Start­ing a new tab as RTD’s bar colum­nist

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - CULTURE 2 - Erica Jack­son Cur­ran is a for­mer alt-weekly ed­i­tor turned con­tent mar­keter and moon­light free­lancer based in North Side.

I’ve been through a few stages in my life as a bar-goer.

There were the col­lege years in Fred­er­icks­burg, where I sub­sisted off of bot­tom-shelf vodka with cran­berry juice served in flimsy plas­tic cups. Then I spent the bulk of my 20s in Charleston, S.C., where I learned to drink prop­erly thanks to cov­er­ing the food and bev­er­age scene for the lo­cal alt-weekly (and work­ing with many heavy drinkers at said al­tweekly). Then it was Bos­ton for a bit, where I once ac­ci­den­tally paid $22 for a gin gim­let at a swanky ho­tel bar. I couldn’t af­ford to drink in that town, and that’s part of why I started look­ing for some­place cheaper to live.

My hus­band and I flew down to Rich­mond for an ex­ploratory week­end, mulling over the move one steamy Au­gust night at The Roo­sevelt. It was there that Thomas “T” Leggett served us a lineup of stel­lar cock­tails, the de­tails of which I can’t re­mem­ber (and not be­cause it was al­most four years ago). That’s the night we tipsily de­cided to make an im­pul­sive move to the River City, and we haven’t looked back since.

I guess tech­ni­cally we could blame that lo­cally leg­endary cock­tail master for bring­ing us here. So thanks, T.

I’ve never worked be­hind a bar my­self, and I won’t pre­tend to be an ex­pert on any type of al­co­hol. I’m not ashamed to or­der the cheap­est wine on the menu, or choose a beer be­cause it’s made with some­thing weird like dough­nuts or tea leaves. Craft cock­tails are my weak­ness, though I have a bit of a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with them. I’m a sucker for con­coc­tions made with a dozen dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents, but some­times I can’t help but laugh at the fussi­ness of it all. My go-to or­der is a gin and tonic (with Hen­drick’s), my all­time fa­vorite is a French 75, and at home I gulp vinho verde like it’s wa­ter.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I pre­fer to do my drink­ing dur­ing day­light hours and to be tucked snugly in my bed be­fore clos­ing time. I want to be able to pull up a barstool, chat with the bar­tender, and eaves­drop on the cou­ple next to me while sa­vor­ing my drink. I want to no­tice the lit­tle things that set the tone for the en­tire space, from the mu­sic be­ing played and the bath­room dé­cor to the menu de­sign and light­ing. For me, go­ing to a bar is about en­joy­ing the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence — oth­er­wise, I’d just drink on my front porch.

I’m the an­noy­ing per­son who’s al­ways tak­ing pictures of my drinks, but oth­er­wise, I try to stay off my phone at the bar, even if I’m sit­ting alone. If you look and lis­ten hard enough, you’re just about guar­an­teed to find some­thing more in­ter­est­ing than In­sta­gram from the seat of any barstool.

And that’s what I’m of­fer­ing: one per­son’s per­spec­tive on Rich­mond’s bars, from the shini­est new spots to the dirty dives and OG cock­tail joints. My take on the ob­vi­ous stuff — like bar menus and drink spe­cials and dé­cor — and the things you start to no­tice a few drinks in — like how com­fort­able the chairs are, how sticky the floors are, and how loudly the girl­friends two seats over are dis­cussing their lat­est Tin­der dates.

Ev­ery bar in Rich­mond has a story to tell, and I look for­ward to the op­por­tu­nity to lis­ten — while sip­ping a few drinks, of course.

Jack­son Cur­ran


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