After we received word of the wonderful news following very difficult and tense times, we went to celebrate in Malaga, Spain. And, this is a little story about my now favorite bar in Malaga.
At the end of last year, during the holidays and on a rainy day, we were randomly approached by a man who invited us to join him at the bar he was going to in order to have a drink. It happened just like that out of the blue and as a New Yorker, I was very quick to dismiss and ignore him. I wanted to go into the bookstore where my new English language order awaited me and we smiled and brushed him off.
However, sometimes, things are just supposed to happen. When we exited the bookstore and walked a few steps in the rain, we both turned to find the same man, who was now in the doorway of the bar once again beckoning us. Admittedly, he seemed as if he was already a few sheets to the wind, but he seemed harmless enough.
He invited us into the bar as if he was its designated ambassador. And that is how we wound up visiting the oldest bar in Malaga, Spain and discovering its sweet wines.
The rustic Antigua Casa de Guardia was established in 1840 by Don José Guardia and is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. The local name for the bar is “El Barril Místico”, or “the Mystic Barrel” because there was a time when the wine was only for a select few because of its rarity.
As Jose, our self-appointed ambassador proudly told us while we stood (there are no chairs) at the oak bar slabs, history reverberates through the walls of this storied establishment and Queen Isabel II designated the tavern as the wine supplier to her court. This sweet nectar has been produced in the same manner almost since the time it was founded.
Jose said we absolutely had to try the Pajarete 1908, which was poured into small shot glasses due to the sweetness of the wine. He was right. I noticed the bartender noting the price for each with chalk on the bar slabs in front of us. They have probably been doing it this way since the beginning of time. What’s the use for paper or a proper bar tab?
Jose went on with his tales of Malaga, the wine and how we would never find anything like it anywhere else in the world. He is probably right because it took me an entire lifetime to taste a wine so sweetly delicious.
He then asked me for a pen, and this is my favorite part of this little story because it charmingly illustrates the difference in cultures. I am an American in Europe and I think like an American, and evidently speak very much like an American.
At one point, Jose asked me for a pen to write down the name of a place for us to visit in Malaga.
As he tried to get the pen to write, I asked in Spanish, “Does it work?”
He paused, looked up from the pen and paper and turned to me. He said he would teach me a more elegant way to ask the same question.