There comes a point in every interview where, if you’re the one conducting it, you realize it’s gone on long enough—in other words, you can stop the conversation, you can turn off your recorder, you can shake hands with your subject, you can let her go on her merry way, and you can go on yours. This is easier said than done when you’re talking to a consummate conversationalist like Rosie Schaap.
In fact, if you’re talking and drinking and laughing with Rosie Schaap, you tend to just let your recorder run so that you wind up having three hours of non-stop talking to transcribe—three hours of a conversation that covers everything from the pleasures of starting an evening at a wine-soaked dinner party and ending it at an after-hours bar (immense), to the merits of bourbon drinking in Louisville, Kentucky (considerable), to whether Dublin pub culture is superior to London’s (it is, by a long shot), to the meanings behind our respective tattoos (none of your business). Schaap, who is the Drink columnist for the New York Times, as well as the author of a book exploring bar culture, Drinking with Men, is beloved and respected by both the literary and drinking communities (and, yes, there is a not inconsiderable overlap between the two) in New York, because she is a thoughtful, witty, and engaging presence who has lived a lot of life, if you know what I mean.
In case you don’t, I’ll put it this way: Schaap has toured with the Grateful Dead, worked as a tarot card reader, managed a homeless shelter, done time as a librarian of a paranormal society, and, naturally, has worked as a bartender. In fact, Schaap still bartends once a week at Park Slope stalwart South, an archetypal Brooklyn neighborhood bar, complete with jukebox and a menu that includes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—the kind of place where the bartenders know your name, the kind of place that should be on every corner but isn’t. After spending some time with Schaap, though, you start to believe her when she insists, “New York has a reputation for not being friendly, but if you find yourself a good corner-neighborhood bar here, there’s nothing else like it.” Which is inarguably true, especially when you find Rosie Schaap, or someone as similar to her as possible, at the bar.
Photo by Austin McAllister