Requiem for Winston’s

So, the work day is done and its time to grab a drink downtown. Or maybe its been a rough day and you just need to throw back some shots to calm down. Or, perhaps you just closed a huge deal and its time to drink some 30 year single malt to celebrate.  It used to be that if you worked downtown and you wanted a drink that you headed down to Winston’s.

However, for some unkown reason Winston’s closed. I don’t know how a place can close its doors when you need a reservation just to get a table for lunch.  Sure, it never was packed for dinner, but as a classic fern bar that was not unexpected.  Seriously, how can you not make money selling booze? I know that Winston’s sold a lot of booze. There were a lot of well known people associated with Winston’s over the years, including Michael LaValle, who I still believe is one of the best chefs in Iowa despite hiding his skills from the great unwashed at the Embassy Club for all of these years, and George Formaro, who churned out some mean grinders and pizzas in that tiny broom closet that they call a kitchen.  A fixture for at least a decade, on and off, was bartender Bobby Mohr – both with and without the ponytail. Oh, I nearly forgot, before his dad started to loosen his reigns on the Ruan empire another fixture for a solid ten years at least, perched on the east end of the bar was John Ruan III, or “the third” as people liked to call him. 

I knew that something was wrong when the wait staff had to work the bar and I had to instruct them on how to mix a Manhattan. The only benefit to this was that I had spied a half-empty bottle of Templeton Rye on the top shelf and told her to use it.  Things at Winston’s really went down hill when I asked for a single malt scotch whisky and the never seen before and never saw since bartender somehow got me a 30 year single malt that was $30 a pour. Since I was buying for everyone, that was an expensive evening.  While it was one of the best single malts I’d ever had, his only excuse was, well, you ordered a Scotch from Scotland!  I can testify that there are plenty of whisky’s from Scotland that don’t cost $150 a bottle. 

So, what to do when you want a drink downtown Des Moines now? Is there any place to go?

Here is the recipe for a Manhattan:

2 oz. Rye Whiskey (Templeton Rye works well)

1/2 oz. sweet vermouth

2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters

1 marachino cherry (crushed)


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