Before the pandemic, I had this very special routine when I met someone for dinner. I would come to the place about 20 minutes before the reservation, find a seat at the bar, and order a drink. I overheard conversations, chatted with the bartender, and looked at other tables to see what looked most exciting to order. The frenetic energy of a busy New York restaurant always brought a deep sense of calm and obliterated any impulse to scroll Instagram or check my texts. In those moments, I could just sip my drink and feel good (an accomplishment for this fear-stricken Type A person).
It’s been almost exactly a year since I last sat in a bar by myself. I’d turned up early for a friend’s birthday dinner in Hearth in mid-March, ordered a glass of red wine, and looked out over the restaurant. But things felt different. The dining room was empty. The bartenders were obviously nervous. I couldn’t resist the urge to keep standing up to wash my hands.
During the pandemic, I spent months trying to recreate a version of my home bar ritual. I’d finish the job, put Ella Fitzgerald or Sam Cooke on, and pour myself a glass of wine or a cocktail. It was nice, but never as good as going out. Sitting alone just doesn’t hit the same path when you are actually alone.
Then, about a month ago, Andréa Hernandez (creator of the Snaxshot Newsletter) Tweeted through a website called I miss my bar. It was launched last June by René Cárdenas and Oscar Romo, who run the popular company Maverick Monterrey in Mexico. The idea behind the project was to help users (me!) Restore their ideal bar ambience to their home. It’s incredibly simple, yet extremely effective. The one-page website lets you toggle between familiar noises: a bartender shaking a cocktail or messing up herbs, the roar of cars driving down the street, or the soft pop of a bottle of wine and the slow, easy pouring into a glass. You can turn on multiple tracks at the same time and turn their volume up and down to create a custom mood. My perfect evening is a combination of “bartending work”, “serving drinks” and “rain on the window” (at full speed), with “people talking” and “street atmosphere” in the background. There are also rotating playlists on the site curated by different bars that accompany the sounds.
Cárdenas’ creative studio, tandem, designed the appearance and Moderate developed the website. Most of the sounds were recorded at Maverick itself (if you listen carefully to the “street scene” you can hear the calls of the local bread man selling his wares), while others were borrowed from online sound libraries. “A bar is not just about the actual cocktail,” says Cárdenas. “It’s about the experience. It’s about being there with friends and yet being surrounded by strangers. Even though they are strangers, you feel like you are in company [with them]. It’s about the music, the smell, the sound. We tried to make this kind of a companion to the experience – giving people a tool to take the bar home with. “
I usually go to I miss my bar during the last hours of work or when I start happy hour in my living room for my partner and me. I know friends who rely on hearing other sounds – a busy coffee shop or waves crashing on a crowded beach – that evoke moments before the pandemic. But the bar noises do it for me (and over 500,000 other unique monthly site visitors). I know it will probably be a while before I can step foot in a busy bar and sit on a stool to soak up the energy of the place. I Miss My Bar gives me a taste of those quiet moments and reminds me of what to look forward to after the pandemic. And now I’ll drink to it.