Once upon a time, there was a restaurant in Seattle called The Windjammer.
For many, including my family, it was an “occasion” restaurant. Not necessarily huge occasions like weddings and family reunions–although it did host such events–but the smaller occasions: graduations, birthdays, and hosting out-of-town guests.
The Windjammer’s signature bit–or perhaps one of them; certainly the one that made the biggest impression on me*–was the way the servers filled water glasses. The pour started with the pitcher just above the rim of the glass. As the glass filled, the server would lift the pitcher higher–leaving the glass on the table, untouched–until it reached his shoulder height. The waterfall effect was eye-catching, especially at the end, when a twist of the server’s wrist bent the stream slightly.
* At the time, I was what we now call a tween. If there were similar rituals in the presentation of alcoholic beverages, I was and am blissfully unaware of them.
If you think about it, it’s a perfect gimmick for a restaurant. It’s not as showy as lighting something on fire, granted, but there’s less risk of igniting a customer’s clothing or hair. And it doesn’t require your customers to pay attention: no chance of a flying shrimp bouncing off someone’s chin.
It’s not as easy as The Windjammer’s staff made it look, either. Believe me, I spent a lot of time trying to do it myself. The basic pour-and-lift isn’t difficult, but stopping is tough. You want the glass to be full enough that you won’t have to come back around immediately, but not so full that it overflows. Once you let the water out of the pitcher three feet above the table, you can’t put it back. Don’t forget about the wrist twist, either. It changes the flow so the last part of the pour hits the inside of the glass and flows smoothly down, instead of splatting down and spraying water on the paying customers.
By now you’re probably wondering why I even bring up this bit of little-known nostalgia.
Blame it on muscle memory.
I hadn’t thought about The Windjammer in decades until our recent hot spells came along. At one point, I raided the pitcher of water in the fridge and found myself doing a Windjammer Pour. It didn’t go well. I bobbled the wrist twist and splashed myself and the countertop with a significant amount of water. While it felt nice, it wasn’t quite the cooldown I’d been planning on.
So now I’ve got a problem.
I’d like to practice up and get my pouring skills back up to standard, but California is in drought conditions. Can I really indulge myself, knowing each practice pour will waste precious milliliters of water?