Bartenders Are Liars, But It's Not Their Fault

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Jason Saura/Naga Cocktail Bar


To try Derek's recipe for the memorably named Suffering Bastard cocktail, click here.

I'd prefer to tell you that I've never lied, but that's just not true. Like many bartenders, I've told customers stories punctuated with little white lies to "enhance" their bar experience. When presented with the truth those stories give way: as with most honest people, I only lie in the absence of truth.

One lie I used to tell is that the Suffering Bar Steward was mispronounced by a Scottish bartender in Egypt and, as a result, it became the Suffering Bastard. I got this information from a source I never bothered to check (which makes it a touch more honest, as I believed it myself). However, it turns out, it's only a third true.

The drink was originally called the Suffering Bastard only to be changed to Suffering Bar Steward when customers complained about the vulgarity of the title.

That bartender was Joe Scialom (pronounced Shalom), he was in Egypt, and he did invent the Suffering Bastard. Only he was an Italian Jew, and the drink was originally called the Suffering Bastard only to be changed to Suffering Bar Steward when customers complained about the vulgarity of the title. The veracity of this was confirmed by Jeff "Beachbum" Berry and Joe Scialom's daughter, Colette Roy, when I attended their seminar at Tales of the Cocktail entitled "Joe Scialom: International Barman of Mystery" a few weeks ago.

Not only did Joe Scialom create the Suffering Bastard, he made gallons of it at the Long Bar at the Shepheard's Hotel for a hungover British army who fought during Rommel's surprise incursion into Cairo at El Alamein. The result is that the British won. (Please keep in mind that I will only recount this tale and cannot assure you of its truth, as Joe himself was known to spin a yarn.)

Despite being a hero to the British, or perhaps because of it, Scialom was imprisoned and then expelled from Egypt by Nasser, according to a 1957 article in the Washington Post by Katherine Elson, "International Bartender has Own Brand of Magic." Afterward, Scialom eschewed picking sides in favor of mixology and coined his personal motto: according to Elson, "Mix well but shake politics." He then joined Conrad Hilton's group and consulted for Hilton's hotel beverage programs throughout the world.

One of the beverage programs he consulted for was the Statler Hilton, which is now known as the Capitol Hilton. While there, he created a few special drinks for the Embassy Room that I'm dying to get the recipes for, including "The Perfect Diplomat," "One for the World," "Yeah Da Si Oui," and "No Nyet Non." The ingredients are known but the recipes are lost—or are they?

If anyone has a lead, please let me know. In the meantime, if you're looking for more information on Joe, the official recipe for the Suffering Bastard is below, and the Museum of the American Cocktail is replaying the seminar with Jeff "Beachbum" Berry in Washington, D.C.

Recipe: Suffering Bastard

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Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.
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