I used to collect stamps. Then I moved on to frogs. Now I collect experiences. And chief amongst them is my quest for the perfect cosmopolitan. It doesn’t take much by way of enticement to lure me inside a cocktail bar. As long as cosmos are on the menu, I’ll happily try it out. But when the invite is prefaced with ‘this is where John Malkovich and Quentin Tarrantino drink when they’re in town’, I was sitting on the high stool before the first shake had shook. (Trivia: Tarrantino named one of the characters in Kill Bill II after one of the barmaids.)
The ‘town’ in question is Vienna and the bar is L00s. Designed by Adolf Loos, one of the pioneers of modern architecture in Vienna, it’s tiny but looks spacious. The 290 sq ft is made bigger by the ingenious use of mirrors. The onyx-tiled walls are backlit and the counter and ceiling are cloaked in mahogany.
It’s a haven for true cocktail aficionados, offering six variations of Martinis and five variations of Manhattans. The Cosmopolitan was one of the best I’ve had in years. There’s barely room to swing a handbag and those lucky enough to get a seat are reluctant to give it up. Considering the average drink will set you back €10, it would be easy enough to sip your way through a small fortune over a few hours in the afternoon.
It started off life as a private gentleman’s club but is now open to the public. And, so far has its fame stretched, a tribute bar has opened in Manhattan. Photos are not allowed. (I missed the sign as I came in, but the rather officious manager soon took me to task. It’s a long time since I’ve felt like I’d been hauled into the principal’s office.) The bartender was a dream though – and certainly knew his stuff.
The origin of the word itself, cocktail, has many plausible explanations from sailors stirring mixed drinks with a rooster’s tail, to a derivation of the name of a Mexican goddess Xochitl. But the one I like most featured in George Bishop’s The Booze Reader: A Soggy Saga of Man in His Cups (1965). He says: ‘The word itself stems from the English cock-tail which, in the middle 1800’s, referred to a woman of easy virtue who was desirable but impure…and applied to the newly acquired American habit of bastardizing good British Gin with foreign matter, including ice.’
No matter its origin, the cocktail is indeed one of life’s pleasures. And as to who invented the cosmo? The war of attribution still rages. And spending a few hours in Loos with good friends on what was otherwise quite a chilly summer’s day in Vienna, was something to be grateful for indeed. Thank you, ladies. You know who you are.
Kärntnerdurchgang 10, Vienna