Drink, Eat, But Don't Pass Out

“Write drunk, edit sober,” Mark Twain supposedly said, and it's something journalists keep close to our livers—stats frequently show reporters as a profession suffer some of the highest alcoholism rates. With this in mind, I shall review Proof, a martini lounge in downtown Santa Ana that's sleek, sexy and open until 2 a.m. every pinche day. I don't know how to review bars—I'm no Commie Girl or Ellen Griley—so I figure the best way to do it is 100 or so words per shot. I just downed my first—Cazadores añejo, a smokey amber tequila that sears my throat. It's 6:06 p.m., and the Yankees-Tigers game is being delayed because of rain. Play the damn game, already! And kill the Yankees!

The super-cute bartender rang up my second Cazadores shot on Proof's push-button cash register. It's the only retro item at Proof, which is how all bar scenes should be. Soft neon lighting illuminates various bottles of booze. The front of the bar hosts high stools; toward the back are couches divided by steel beaded curtains. Artwork decorates some walls, but more intriguing are the double projectors that show everything from ESPN (screw the Yankees!) to movies to The Boondocks. Different DJs play every night, meaning the Artists Village hipsters come here after the next-door Gypsy Den and Memphis close.

“Why do people even drink drinks?” I ask my friend, who's nursing a gin-and-tonic. The strategy for Proof tonight is four shots of Cazadores, a double Scotch on the rocks, and whatever Proof's signature drink is. But before I get to those levels, I need something to fortify my stomach. We order some bonito-braised white shrimp and Katsu chicken bites.

“Gourmet bar food” seems like an oxymoron, but it's explained by Proof's pedigree. Its owners are also behind the chic Pangea (makers of the favorite lunchtime sandwiches for Weeklings), and its kitchen provides snacks for Proof. It's a limited menu, but you're at a bar to lose your liver, not dine fine. Such touches show why Proof draws the tie-wearing crowd and faux-hawks alike.

The food arrives, and the comforting scent of it greets me. I haven't had dinner and realize we ordered appetizers—won't fill me up. I summarily order some calamari.

There's nothing Mexican about the shrimp as the menu advertises—it's just regular shrimp, and rumors of its bounty are rumors. But the cocktail sauce does have a smear of wasabi, which makes it more memorable than the regular cocktail. Much better are the chicken bites, breaded with butter crumbs and accompanied with a sweet-sour Thai sauce; pickled cucumber and carrots lie on the side to lend some tartness to the dish. I wash the food down with water, not because I want to dilute my alcohol level, but because alcohol doesn't go well with food. Only six shrimp were with my cocktail. I like the cocktail sauce; I start scooping it in my mouth with a spoon.

“You're not supposed to mix drinks!” another friend exclaims as I finish my double Scotch on the rocks. Whatever. I pound the damn thing, and then proceed to the calamari. It is hearty as opposed to the sheer grease of so many other calamaris, and the dipping sauce tastes like ranch dressing with a dash of chile. “Poco salado,” my friend says. “They're a bit salty.” And ain't that the truth? But this calamari is more flavorful than any other calamari I've tasted.

Proof is a bit empty. It's unfortunate, since it's a really great bar. I blame the Mexicans. Santa Ana is the most-Latino big city in the United States, but that reputation doesn't play well in Orange County, the most Mexican-hating region in the United States. Why don't people like Mexicans? They'd like Proof—mucho booze.

For my last drink, I ask the bartender waitress what Proof's signature drink is. “The Proof Martini,” she replies. And so I order it. “Grey Goose and Grey Goose L'Orange with a dash of Cointreau and a lemon twist,” according to their menu. Me, the waitress, and my pal diss on Argentines, I rail about K-Earth and then the phone rings. I drink the martini—a bit sour, but then again I don't drink martinis. I hate the A's—why are they leading the Twins? My friend should seriously hit up those hot-ass girls near the back. Did we already agree that Argentines are full of it? Fucking arrogant pricks. The Tigers pitcher is 17-9 and he'll still lose. Why do the Yankees always win? I need more food but Pangea's Kitchen already closed—too bad. Who has the most stolen bases? Rickey Henderson. Talk to Justin the owner. Talk in Spanish. Keep saying “fucking.” “Baseball is the most pussy sport,” says my friend. A bar isn't a bar without a bar fight. Sugar daddy. I hate “Moon River.”

Epilogue: Soon after writing those words, I went to Proof's bathroom, threw up, then passed out on the floor. Then my friend and I went to Jack in the Box, where I threw up again and threw fries against the wall. Then he walked me to my apartment, where I threw up again. Proof is a great bar—just don't mix your liquor, please. And don't pass out on the bathroom floor.


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