Anyone who says you can't learn anything from hanging out in bars is nuts. I've built up my vocabulary from digging into the origins of drink names. For example, we're all familiar with the concoctions named after tools, or what I like to call the Home Depot genus, which includes the screwdriver and the rusty nail. But did you know that a gimlet is also a hole-boring implement? I suppose the metaphor for giving yourself a lobotomy with too many of them is apt.
And so it was the other day that I was doing a crossword, and the clue "leguminous tropical tree" came up. I was surprised to see that "mimosa" fit perfectly. I'd never really thought about the origin of the name of this breakfast of champions before. Its sister drink, the Bloody Mary, is pretty obvious — one theory is that it's named for Mary Queen of Scots, who was beheaded on the orders of her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I. Again, another apt metaphor for the morning after getting ripped. But a mimosa? I suppose you could hang people from its branches. Or burn them on a pyre. Or gouge their eyes out with a twig.
Whatever its connection, people all over the city drink mimosas by the gallon on the weekends. Many bars have cheap "bottomless" specials as part of their brunches. You pay $9, and the carafes just keep coming. (And, in true S.F. form, most people forgo the actual food and just hit the cocktails.) It's a brilliant idea for a business owner. Not-so-great champagne is famously cheap, and OJ is also cheap. Plus, it's easy to pour only a little bit of booze into the drinks without the customers figuring it out. As long as the mimosa has some fizz to it, people will think they're getting a good deal.
Then there's the psychology involved. People love to drink, but don't love being seen as alcoholics, so these special "it's okay in the morning" imbibements can help maintain the facade. Conversely, people who get excited about drinking mimosas probably have a low tolerance anyway, and a little goes a long way. The real boozers will go for the vodka option with the Bloody Mary.
Most of the bottomless mimosa specials are in the Castro, but there are others. Last week I wandered into one that was totally jumpin' at Circa in the Marina. From the outside, the place looks like your typical upscale dining establishment. But open the door, and you're suddenly hit with extremely loud Top 40 music and wall-to-wall drunk people, all at 11 in the morning. I tell ya, if I were 19 again, this would be the spot. Well, except for all the douchebags. I was immediately reminded of all the frat parties I used to crash in high school — where the booze was plentiful and cheap, but you had to deal with, er, folks who have not yet found themselves, shall we say.
But on this day I was feeling magnanimous, with love for all my fellow douchebags, so I joined the party. I hate champagne, but my friend couldn't pass up the $9 never-ending mimosa challenge. She took a sip. "It tastes like André with Tang," she said, surprisingly positive. "And I'm down with that!"
We were squished among several herds of revelers. I was immediately struck by how much everyone looked alike. Girls were wearing skintight pants with '80s-style tight sweaters that came to midthigh. Guys were wearing jeans with fancy stitching and big, low pockets. I'd expected to smell money, but these people just looked like your average college kids. There was the requisite talk about how drunk so-and-so got the night before, and where Sasha had disappeared to (she went home with some dude), and what a hot mess Caitlin is.
Once the dust settled, I took a look around and was surprised to see that Circa is a restaurant. Dang. Sure, the bar takes up half of the space, but people were actually eating eggs Benedict at some of the tables. I felt bad for one couple, because the table next to them was having a bachelor party or something. All the guys were standing on chairs and chanting some soccer crap while the pretty girls adjusted their tops and patted their hair every few minutes between sips.
The girls were indeed good-looking at Circa. The guys, on the other hand, left much to be desired, IMHO. But I was reminded of something that's always puzzled me. I've looked down on these sorts of people my whole life, but is it because I could never belong in their crowd? If I had been born with supermodel looks, would I have been having fun at the frat parties? If I could've been a cheerleader, would I have enjoyed hanging out with the jocks? Or was I just born different, and gravitated to the weirdos and the punks and the stoners because they were the people who would have me?
Nah. Frat boys are douchebags.
My friend took up a conversation with three guys. They said they'd been on a Marina bar crawl the night before and were having a lil' hair of the dog. "And there are indeed a lot of dogs here," one particularly loaded guy added. None of the young ladies in attendance had found his three-sizes-too-small Hollister shirt very comely, I guess.
"A mimosa is a leguminous tree," I said to him, deadpan.
"What?" he asked out of semipoliteness, but with palpable annoyance.
"Leguminous," I repeated.
"Are you, like, in English or something?"
I almost said, yes, I am speaking English, but I think he was referring to what I was studying at school. "Legumes," I continued. "You know, a sort of mammal that feeds on grubs and other small insects."
"Oh," he replied, looking around the room for an out. "Right."
I pleaded with my friend to put a bottom on her bottomless drink: "Let's get the fizzuck up outta here."
A chugging contest had ensued at another table. There is just something wrong about chugging orange juice and champagne. It's like downing a Diet Coke and then squishing the can into your forehead like a gladiator.
"You need a real drink," I said to my pal on the way out. "Whiskey is on me at the Horseshoe Tavern."
"Deal," she replied.