A recent article in the Bangor Daily News reports that coffee brandy is the drink of choice in Maine, where it outsells other spirits by a ratio of two to one.
This news took us back 19 years ago, to our first encounter with coffee brandy. On a March evening in 1988, the Bum and his friend John Shourt drove from Los Angeles to San Diego for dinner at the Bali Hai. Back then the restaurant’s signature drink was a coffee brandy concoction called the Mr. Bali Hai (recipe on page 59 of Intoxica!), which came in a Mr. Bali Hai mug that was yours to keep. The mug took the form of a sad-eyed cannibal who had clearly suffered more than his share of disappointments in life. We were both taken with the melancholy man-eater, and resolved to drink as many Mr. Bali Hai’s as necessary to obtain a shelf full of mugs. After our third round, John snapped the above Polaroid of the Bum (that’s Mr. Bali Hai #3 in the foreground).
When our waiter questioned the wisdom of a fourth round, we replied that we still didn’t have enough mugs. “If that’s what you’re doing this for,” he suggested, “why don’t you just meet me downstairs in the bar? I’ll sell you a crate of them for two bucks a pop.” We took him up on the offer … after that fourth round.