OUR MISSION - WE'RE PUBLISHED! Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 marked the Premier of our new book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide. The hardcover, 160 page book can be found at bars and bookstores throughout the Adirondack Park or order online at www.happyhourinthehighpeaks.com. You'll find a list of our book signings on the Events page and where to buy the book on our Retailers page. The book contains reviews of 46 of our favorite bars in the Adirondack Park, and 46 drink recipes with an Adirondack twist. As a companion to the book, we have also published a 46er Passport so that you can follow the Happy Hour Trail to become a Happy Hour 46er and make new friends along the way. Summit Tour t-shirts will be for sale at our book signings or available online. Whether you are a native, resident, or visitor, you'll find 46 more reasons to visit the ADIRONDACK PARK!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rum Runners Weekend

Nearly a century ago, the bootleg trail from Canada to New York City ran smack through the Adirondacks. Bootleggers risked life and limb transporting locally distilled hooch and smugglers ran whiskey from Canada, eluding dry agents and spawning crime and corruption. Chestertown and its surrounding communities recently commemorated this period in history with related activities.

It was a damp and drizzly Thursday night at Warrensburg’s Luck E Star Cafe where the Greater Warrensburg Business Alliance hosted a 1950s-era Car Hop. Among the vendors, we hawked books and passports as the drama unfolded. Those gathered were whisked from the 1950s to the roaring ‘20s when a carload of rumrunners screeched into the parking lot and piled out of their Model A. Within seconds, the law appeared on the scene in pursuit. Smugglers scattered like rats, slipping into any hiding place they could find. Perhaps the heat considered our Happy Hour in the High Peaks booth a likely refuge for Prohibition outlaws – they were on our tent like feathers on a flapper. We decided to scram before the bulls started asking questions and we were long gone before the feds pinched Wesley, his moll Giselle, and the rest of their gang. We’re no stool pigeons.

Later, holed up at Pammy’s Pub, we nibbled one while spittin’ about the night’s turn of events. All indications were that something was going down in Chestertown, masterminded by thugs from the Tri-Lakes Business Alliance. Finding it necessary to infiltrate without calling attention, we hit the thrift store and dug up grandma’s furs and jewels to costume ourselves in high style.

Friday night we dolled up with feathers and fringe. Piling on marbles and paste, and acting on an informant’s tip, we headed to the Panther Mountain Pub where we found a packed parking lot. This juice joint was jumping. We staked out the door until we purloined the password from a fella with a doll on his arm. “Donnie sent me,” we whispered to the bouncer when he slid the false window open. He opened the door and we passed through time into the speakeasy.

Flappers and dandies, thugs and dames, all in swanky threads, filled the pub. Jazz from the Jive Five could be heard over the gum flapping. Blending in, we grabbed some corn from the Jane at the bar. Wesley, the butter and egg man, was putting on the ritz, surrounded by lookers and waving a fat stogie. Hoping to get a handle on what was going down, we picked up a copy of the Rum Runners Weekend scandal sheet from a nearby table and overheard plans for a Saturday morning rum run from Pottersville. People were talking about a vaudeville show and Babe Ruth Battle of the Bats scheduled for Saturday. So as not to blow our cover, we joined the flappers on the dance floor and showed off our Charleston moves. Soon the band called it quits and made a clean sneak out of there.

Saturday morning in Chestertown began with a rumrunner car chase from Pottersville to Chestertown. After the excitement was over, the townspeople gathered at the rec field to relax and enjoy a few hours at the Babe Ruth Battle of the Bats Homerun Derby. Then it was off to the vaudeville show at the Carol Theater (a.k.a. The Strand). A leisurely chew at a local hash house was followed by a couple of drinks at the P-House speakeasy.

Saturday night the same bruno at the door admitted us to a mobbed house at the speakeasy. If the hooch flow was any indication, we could conclude that the morning rumrunners had eluded capture. An unidentified source told us that an earlier raid by feds looking for Donnie, the big cheese, who was on the lam at the Strand Theater, led to the mistaken collar of a decoy. Somebody fingered Donnie and he was taken into custody, but he must have given the coppers the slip because he was here in the thick of it. Another big shot from the Tri-Lakes Business Alliance, Cindy Mead, was on hand snapping souvenir photos like she was the bee’s knees.

The Jive Five jazz band played to a full house of hoofers competing for top billing in the Charleston contest. Though they were behind the eight ball most of the time, the judges, John, Joan, and Julie, finally picked the winners and first place went to Jeni Ferguson. Adirondack newshawk John Warren and his squeeze were among the dignitaries tipping a few that night. Grand-nephew of Denis Warren, John was flapping his gums about the exploits of Denis, who was left for dead on the side of the road on his return from a Montreal run.

By the time the Temperance Society women showed up with their placards declaring war on demon liquor with such slogans as Girls, wait for a temperance man and lips that touch alcohol will never touch mine, the crowd, wary and suspicious, began to dissipate.

When it comes to Prohibition and the denial of the public’s thirst for intoxicating beverages, we are historically on the wrong side of the law. Smugglers, bootleggers, moonshiners, outlaws, miscreants, vagabonds, ruffians, scoundrels, and hooligans are revered as mythical superheroes when keeping the public’s supply of booze was (ineffectively) curtailed during Prohibition.

If Chestertown’s recently observed Rum Runners Weekend is any indication, with its reenactments of lawlessness and the idealization of thwarting the nation’s efforts at temperance, then we can say with fair certainty that drinking is popular again. We’re not just kissing our onions when we tell you the overwhelming success of this year’s Rum Runners Weekend ensures that it will be back next year. Hope to see you there. Tell ‘em, “Donnie sent me.”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Drinking is Popular Again

We’re back! Winter found us sequestered at Pammy’s Pub finalizing (and editing, editing, editing) bar reviews for Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide. Add to that the preparation, primping, and posing of 46 cocktails for their close-ups, and it’s easy to see why we’ve been absent. Spring coaxed our creativity with a marketing plan and promotion schedule. Summer put us on the road throughout the Adirondacks, selling and signing wherever we were welcome.

With all that attention to detail and embellishment, the realization hit. The current trend toward drink artistry, rather than guzzling gluttony, has led to a focus on flavor and presentation. Complicated preparations, the use of local and home grown ingredients, and the almost daily arrival of spirited new flavors populating liquor store and beer aisle shelves have prompted an emphasis on savor over swill. Drinking is popular again.

The Adirondack Park, with its growing number of breweries, distilleries, and wineries, is keeping up with its metropolitan counterparts without sacrificing its own identity. Breweries are winning awards, bars like Matt’s Draft House in Inlet and Judd’s Tavern in Lake George offer extensive beer lists, and demand flourishes with expectations.

Quality now outranks quantity, at least among those of us with a taste for flavor and a modicum of discretion. Consuming liters of bargain-basement hooch and cases of watery beer is a vague memory better left to the collegiate masses. Like reading from a gourmet menu, drink selection has become a thought-provoking experience. A cocktail is capable of suiting any purpose, from light aperitif to rich dessert. Among those who have sought to make an impression, Lake Placid’s Liquids & Solids at the Handlebar demonstrates exactly that virtuosity, as well as a penchant for fresh and unique ingredients, with an eclectic liquids menu.

This doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Even the simplest drink becomes a fancy cocktail with the addition of herbs, spices, and garnishes commonly found in the kitchen. Presentation can be as simple rimming the glass, or spearing a shish kebab of fruit. Trading the old pint glass for a snifter cranks that draft beer up a notch.

Beyond the drink experience lies the event built around showcasing those tasty wares. Labor Day and the conclusion of the official summer season bring the unleashing of ever more clever devices designed to lure locals and entice visitors to return. The Adirondack Nationals Car Show, held in Lake George the weekend after Labor Day, leaves in its tracks a pileup of autumn attractions. Octoberfests (Lake George, Lake Placid, Old Forge) and all their brewhaha hit their stride in the fall. Sunday football pools, food and drink specials, and dinner pairings (both wine and beer) are just a few of the enticements used to keep the momentum going just a bit longer. Then there are the more creative events.

Like fashions, movies, and hairstyles, everything old is new again. Classic cocktails like the Manhattan, Old-fashioned, and Gibson are experiencing a revival, often with a fresh new twist. The Adirondack region has its own place in Prohibition history, and this weekend you can slip into a local speakeasy (upon uttering the password, of course). Celebrating the area’s role in the whiskey smuggling trade, the Tri Lakes Business Alliance presents Rum Runners Weekend, complete with an antique “rum-runner” car chase and police pursuit from Pottersville to Chestertown, dinner specials at area restaurants, Speakeasy Nights and a Charleston contest. We’re getting our flapper dresses, fox stoles, and cloche hats out of mothballs for this one. Whether we order a Sidecar, a Southside, or a White Lady at the Panther Mountain Pub, we’re sure to get a blank stare from the bartender, so here’s the recipe for the White Lady.

White Lady
1 ½ oz. Tangueray London Dry Gin
¾ oz. orange liqueur (triple sec will do in tough times, but Cointreau is best)
¾ oz. fresh-squeezed juice of lemon
Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Many of us came of (drinking) age before the law reverted back to its pre-Prohibition limit (21) in 1985, and before stiff penalties drove us off the road. Since then, we’ve had to find ways to drink responsibly. One solution we’ve found is to make more interesting choices, experience new flavors, and enjoy the social aspects of going to a bar. Drinking may be more challenging than it used to be, but it isn’t going away. A lesson learned from Prohibition. And it’s popular again. If it’s not, we intend to make it so.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The-Book's-Here Recipe Night! LPG Comma-Kaze

Let's just say we've been through a bit of a dry spell. Not for lack of working however. And certainly not for lack of drinking either. Our first shipment of Happy Hour in the High Peaks arrived today. While our work is far from done it's time we tipped our hats (and glasses) to our editor and publisher Lawrence P. Gooley of Bloated Toe Publishing.

Larry is a self-proclaimed teetotaler who after working with us through several edits has made numerous threats to start drinking. How we could ever drive anyone to drink is beyond comprehension but we'll play along.

Throughout the editing process we began to think that Larry was charging us for every comma he had to add to our drafts.  It wasn't long before we started calling him the "Comma-Kaze."  In his honor we have concocted and imbibed that drink.  We substituted Absolut Citron for plain vodka in homage to his Absoluteness.  We have also removed all commas from our text just to drive him to that drink he so deserves.

Cheers to Lawrence P. Gooley!

LPG Comma-Kaze
1 part Absolut Citron
1 part Cointreau
1 part fresh squeezed lime
Shake over ice and strain into shot glasses.  Makes 3 servings - 1 for Kim 1 for Pam and 1 for LPG

We paid a visit to Jane at Basil & Wick's to deliver the very first public copy of the book and a nifty 46er sign identifying Basil & Wick's as a 46er destination and to finalize party plans. Have you heard about the book release premier? Join us this Wednesday night from 4-8 pm at Basil & Wick's in North Creek as we kick off the summer season and the Happy Hour Tour.

The buzz about the bar (buzz being the key word) was of Happy Hour Tour Caravans (with police escort), tour t-shirts, passports, and a prize package for the first to complete and authenticate their tour passport. The board is currently developing an appropriate package. Passports and tour hats will available at the premier. See you there!

We don't ever really do things in a small way. Every event is cause for celebration (duh). Arrival of Happy Hour in the High Peaks found Kim at an eye appointment and Pam all too eager to rip open the first box. She was firmly instructed to wait. Finally we got to the opening part with Pammie brandishing the nearest pair of scissors.

We hope you'll come and see it for yourselves.

Cheers & Bottoms Up!
Kim & Pam

Friday, May 31, 2013

Weekend Whistle Wetter: Strawberry Rhubarb Daiquiri

Really, we haven't blogged since the beginning of the year!?  We have been busy finishing our book, which is currently at the printers readying itself for production.   The book should be available by late June or early July.  We continue to work on finalizing our website and adding finishing touches to the Happy Hour Passport.  But, there is always time for a good recipe.  It's rhubarb season again.  Though we don't tend to be daiquiri drinkers, this recipe is more fruity than sweet.  Give it a try this weekend if you are fortunate enough to have saved some of your rhubarb.  It's a 4 to 6 serving recipe:

Strawberry Rhubarb Daiquiri

6 oz. light rum
1/2 c. lime juice (juice of 3 limes)
1-1/3 c. rhubarb syrup (see our rhubarb margarita blog for rhubarb syrup recipe)
1 c. fresh strawberries, sliced
3 tb. simple syrup
3 c. ice

Mix in blender and serve in a cocketail glass.  Garnish with fresh strawberry.

 Cheers and Bottoms Up!

Kim and Pam

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 Annual Report

Whether measured as 9,375 square miles or as 6.1 million acres, we can vouch for the fact that the Adirondack Park is huge. We covered most of the main roads in the park, visited nearly 120 bars and clocked over 5,600 miles since we began our project in January, 2011, to find the best 46 “High Peak” bars in the Adirondack Park. The farthest distance traveled one way was 110 miles to Cranberry Lake. Many others were very close to that distance in any direction. Pam, a self-proclaimed excellent driver, logged most of those miles while Kim served as navigator, photographer and chief note taker.
In 2012, we visited and reviewed 57 more bars. After two years of what seemed like an endless list of establishments worthy of our review, we have selected our 46 “High Peaks”. Many of them have been notified and 14 have been revisited to verify our selection and double-check our facts. To date, only one that was targeted as a “High Peak” lost that status on an unannounced re-visit. To our knowledge, three bars have closed since our first review. Fortunately, they were not in the running as a “High Peak”.

Selecting the best 46 is much more difficult than it might sound. As much as longevity is critical, we do have at least one very new business, one we felt was destined to endure. We have a few more on our list that are worthy of our scrutiny and we’re willing to reconsider our 46 if they prove to be contenders. The bars in the Adirondacks are so very diverse and we have selections representing that diversity. Honestly, much of it was based on instinct and the Happy Hour in the High Peaks board (Kim & Pam) disagreed on very few. Of utmost priority, however, was that anyone would feel welcome and comfortable in any bar that was selected. This is where the instinct came in and where we sometimes had to plead our case to one another.
In July we celebrated a milestone, reaching a peak of our own with our 100th bar review. Trail’s End in Tupper Lake was the 100th bar, but we didn’t know it until we tallied up after our Tupper Lake tour. While on our second tour of Lake Placid in 2012, we visited what we have since dubbed our “biggest loser” bar. After much deliberation about writing what would have been our first scathing review, we chose to take the high road and just not write about them at all. Our final, toned-down impression was that they were in the business of taking your money and could care less if you ever visited them again. After all, the next sucker was walking in as we were walking out. We hope they’re out of business on our next visit to Lake Placid.
After last winter’s dismal snow accumulation, a general theme throughout 2012 was that some of these bars and restaurants were not going to make it if we had another winter like that. As we write this annual report in late December, with plenty of snow cover throughout the Adirondack Park, we foresee a very good winter ahead!
Throughout the spring and summer, Pammie’s Pub held several taste tests to determine the worthiness of some of our new drinks. In late summer, we held a very formal testing where five drinks were sampled and rated by our guests. The World’s Largest Garage Sale punch was, by far, the biggest winner. We hope to get some of our distinguished panel back for a few more tests before we finalize our recipe selection.
The top 5 most popular posts on our blog shifted a bit from 2011.  As of the end of 2012, they are as follows: 1) Dancing Bears Lake Placid, 2) Recipe Day! Rhubarb Margaritas, 3) Zig Zags Pub Lake Placid, 4) What Makes a Good Bartender, and 5) Captain Cook's Bar and Grill Saranac Lake.

We have separated the Park into five regions and are finalizing the writings one region at a time. With a goal of having the book in hand by May, 2013, we are working hard to wrap up our reviews. We are also selecting, testing and perfecting the drink recipes that will be included in the book. Toward the end of 2012, much of our work has focused on the book design. We needed to decide what would be on each page and the format for each bar review. Earlier in the year we met with author, publisher, and Adirondack Almanack contributor Lawrence Gooley to go over our publishing plans and easily decided that Happy Hour in the High Peaks and Bloated Toe would be a good partnership.
The most prominent point we took away from reviewing bars in the Adirondacks is that we met some of the nicest people and we want to share that experience with our readers. Along with publishing Happy Hour in the High Peaks, we will also put out a High Peaks Passport for anyone who endeavors to visit all 46 bars and become a Happy Hour 46-er. This could easily be the biggest pub crawl ever attended!
Here's to a prosperous winter for Adirondack businesses, and to a new chapter this spring and summer when we embark on the Summit Tour promoting Happy Hour in the High Peaks at a watering hole near you. 
Cheers, Bottoms Up, and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Recipe Day! Apocalypse? Winter Solstice?

Winter Solstice. First day of Winter. Yule. Return of the Light. End of the World. Apocalypse. No matter what you call it or your reason for drinking, we've created some festive cocktails in honor of this auspicious day.

Like most of us, you probably don't really believe the world is ending today. We like to think of it as the Mayans' inability to finish the calendar rather than the signifying of the end of time. Perhaps the project was just more work than the Mayans bargained for.

Here in the Adirondacks, winter officially arrived

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Prohibition Ends: 79th Anniversary Recipe Day!

How will you celebrate the 79th Anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition today?

Just when you thought it was just another Wednesday in December, Happy Hour in the High Peaks comes to your rescue, offering something auspicious to celebrate.  Pammy’s Pub has been dead for days as we work diligently to complete our writings for our upcoming book publication.  Suddenly revived, the cupboards on the bar have been flung open, and we’re looking for the ultimate way to celebrate the anniversary of the end of Prohibition.  We’re putting on our drinking caps, rolling up our sleeves and polishing our barware in preparation of the celebration.

Northern Adirondack backroads (weren’t they all then?) served as the perfect highway for running Canadian whisky. Tales of Adirondack bootleggers and runners tell of organized crime, speakeasies and bathtub gin. A little research on the Prohibition Era in the Adirondacks yielded the story of Pete Tanzini, a.k.a. Will O' the Wisp, Saranac Lake mason and accomplished race car driver.  Our first cocktail today is named in his honor.

Will O' the Wisp
1 ½ oz. gin
1 oz. black raspberry liqueur
½ oz. simple syrup
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
Club soda
Shake with ice, pour into collins glass and top with club soda.

Named for Pete Tanzini's wife, Gussy Menzel Tanzini, this cocktail is based on the Mary Pickford, a popular Prohibition Era drink, but "Gussied up" a bit.

Gussied Up
2 oz. light rum
1 oz. Grand Marnier
2 oz. pineapple juice
1 tsp. grenadine
1 tsp. maraschino cherry juice
Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange section and a cherry.

Lemon and lime juice were regularly added to distilled spirits during Prohibition, particularly to those of the bathtub variety in order to make the often nasty stuff a little more palatable, especially for the ladies. The Hackensack Lemonade uses generous quantities of both.

Hackensack Lemonade
2 oz. Can

Saturday, November 17, 2012

JC Montana's, Lake George

Though only a few tables remained on the Mediterranean style raised terrace at JC Montana’s in early November, it was obvious that this would be a great place to sit and relax on a summer day. Located in the center of Lake George on Canada Street, just across from Shepard Park, JC Montana’s affords an opportunity to enjoy food and drinks with friends, watch passersby or listen to music either on site or from the nearby park.

The sandwich board outside boasted a plentiful array of seafood specials and the smells from the kitchen as we entered the restaurant and bar made it difficult to pass up. Instantly greeted by the bartender, Chris, we were immediately introduced to every person in the place. We met Katie the waitress and spoke at length with local patrons (and bar “enthusiasts”) Bear and Suzanne who shared their opinions of some of their favorite bars in the Adirondacks, past and present. The warmth from the gas fireplace was outdone by the welcome we received. If that type of atmosphere carries throughout the busiest days of summer, JC Montana’s would be a welcome rarity in Lake George.

Colors are warm and soft, as is the lighting, with an overall sparse and well-kept appeal. A chandelier of pumpkin-like glass orbs hangs over the bar, complemented with frosted pendant lights gently illuminating the blonde bar top. A large fish tank between the bar and dining area is a calm and pleasant distraction. Though the bar, rather standard in size, seats 12 to 14 in the cozy confines of the small bar area, three nearby tables offer bar-side dining with a view of Canada Street. Three additional dining rooms occupy further recesses of the restaurant.

Chris Montana (not to be confused with Chris the bartender or Chris the chef) has owned JC Montana’s for the past eight years. The building formerly housed the Trattoria Siciliana Restaurant and, before that, a sidewalk café converted from a classic summer home in Lake George Village. JC Montana’s is renowned for its seafood, particularly the steamers. The appetizers and lighter fare menu has a few “land-based” items in a modest price range.

JC Montana’s is open year-round, daily for lunch and dinner in the summer. During the fall they are open Thursday through Sunday for lunch and dinner and scale back to weekends, dinner only, during the winter. Happy Hour is offered daily from 4 to 7 p.m. A basic variety of liquors, a few flavored vodkas and more than a dozen mostly domestic bottled beers comprise the modest but adequate drink options. They feature a variety of drink specials including chocolate raspberry martinis, various flavored margaritas, huckleberry lemonade and frozen mojitos made from their own home grown mint. Chris seems to be a bartender willing and able to make whatever drink comes his way. Quite entertaining himself, he’s garrulous, outgoing, and full of little quips and quotable quotes as well. He’s entertainment enough off-season. Musical entertainment is featured outside during the summer and four televisions are more than sufficient for sports enthusiasts.

For the true appeal of Montana’s as a bar, visit them a little off the summer season so you can meet some locals (especially on Sundays) and take the time to enjoy the atmosphere in the quiet respite from the summer crowds. As Chris (the bartender) puts it, “The quality of the drink is only outdone by the quality of your company.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Recipe Night!

Waiting for election returns can make for a pretty long night. If you’re in it for the long haul, you may as well enjoy yourself! Whip up a nice beverage and sip one of these. It may just make the results a little easier to swallow. Whether you’re celebrating victory or drowning defeat, we’ve created a few fun cocktails this Election Day.

Hailing from Hawaii, home of macadamia and pineapple, Barack Obama’s birthplace inspired this drink. It will put you in a celebratory mood, no matter which row of the ballot you’re on.

Obama Mama
1 oz. dark rum
1 oz. coconut rum
1 oz. macadamia nut liqueur
½ oz espresso vodka
½ oz. lemon juice
Shake with ice and serve in a tall glass.

Now, we know Mitt Romney abstains from alcohol, but there’s no reason you can’t raise a glass and indulge in a Mitt Rumney cocktail. If you’re a teetotaler too, just leave out the booze and enjoy your cranberry juice cocktail. At least it comes from New England.

Mitt Rumney
1 oz. spiced rum
1 oz. light rum
1 oz. Whipped vodka
2 oz. cranberry juice
Splash of lemon
Stir and serve over ice in a rocks glass.

Red and blue are slowly filling the map as commentators wait for results, especially from the swing states. Pour yourself another one and get comfortable. It's just too close to call.

Swing State
1 oz. apple pie liqueur
1 oz. Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey
Gently shake or stir with ice and strain into a tall shooter. Sip or slam.

We’re not sure what to call this one. We had a name, and then changed it. We were influenced by our constituents to change the name yet again, so we call it…

The Waffle
1 oz. vanilla vodka
1 oz. espresso vodka
1 oz. Sapling maple liqueur
3 oz. orange juice
Shake and pour over ice in any clean glass you have handy.

We don’t recommend having all of them tonight, unless you’re staying put. No matter what the outcome, we hope we've made Decision 2012 just a little easier to swallow.

Cheers & Bottoms Up!
Kim & Pam

Friday, October 19, 2012

What Makes A Good Bar Attended?

 We’ve visited well over 100 bars in the Adirondack Park on our quest to find the best 46 bars in the Adirondacks, what we have termed as the 46 “High” Peaks. When we began our search, we didn’t have any preconceived notions about what would make a bar a 46-er. We have since chosen most of those 46. No two are exactly alike, and none has fit any absolute standard. A major factor in our determination, however, was that MOST people would feel comfortable at this bar. That criterion works both ways, in that some may be too haughty for MOST people, inasmuch as some may be too divey.  Honestly, there were very few too haughty. As we work toward our final reviews for our upcoming book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, we hope to be able to convey what can be expected at each of these Adirondack bars.  Each will offer varying atmosphere and amenities, but all have the potential for a good time.

What makes a good bar good is largely up to you!  If you bring a positive attitude and an open mind, you’re most likely to enjoy yourself anywhere. If you’re unruly, unresponsive or unconscious, it just might not be any fun for anyone. Most of us go out to a bar to socialize. Admit it, we could all save a lot of money if we stayed home to drink, but we sometimes crave that interaction with others and the mystery of what we might encounter. Whether you live in the area or are just visiting, going to a nearby pub can bring about new friendships, new experiences and even an overall feeling that the world is still a good place and people are generally kind.  

If you want to get drunk, stay home and get drunk! Even if you aren’t driving, drinking too much seldom leads to a good time for anyone.  Even if you do think you had a great time, chances are you won’t remember all the stupid s#1t you did.  Drunken people put the bartender and the bar at risk, and tend to become annoying in one way or another for those around them.  You can go out and have a good time without getting drunk.  If you start to feel buzzed, order something to eat. And, fer chrissakes, damn the diet! You need fatty foods to absorb the alcohol, so enjoy some delicious wings or mozzarella sticks and exercise it off tomorrow.  If you’re someone who has to have a drink in your hand, order a water or non-alcoholic beverage in between drinks to prolong your stay. 

Assuming that you are going to be a positive, non-inebriated bar attender, here are the other factors that determine a good bar attended:

1)     Bartender/Staff – The bartender will often make the biggest impression on your view of a bar.  A good bartender will improve your experience; never spoil it.  If you happen upon a surly bartender or a bartender with little personality, AND you aren’t the cause of the surliness, turn to the patrons around you or any comrades who accompanied you and expect no more than service from the bartender. You can still have a good time, and hope for a shift change during your visit.  On the other hand, an energetic, conversational and attentive bartender can make a good experience great. We have come upon some sensational bartenders, sometimes in the most unexpected places. There are some very small towns in the Adirondacks, with limited populations. These bar owners are fortunate to have found such professional bartenders in some very remote areas. For more insight on good bartenders, see Part I – What Makes a Good Bartender.

2)     Other Patrons – We have met so many nice people in these Adirondack pubs!  With very few exceptions, most people are eager to make your acquaintance. Remember, they are there for the social experience too. Even if you are with a group of people, meeting someone new is part of the charm of your bar attending experience. As long as you avoid politics, religion and APA-related conversations, you’re likely to get a positive response to any opening remark. If you get the feeling the person next to you is a local, ask something about the area or offer a compliment about it; but always be sincere. Sorry, we aren’t going to get into helping you pick up men or women; you’re on your own there. For more helpful hints on meeting people, see Part II – What Makes a Good Bar Attender.

3)     Atmosphere – Now that’s a very broad topic, covering everything from décor to cleanliness. Our point of view is that atmosphere isn’t everything, but it is something. If a bar has good staff and friendly patrons, the atmosphere matters a whole lot less. On the other hand, we’ve encountered great-looking bars with unfriendly staff and patrons. They didn’t make the 46-ers or even merit mention in our book. The diversity of atmosphere from one bar to another is immense, but each has its place. One bar on Lake Champlain has a Caribbean feel to it. Some have an Adirondack Great Camp appeal, while others are more hunting camp style.  There are old inns, both authentic and remodeled. Many bars are nostalgic, seemingly locked in one era or another. Some have a theme, like sports or hunting or skiing. Many of them seem unable to stick to one theme, trying to please everyone who enters. If you’re going to have a theme, you should pick ONE.  As Pam always says, “a coat of paint goes a long way”. If your entrance door or bathroom door is riddled with black handprints, throw a coat of paint on it. Maybe even add some color. If you have so much stuff collecting dust throughout your bar, maybe it’s time for a yard sale. If your bathroom doors don’t lock, fix them today!  If you have duct tape on your barstools, maybe it’s time to invest in new stools. If you’re open seven days a week, 365 days a year, close for a week and spruce up the place. Reinvest, if not money, then time, in your business – it will improve your bottom line. For the bar attender, you know what you like, but be open-minded about atmosphere. Sometimes different just feels good and you can’t even say why. 

     4)     Drinks – In the grand scheme, drink choices don’t matter. Craft beers are a crowd pleaser these days, but most people won’t walk out if a bar doesn’t have them. Happy Hour is nice to have, but it won’t make a bad bar good. Signature drinks are fun for all, as long as the bartender has the time to prepare. Some bars offer over-sized mixed drinks, a win-win situation. More mixer means more sobriety and the patron feels they’re getting more for their money. Many draft beer venues only offer pints. Not everyone wants that big of a drink, especially if they are trying new flavors. Offer choices. A bar that displays a large number of new flavored vodkas should have some recipe ideas on hand. Overall, like everything else, good value, or a perception of good value, does make a difference.

     5)     Food – We don’t review food, but we do have an opinion about it. Food is necessary to curtail the absorption of alcohol. The minimum of pub menu is sufficient. There is at least one bar on our 46-er list that doesn’t offer food. We will note that in our book and suggest that you eat before you go there, or don’t stay very long. A tiny bag of peanuts, potato chips or a pickled egg isn’t going to be enough to deter inebriation, especially if the drink prices are low.

6)     Entertainment – In the form of games, entertainment is a good aid in limiting drink consumption. It also acts to keep you more focused and alert. New friends can be made over a pool table. Quick Draw might be taxing to the bartender, but the added income to the bar and activity for patrons may offset the distraction. Musical entertainment, despite added cost, is still very popular in the Adirondack bars.

Like any adventure into the unknown, attitude is everything. As we often say, “You get out of a bar what you put into it.” No matter where you end up, there is always potential for a good time. Read the bartender and clientele first, sit back and observe, then gradually expand your interaction and make it more about “them” than about “you”. We guarantee that with a cautious approach, you’ll be making friends and having fun in no time!