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Long Island Iced Tea at the Brigantine

Long Island Iced Tea at the Brigantine

  • -1 part vodka
  • -1 part tequila
  • -1 part rum
  • -1 part gin-1 part triple sec
  • -1-1/2 parts sweet-and-sour mix
  • -1 splash Coke

It’s about efficiency. When I need to catch a buzz, I need to do it quickly. Because I’ve got no damn time these days.

When my wife Mary and I were 23- and 24-year-old newlyweds, we lived in a big apartment on Front Street just north of Laurel. The kitchen and living room were left over intact from the huge house that had been sectioned into apartments. Both were enormous. Friends and family from out of town flocked to stay with us. We’d take them to Zagarella in Little Italy for some chianti and penne strascicate, then for a leisurely drink at the top of the Hyatt or Mister A’s. On Fridays and Saturdays, we might pile into a booth at the Red Fox Room on El Cajon Boulevard. Except for my wife, who on her heaviest day might drink half a Margarita, we’d sip Greyhounds, vodka-crans, White Russians, and Margaritas and all get a little tipsy…nice and slowly.

Sometimes we’d stay in, play Trivial Pursuit or the Name Game, drink red wine brought by my friend and budding Reader wine critic Matthew Lickona. We’d sip our Rhônes, tempranillos, and monastrells and talk philosophy, politics, love, and literature long into the night and get a wee bit drunk…nice and slowly.

Now, as I like to say in a sotto voce cowboy voice like that guy in The Big Lebowski, “Them days is over.” I’m going to turn 38 in July. Mary and I have eight kids now. (Yes, I know what’s causing it. Yes, I have a hobby. No, I’m not a rabbit. Any other rude questions?) With each new child, the time I have to spend drinking has plummeted to the point that now each day presents no time for booze. I can carve out time now and then, but it’s a process that feels as arduous as Michelangelo’s carving Moses out of a block of marble: coordinating schedules with drinking buddies who are also dads, deciding on a place, checking times with my wife, lining up babysitting (if my wife is coming), managing my guilt (if she’s not).

On Monday nights, I play soccer — told you I had a hobby — at La Mesa Indoor Soccer Facility near Grossmont High School. One of my drinking buddies, John, plays on the same team, and the aforementioned Lickona lives close by. Efficiency number one.

The arena sits on the north side of I-8. Directly across the freeway sits the Brigantine. Efficiency number two. At the Brigantine, Monday features all-night happy hour. Efficiency number three. The fish tacos ($2.75) are plump and satisfying. The bacon cheddar skins, for five bucks, are not subtle — a half-inch layer of melted cheese and lots of crumbled bacon cover the four potato halves — but they satisfy. Unlike the skins, the Brig’s nautical decor stays well this side of cheesy. A small gas fire flickers in a fire-pit table in the bar area. Window tables offer a view over I-8 and the Grossmont area. The long wooden bar features heavy, square-top, backless bar stools. Black-clad waitresses and bartenders are attentive but unobtrusive.

Efficiency number four is that mysterious and powerful concoction: the Long Island Iced Tea. It’s best not to try to figure out how so much hard liquor could taste so smooth. The classic Long Island — named for its place of origin — always includes gin, vodka, light rum, tequila, triple sec, and just a splash of Coke. The final ingredient varies from place to place, sometimes sweet-and-sour mix, sometimes simple syrup, sometimes sour mix. Brigantine bartenders use sweet-and-sour. Unfortunately, Long Island Iced Tea isn’t one of the Brig’s happy hour, dollar-off drinks. But I don’t do this often, so I’m happy to pay the full $6.50.

A round of Long Islands is all it takes to break that stoic “Can’t complain/ I’m doing all right/ same old same old” crust that builds up around us suburban dads. Soon we’re laughing, joking, and talking philosophy, politics, love, and literature, as if we were back in my big apartment on Front Street. Except now, we’re getting older, getting wiser, and getting a little tipsy…nice and quickly.

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