When the bartender began snapping padlocks on the liquor cabinets, I was definitely surprised. Even a little offended. No, I wasn't quite ready for another drink myself, but what about the other customers? Surely anyone who had the good taste to come to Bemelmans Bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan didn't deserve to be cut off so early in the evening! Ready to launch a vigorous protest, I turned around to enlist the support of my fellow patrons, which is when I noticed that the bar was empty.
In retrospect, I believe all the trouble started with the Maharajah's Burra-Peg. Of course, I can't be completely positive that the Imperial Cossack Crusta doesn't bear some responsibility as well. Nor can investigators confidently cross off the Jimmie Roosevelt or the Ile de France Special from their list of suspects.
The one party I hold entirely blameless, despite damning circumstantial evidence (to wit: she had prepared and served me each of the above-referenced cocktails), is Audrey Saunders. In fact, strictly speaking, there's a technical sense in which the whole thing is my fault. A week earlier, Audrey and I had been talking about the Pegu Club, a bar she's opening on Houston Street in Manhattan this spring. She wants the Pegu Club to be a fun place, a zone of experimentation and novelty, but at the same time a strong vein of tradition and historicism runs through the project, and through Audrey herself. She chose the name, for instance, as a tribute to a legendary club in Rangoon, which served its signature drink (gin, lime juice, orange curaçao, Angostura bitters, orange bitters) to British colonial administrators stationed in Burma.