the seeming peak of his career in Europe, he returns to Japan confused and sick at heart. While the anime focuses mainly on the customers, the live action centers each drama around Sasakura, tying everything into his past and present. The Glass of the Gods is a blurry dream that he has yet to achieve, as his overconfidence in his talents and creativity prevents him from seeing to the hearts of his customers. With each new encounter and his growing relationship with the female lead, Kurushima Miwa, he starts to realize the importance of the bartender.
The True Bartender
Broken down into two parts, “bar” refers to a perch, while “tender” describes gentleness–a definition presented in the very first episode of the anime. Thus, this “gentle perch” is a place of recuperation where the bartender likewise “tends” to or cares for its tired occupants. It is the bartender’s job to assure that the customer leaves with a rested soul and positive memories. The Glass of the Gods, then, is the ultimate drink, “the final glass that can help rescue a broken soul hurt by loneliness, wandering about and heading nowhere” (Bartender, J-drama). If the bartender is too focused on the drink itself, or is distracted by his or her own personal problems, the all-too quiet voice of the customer’s heart will be ignored.
I have yet to visit a classy bar like the anime’s Eden Hall or the drama’s Lapin, but thanks to these shows, I look forward to the day that I do. I want to sit at a bar whose countertop shines and whose seats are worn down by the numerous occupants that have rested there for the night. Instead of pounding down beer after beer college-style, I’d like to savor a cocktail or two in a moment of quiet contemplation.
If you’re interested in making your own White Russian, pour 2 oz. vodka with 1 oz. coffee liqueur over ice into an old-fashioned glass, then tip in 1/2 to 1 oz. milk or cream over the top and stir. Due to the high sugar content of this cocktail, drinking too much will result in a monstrous hangover the next morning. The milk can also easily sicken those with sensitive stomachs.