I had recently been told by someone in the business that Tonic Bar in West Glen Town Center in West Des Moines buys the most top-shelf spirits. After finding myself with a small group with 45 minutes to burn one evening I decided to check it out. The first thing I noticed when I entered was the fact that this was not quite what I’d been expecting. I thought that the crowd would be younger. It appeared that the median age was closer to 45 than 30. While it’s been awhile since I’ve been on the short side of 45, I was closer to that age than a lot of my party — and they were on the other side of the median. This must be where the old Jimmy’s American Café crowd ended up. Anyway, I made way through the amazingly thick crowd and found a small opening at the bar. This is indeed an impressive bar — there must be about 250 bottles of various spirits on the back wall with dozens more under the bar. The vodka choices made up about a third of the selection. I imagine only Irena’s in Urbandale has as many different vodkas.
I decided to find out if the bartenders knew how to actually make a drink. If I believe half of what I read, the Negroni is supposed to be the hot cocktail right now. Four basic ingredients are all that this drink requires: gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, and an orange peel. Surely with 400 bottles of booze the bartender could make me a Negroni.
- Bartender: What can I get you all?
- Me: I’d like a Negroni.
- Bartender: A Negroni? I’ve never heard of that. What is it made of?
- Me: Well, gin and Compari.
- Bartender: I’ve never heard of Compari.
- Me: Are you sure there isn’t a bottle of Compari among all of these bottles? It is red.
- Bartender: I’m pretty sure I would know.
Since this was getting drawn out, and the bartender had other, less demanding patrons to attend to, I decided to gamble and see if she could make a scotch and soda. I really don’t like scotch and soda, but it was the first thing that came to mind other than some ridiculous vodka drink with a snappy name. Thank God she had a bottle of scotch back there. Six dollars each for the scotch and soda (Dewers White Label — not exactly “top shelf”) for me and Gin & Tonics (made with Bombay Sapphire) for the ladies.
I hear that Tonic is adding a location in the Court Avenue district. Given that arena’s popularity with the dollar draws and flavored vodka crowd, it will fit right in.