Fern Bar Fridays: Casting Spells With Steve Miller and CCR

Welcome to Fern Bar Fridays, a lighthearted romp (is there any other kind?) through a decade of cool music and even cooler drinks. The fern bar era, which roughly spanned 1975-1985, was filled with giant lapels and ties (and then later teeny tiny lapels and ties), ridiculous drinks, and sweet sounds. Every Friday we’ll bring you a song and drink pairing emblematic of that delightful time to help you get the weekend started off on the right loafer-sans-sock-shod foot. Today, and throughout the month of October, we’re celebrating the season of the witch with: "Abracadabra" by the Steve Miller Band and "I Put A Spell On You" by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Last week we kicked off our Hallowe’en festivities down at Rita’s, the imaginary fern bar that exists in my head, and this week we’re continuing to spook ourselves the frond out. And oh boy, do we ever have a treat for you! Because today, for the first time, I get to spin a yarn for you about one of our regulars!

We have the greatest regulars, you guys.

Roger Cook is one of our best customers, and I’ll admit to having a soft spot for him. Sadly for me, he’s got a real thing for Joanne, our most reliable and competent waitress. Cute tush on ‘er too. Of course, Roger doesn’t know that Joanne was born as "Randy" and we all made a pact not to let on. We figure it’s best that way. Plus, we’re all too busy snickering behind our hands when Roger works himself into a good one over Bruce, our afternoon bartender. Roger haaaaaaaaaates Bruce—calls him "that scrawny ginger" and is forever putting him in what he calls "a friendly headlock" or threatening to treat him to an atomic wedgie. It’s bad form, as an employer, to encourage this sort of harassment. But it’s unendingly hilarious to watch Bruce get all angry and red-in-the-face so I mostly just don’t say much of anything at all.

Our Roger loves the Steve Miller Band and gets exasperated with us when someone (Bruce) puts on what he calls "that namby-pamby Alan Parsons-type music you all like so much." He’s a rock’n’roller, old Roge.

Roger likes to wax nostalgic when "Abracadabra" comes on—he was at this show, having found himself in Belgium for reasons he never fully explains to us—and sometimes, when he’s deep into his cups, he’ll reach out and try to grab Joanne. We forgive him that trespass, even Joanne (who, frankly, secretly likes it) because we’re all—well, all except for Bruce—so overly fond of Roger, and often will even cede control of the jukebox to him on the nights he’s in and let him play some of his favorite classic rock songs. Though I’m quick to remind him that it’s rightfully Proto-Fern, I certainly never protest when he gets into it with the CCR, especially not at this time of year, when he inevitably saunters up to the "music machine," as he calls it much to my delight, pops in a few dimes, turns over his shoulder to give me a wink, and cues up "I Put A Spell On You."

He’s a lover, that Roger. He’s also a joker, a toker and a midnight smoker. (He makes me say that every time.)(He also always informs me he has that same Mickey Mouse tee Doug "Cosmo" Clifford wore at Woodstock. I smile and nod and pour him another Schlitz in response.)

Despite Roger’s quirks, he really is indispensable to us down at Rita’s. He helps out with minor repairs when Bertie needs to be put down for a two-day nap, or just won’t come out of his shed; he’s great at coaxing the cats down from trees; and he’s the only one of us brave enough to handle the dry ice for the Halloween punch.

And oh! Our Halloween punch! It’s a delightful witches brew, served in a cauldron.

6 oz. lime Jello
2 cups boiling water
3 cups pineapple juice
2 liters gingerale
3 cups vodka

Put the powdered Jello into a large bowl and slowly stir in the boiling water; stir for 2 minutes, which will seem like an eternity but is absolutely necessary, until the Jello powder is completely dissolved. Stir in the pineapple juice and let come up to room temperature. Pour into a large plastic punch bowl and add the vodka and gingerale. Chill and/or add ice as desired.

Place the punch bowl into a plastic cauldron with a circumference of about an inch more than your punch bowl. Using tongs or heavy duty gloves so as not to get burned on ice, which would be so embarrassing to explain to people, place 5-10 small chunks of dry ice into the cauldron, and cover with hot water to create a "smoking" effect.

Serve in a seasonally appropriate glass, and don’t forget to reach out and grab the lucky recipient with a flourish and an "ABRA-ABRA-CADABRA!"

Follow Jolie Kerr on Twitter.

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