June 24, 2009 News & Features » Cover Story

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The Bar Guide 2009 

In search of truth, served neat, with an irreverent back.

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Sometimes you can't help it. Maybe you're a human who had a long day at the office, an extra solstice in there somewhere. Eschewing the familiar homeward route, you turn into the hallowed space of a bar, order a beer or three, and discover the inspiration to write that screenplay. Or maybe you're an elephant in subequatorial Africa nosing around the marula tree; you eat a few dozen of its fallen fruits. But because they fermented in the sun, you suddenly find yourself completely wrecked. On a Tuesday. When you're totally supposed to be spraying your herd with river water.

Point is, the swirling liquid in your average highball contains the unpredictability of life itself, much like the marula nut contains the formula for the tree that serves as the speak-easy for South African fauna. That can be good or bad, of course. Hence the danger. Hence the need for balance. But so much can be learned, dear monkeys and descendants of monkeys.

So besides searching for drinks, our annual Bar Guide goes in search of answers: why we do the things we do when dealing with bartenders, why karaoke holds such sway over us, why there's this relentless need to add sex to our drinks. We discover the dichotomy between the sun-kissed patio and the secretive cellar bar. We reveal the right drinks for the right moods and propose a variety of bar crawls for a variety of experiences.

Through it all, of course, there's that uncertainty, that chaotic principle that ensures that — man, woman or pachyderm — we never quite know what we'll find when we go into the wilderness. — Brandon Reynolds

Drinking Under Where? The secret truth behind drinks and their sexy names is hidden at the bottom of the glass. 

The Bar Crawl Express: New York has its subway. London has its Underground. Richmond doesn't do that sort of thing. But we can help you plan your nightly migrations, at least. 

Back Up, Singer: A karaoker returns to the scenes of many of her former crimes of pitch and passion.

Down, Simba! A barkeep reveals life on the other side of the screaming hordes.

Bartender's Weekend: A Planner

Barhopper Donƒ?~ts (and a Do)

One Last Toast: Gene Chandler, 1946-2009

Drink-O-Meter: A beverage for every mood.

Patios vs. Cellars

This Old Bar: Keeping the taps flowing at a 70-year-old institution.

PBR Haiku: Odes to the beer Richmond loves.

The Bar List

Twits and Sips: We asked our Twitter followers for their thoughts on the best bars, bartenders and drinks in town.

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