They bought a gently used Nissan. They stenciled their formidable bar’s name near each taillight and hand-painted a trippy celestial scene all over the faded black paint job.
They gave their new rolling headquarters a name, emblazoned it on the driver-side and passenger-side doors in electric green: BOOZE CRUISER.
And then they headed out, to deliver the city’s best cocktails and maybe teach us a little lesson about how to survive a global pandemic.
Mercury’s Booze Cruiser first rolled by our place on a mid-May Sunday, dropping off the bottled whiskey cocktail we had ordered while also offering us a brief burst of masked-up good cheer during what often seems like a long, hard COVID-19 slog.
The bottled cocktail was delicious, as most everything from Mercury is. It was sweet and citrusy and a perfect complement to the late-spring two-person grillout we held on our condo balcony.
It lasted for days. The $45 bottle, purported to contain at least 8 drinks, made more like 10 for us. It’s quite a deal.
Over Memorial Day weekend we ordered again, this time a cucumber-infused gin with ginger, rose and lime. It was a fantastically floral drink that we pounded on our rooftop on Saturday night. This time, the bottle didn’t last as long.
We also got the Pic-a-Nic Pack, a veritable mountain of barbecue pulled chicken with cornbread muffins and a lamb chili pasta side dish that stole the show. I cannot wait to order their empanadas next.
(Mercury is changing up their four bottled cocktails each week. Check out the new food/drink menu here.)
But what I will remember most isn’t the drink, or the food. It was the trashy-yet-lovely sight of the Mercury Booze Cruiser screeching up to our condo building. It was the Mercury employees piling out to greet us from a safe distance.
It was the ridiculously DIY nature of it all, a scene that made me realize that, in the middle of a pandemic, sometimes all you can do is break out the stencils and try your best.
The hospitality industry in our city is in serious trouble. Sarah and I don’t know when we will next sit inside a restaurant. Hanging out in an enclosed bar while positive tests and hospitalization rates stay high seems downright silly. (You know who has a hard time social distancing? Drunk people, that’s who.)
If they are to survive and even thrive, Omaha restaurants and bars are going to have to do so on their wits, their guile, their good cheer, their creativity and the continued support of their patrons.
They are going to have to love us in their own idiosyncratic ways, and we are going to have to love them right back.
We will order a food-and-drink delivery from the BOOZE CRUISER again and again, I’m guessing. We will do so because it’s good. And because, for a few minutes after the Cruiser first screeched up to our door, we were standing on the sidewalk and smiling ear-to-ear behind our masks.