Here’s a bumper sticker concept for you: Free the Pour! Surely the Founding Fathers made room for free pours somewhere in their intentions, right? After all, we're talking about freedom, and freedom is exactly what good Americans all love, the Founding Fathers most of all, except when they weren’t so darned busy owning slaves. If I were Justice Scalia--such a dreamboat mind reader!--I’d know for sure. He's the psychic who could tell that corporations were yearning for freedom to express themselves. Maybe those little poems that corporations are constantly scribbling in their journals will finally be published. And not a moment too soon.
Alas, I am no mindreader, but merely The Constituent Bartender, at your service, and Scalia’s, if he’d like another cause for judicial activism. Free the pour, Your Honor!
Allow me to explain that a free pour is when you transport liquor into a drink without using a jigger to measure it. Lots of people (even the divine Rachel Maddow!) tell you not to do this. It risks imprecision, and since mixing cocktails is all about balance among the various ingredients, imprecision is your enemy. But when you’re tending a bar where people actually pay money for the drinks, rather than the one you set up on the picnic table in the backyard, and when those paying customers arrive in great numbers, sloth is your bigger enemy, and jiggers take too long. So you free pour. As I know from tragic experience, it won’t be long before your free pours are accurate within a fraction of an ounce. Any bartender worth her apron can deliver both speed and proportion.
So can a judge.
Yet some bars—casinos, hotels and Arizona lead the way here—attach a wireless monitoring device to their spout, to regulate the free pour, just as some jurisdictions—California and New York take top honors—impose mandatory sentencing for certain offenses on their judges. As if…what? As if they had no judgment. Judges who can't judge? Isn’t that their job? Bartenders who pour liquor? Ditto.
Big corporations are especially keen to regulate their bartenders’ pours, not for Rachel Maddow’s aesthetic reasons, that the drink won’t taste as good, but purely for profit. Less pouring equals more ka-ching. That’s to be expected, I suppose. But what profit is there in hamstringing judges? It’s expensive to put nonviolent criminals in jail for sometimes ridiculously long sentences. It’s expensive to pay a judge to sit through a trial, through the presentation of evidence, then demand that the information she has gathered not be used to come to a reasonable decision. If there’s a bad judge out there, shouldn’t we get rid of that one person, rather than attach wireless monitors to every single black robe anywhere near a bench?
No, profit’s not the motive. It must be fear. Only fear can move populations to such idiocy. I’m not sure what we’re afraid of, though. I hope it’s not fear of reason. Speaking of (and freely) reasons, I’m taking the opportunity of this blog to agitate for free pours, by which I mean freedom of judgment so long as it comes from credible experience and expertise. Judges have expertise when it comes to measuring sentences, and bartenders, when it comes to measuring gin. Let’s set aside whatever fear is causing us to distrust judges and let them operate. Let's put good money down for bartenders' acts of taste and discretion. If, at the next chain restaurant we happen into, the Beefeaters bottle looks as though it has a doohickey instead of a stopper, let's order club soda and eat the free olives.
By the way, the accuracy of a free pour comes from its firmness. Don’t tilt the bottle at an obtuse angle, don’t point it vaguely toward the shot glass, don’t dilute it with elaborate explanations full of Latinate nouns. It’s not a policy, it’s a fifth of gin. Whip the damn thing upside down from its vertical stasis with authority. In other words, if you want the freedom to pour, you’ve got to exercise it vigorously.