“What will it be?” asked the skeletal-faced pianist, through a thick New Orleans accent.
I figured he was staff, so I replied, “Something strong.”
“Yes, yes. I know just the thing for you, my friend. Let Papa Etienne make you his specialty,” he replied.
He started to work his magic, mixing together different vials of booze and flipping the containers in the air with expertise. I watched in silence, captivated by the show. Etienne was definitely putting his colleague to shame. The result, however, was a foul-looking concoction akin to a forest bog.
I looked at the sludgy, greenish-brown liquid in the hopes that the colors and texture would somehow improve once the bubbling came to a stop, but my hopes were for naught. Etienne peered at me with great interest, his painted toothy smile stretching.
“Go on, go on. Drink up, my friend! I guarantee it’ll make the world seem like a whole different place!” he said.
Not wanting to be rude, I decided to give it a try. Maybe it’d taste better than it smelled. Bottom’s up, I thought, taking a reluctant, but large gulp of the contents in my glass.
The taste was vicious, like tree bark or a half-ton of pinecones put through a food processor. The thick liquid fought me all the way down my throat. Now, I knew why the bar was empty. Anyone who’d had a taste of this must have run for the hills. I gagged and coughed, pushing the glass aside, but all of a sudden, I felt … good. No, not just good, downright euphoric.