Postcards

Postcards From a Most Unusual Summer

September 14, 2020

Story: Punch Staff

Art: PUNCH

Seven writers from across the globe offer a glimpse of how they drank their way through a changed landscape in Tokyo, Melbourne, Paris and beyond.

Summer drinking is meant to be carefree. It is not a season to contemplate a bottle of Barolo or worry all that much about whether a second Piña Colada is ill-advised. It’s the season of White Claw, rosé, spritzes and slushy drinks of all stripes. At its best, it can feel like happy hour stretched out and bound between two trees, an empty hammock inviting us to lazily indulge—at home, abroad, wherever the wind might take us. Just not this year. 

This summer, the hammock never made its way out of storage. Instead, the season took on new meaning, offered new opportunities to understand the cities we live in and the ways in which we partake in their culture, to appreciate the smaller pleasures that were previously obscured or too easily ignored. It was a summer full of longing, sure, but also of discovery. 

Over the course of the season, we asked seven writers from around the globe—Paris to Tokyo to Melbourne—to send us a “postcard” from their city. The prompt was simple: Offer a glimpse of how you drank your way through a changed landscape. Here’s what they had to say.

New York

I had walked into Shiro’s bar looking for some semblance of home. I had gotten into the habit of tricking myself by this point, my tenth month of nonstop travel as a columnist for The New York Times. It was a trick that started with finding a nondescript bar wherever I was—a smoke-filled, fluorescently lit room packed with gray-haired men in downtown Tunis; a line of plastic stools on the side of the road in Danang. There, alone, I’d order a beer—whatever was cheap and local, no more than three in a sitting—and, for as long as I stayed, imagine I was a local.

A few months later, my yearlong, 120,000-mile trip was over and I was back in New York. I immediately began to reacquaint myself with all the bars I loved, which I went to alone to convince myself that, yes, New York was home. There’s the Irish pub in the West Village where, years ago, the bartender gave me a pep talk and a shot of Jameson when I stopped by after a bombed job interview; the “glory days” holdout in the East Village where the removal of the Big Buck Hunter console was akin to an international incident; the cozy retreat in Harlem where beers come in frosted glasses the size of a human head. Then the pandemic hit, and those bars closed—Sebastian Modak [Read on]

Paris

Throughout the summer, as eastern Paris began to resemble one giant block party, seating spilling into the street and stretching across sidewalks, I built back my tolerance. I ate baos and beer at Gros Bao, perched on a window seat overlooking the Canal Saint-Martin. I shared a sparkling Burgundy with friends on the sun-drenched terrace of Åke. I sipped oversized spritzes at Chez Prune. I found a different kind of mutual trust in being part of a return to business. But I know now what I didn’t know then: that summer’s balm of boozy resilience would give way to another round of restrictions. Winter, as they say, is coming. —Lindsey Tramuta [Read on]

Portland

I live off a little street full of bars in the city’s leafy Southeast neighborhood, but most of those bars are closed; one, a German beer spot called Stammtisch, home to refreshing pilsners and kölsches served in regional Teutonic glassware, reopened very briefly in late June, only to shut again due to problems with the plumbing. Bar problems are bar problems even here in 2020, but for a brief, wonderful week I could walk there from my home, drink a .3 liter of schwarzbier and indulge in an Export “A” Extra Light. —Jordan Michaelman [Read on]

Melbourne

Currently, there are only four reasons we’re allowed to leave home: to shop for necessary items, mainly restricted to grocery and pharmacy; to work (in a small number of essential industries); to provide or receive care; and to exercise, which must be done within an hour and within five kilometers from your home.

So, we drink wine and beer and Martinis, and we play cards…Sometimes the Champagne hits the same as it might if we were sharing it with others or drinking it in some romantic locale, but mostly it doesn’t. Some nights I make blender Piña Coladas—the least seasonal or appropriate drink possible, given the circumstances—just for the fuck of it. Some nights they help. —Besha Rodell [Read on]

Tokyo

A true jungle of concrete, Tokyo summers are sweltering, the stifling humidity often bringing the heat index over 100 degrees. Most people wear masks, but the scorching weather makes it hard to breathe beneath them, so out on the streets, people try to beat the heat with parasols and handheld fans.

At home, in my tiny third-floor apartment, some days I find comfort in sake on the rocks alongside salted edamame. Other days, I plop a grape popsicle into shochu diluted with water—my own sort of adult Slurpee—while snacking on crunchy chilled cucumbers swiped through miso dip. On extra-steamy days, I start aperitif hour early with tart and aromatic yuzushu, a sake-based yuzu drink. —Yukari Sakamoto [Read on]

Mexico City

The cantinas remain closed and I don’t know how many will survive. Old neighborhood institutions have already succumbed to the economic ravages of the virus, same as everywhere. Those cantinas that do make it, what will they be like when they open their doors? Will Charley, my favorite cantinero, shake my hand when I arrive and clasp my shoulder when he takes my order? Will the friends who I see every Friday—people whose names I only half-recall, whom I’ve only ever seen under those harsh white tube lights and through the giddy glaze of too much tequila—still abandon their table to come hover over mine? —Michael Snyder [Read on]

Transylvania

This summer will be the summer of solo drinking instead. Bars have reopened in Sighișoara, but I don’t feel comfortable; the vibe is too dystopian, masks too sparse. I prefer the porch, overlooking that 13th-century Gothic church, a mug of beer and perhaps a glass of the sour cherry brandy I’ve begun making. You’ll find me here until my visa runs out, and then I’ll move on. Maybe back to Berlin, but more likely to Bundoran as my heart yearns to go back to the place I call home. —Yolanda Evans [Read on]

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