There was nothing finer than to be in Carolina in the morning, according to the old tune. In my case, as I drove my ’63 Continental out of the mountains towards Charlotte, there was nothing finer than to be in Carolina in the afternoon. It was almost happy hour and my trusty ride was taking me towards Sterling, a great spot to sip a drink and eat a morsel. Rems, the bartender made it a memorable visit every time. I pulled up along the eatery in the downtown financial district. Snagging a spot in front of the joint was a small miracle because it was hopping with the after work crowd. I walked in the steel and glass doors and sat at the bar.
“Rems, my friend. I see to my left that two drinks are waiting for my neighbors. I’ll have what they’re having.”
“The ladies are using the restroom. They ordered cosmopolitans in celebration of new beginnings. One of them is graduating from UNC and the other will begin her first year in the fall. I’ll get to your cocktail.”
Rems made a career of tending bar. He was named after the legendary painter Rembrandt and his cocktails were works of art in their own way. Rems picked up a stainless steel shaker and quickly without wasting a drop poured in 2 ounces of vodka and ½ as much orange liqueur. A heavy splash of cranberry and the juice of ½ a lime followed before he scooped in the ice and shook the mixture vigorously. Rems retrieved a chilled martini glass from the cooler, placed a strainer over the shaker and poured the rose-colored liquid into the glass. A lime wheel was slipped onto the rim. He set the libation on a napkin in front of me.
“You’re drinks are gallery worthy Rems.” I looked to the women next to me who had picked up their drinks. “A toast to happy hour and everything that we have to celebrate.” I took a sip of my cosmopolitan and it was heavenly
Rems was kind enough to introduce me to the women who shared the last name.
“I see Rems has filled you in that we’re celebrating the beginning and the end of our college careers. Education has always been important in our family and I’m happy that Laura has made it through. She’s graduating with honors and on time, I should add. I’m going for magna cum laude,” Julie Briarly said as she sipped her cosmopolitan.
“Competition can be a very good thing. I wish you both the best of luck in your endeavors.”
“Thank-you and enjoy your cocktail, Cecil. Our table is ready.” The ladies took their cosmopolitans to their table.”
“Can I get you another Cecil?” Rems asked. Some would say he took his bartending gig a bit far because he had a handlebar moustache and wore a sleeve garter on his arm. I thought the look suited him and it showed he took his craft seriously.
“I think I’ll wait and have a look at a menu. Your cocktails have a way of sneaking up on me. I’ll have another with my meal.” I started to peruse the bar menu. “I’m curious about Laura and her sister or perhaps cousin; what are they studying.”
Rems laughed. “I’ve known you for ten years Cecil and what you really want to know, is whether they’re single.”
“Give me some credit for being decent Rems. Those women are too young for me and I’m merely curious.”
“I don’t know specifics on Ms. And Mrs. Briarly but I believe one is interested in engineering and the other business.” Rems dragged a bar cloth across the oak bar as we talked. His eyes were constantly looking at his customers to make sure everyone was well-served.
“I assume that the older one is married.” I said.
“The older one is indeed married and she’s actually the one entering her freshman year at UNC.”
“I guess I had them all wrong. I’ll go with the spicy shrimp appetizer and another cosmo.”
“One more thing about the Brairly women that you might find interesting is that they’re not sisters or cousins.”
“What are they Rems?”
“Mother and daughter.”
I was shocked. “Oh my, must be the sweet Carolina air and healthy living because I never would have guessed. I have to learn that eyes deceive; especially in a dim lit bar after a cosmopolitan or two.”
Rems smiled and went on to make me another cocktail.