Places I'll Never Show My Face in Again: Bugatta on Melrose

— by Caroline on Crack

Bugatta Mule by Caroline on Crack

Worst Moscow Mule ever.

A couple of years ago Esquire Magazine released a list of “Signs You’re in a Bad Bar.” On there were things like “Jager shot machine” and “kid-friendly.” But like most cocktail geeks and regular bar hoppers, I’ve got my own list in my back pocket. And when I walked into Bugatta on Melrose for the first time and spotted those telltale signs — the 10-ounce “martinis” on the menu, the Lavender Cosmo, the indifferent bartender with dead eyes — I decided to put away my prejudices and give the place a chance. You can never judge a book by its cover and all that. Besides, who knows, I could be pleasantly surprised.

The venue didn’t look changed much from its previous incarnation as the Bungalow Club, except to say that there were more people in it. Apparently there was a party going on. Very loungey, nice bar area. Not my type of hang, but whatevs. Loved that I was able to just get a seat right away at the bar.

But then I looked over the cocktail menu. Nothing appealed to me. Mojito-tini, raspberry lemon drop, blueberry lychee. Wasn’t this the same menu that Bungalow had from the early 2000s? So I decided to go with the Moscow Mule. I figured this straightforward classic was a safe bet even though the chances of it being served in its traditional copper cup here were slim to none. But how badly could you eff up a Moscow Mule?

Well. Turns out, a lot. The menu listed the cocktail as containing “fresh lime juice.” But unless that meant a fresh bottle of margarita mix, there was no such juice in this cocktail. I saw the bartender struggling with the cap on the new bottle and thought, “No, that can’t be my drink.” After a squirt of the mix she then dumped what seemed like a three-count of Peychaud’s bitters into the mix, turning it rose-colored. She then took a straw to it, you know, like how bartenders do to gauge whether the cocktail needs tweaking. Too much margarita mix, perhaps? But she threw out the straw and then placed the drink in front of me.

Wuuut? That wasn’t like any Moscow Mule prep I’ve ever seen. I mean, is she kidding me? Does she think people really don’t read the menu or watch her as she makes the cocktail?

Despite my better instincts I took a sip of it and, yup, it was the worst cocktail I’ve ever had. Over the top lime-y. Downright undrinkable. It in turn inspired my new favorite Twitter hashtag: #cockfail, to now be used with any horrible cocktail I encounter.

I would have said something to the bartender but 1) If she could fuck up this cocktail that bad, chances are she didn’t have the skills to save it and 2) we had dinner reservations so had no time for a redo anyway. The drink was $8; if it were more I probably would have asked for my money back. But instead chalked it up to a lesson learned.

To be fair, even though I didn’t like Bugatta, seems like 10 out of 13 peeps on Yelp do. So there’s that.

PS: Here’s a list of 10 Signs You’re in a Good Cocktail Bar, just for good measure.

Update 1/20/12: Bugatta’s social media person contacted me and said, “These problems were made aware to the bar staff. Our bar manager and owner are correcting these issues.  We strive to offer the freshest ingredients for our mixed cocktails and promise that the sour mix you spoke of in the review will not be used again.”

Still don’t understand why they listed “fresh lime juice” when sour mix was clearly the default ingredients. And how can they now say they “strive to offer the freshest ingredients”? Anyway, there it is for what it’s worth now.