A bit of barroom philosophy, courtesy of Dan Freeman: The longest journey begins with but a single sip.
Freeman should know. The Brooklynite set out Jan. 1 to visit 1,000 bars in a single year, a cocktail lounge quest that began with one scotch and soda in Mike’s Pelham Grill. Barely five months later, the Don Quixote of drink is halfway to completing his boozy impossible dream.
Why 1,000 bars, you ask? Why not?
“There wasn’t any grand scheme,” explained Freeman, a tall draft beer in hand at bar No. 500, The Gate in Brooklyn. “I just wanted to see how many bars you could hit in a year, and 1,000 seemed reasonable.”
The retired computer consultant launched a simultaneous blog about his pursuit, converting Freeman into a semi-cult cyber star. Several online fans greeted Freeman at The Gate recently, getting their pictures taken or sharing a drink and a story.
Four or five bars a day
“I’m jealous as all hell of you,” said Dan Ross of Brooklyn, sipping a beer and shaking Freeman’s free hand. Another fan offered this post on the blog: “Congrats to you and your liver.”
Freeman, no surprise, is a character — charming, gregarious, well-traveled. He sported a baseball cap plugging “Fiji Bitter, The Sportsman’s Beer.” He wore a bright blue and orange shirt, with his quick smile flashing often through a white beard.
He aims to visit four or five bars a day, although that number varies. He’s knocked back a Sam Adams at the Raccoon Lodge in lower Manhattan, a sake at the Kotobuki Bistro in Brooklyn and a gin and tonic at Hobson’s Choice in Hoboken, N.J.
It’s not as much fun as it sounds. Or so Freeman insisted, a smile spreading across his face.
“Some days it’s like work,” he said. “You look up and it’s, ’Ah, 1 p.m., I’d better go hit my five bars.’ It’s really more fun than anything, going around and talking to people.”
Wife says 'he's been pretty responsible'
His one-day high was 12 bars in 12 hours during a Mexican vacation, and quite a high it was. But his wife, Yum Chin, said Freeman has generally behaved during his party of one.
“He’s been pretty responsible,” Chin said, “with a few lapses we won’t talk about.”
Freeman is quick to observe this is no 12-month bender. He generally has but one drink in a bar. He never counts the same bar twice, and each place must have an actual bar where he can sit and order a drink. A cocktail with dinner, seated at a table, is invalid.
“If you stop to think, I’m drinking 3 or 4 beers a day,” he said. “I’m not pounding down a fifth. It sounds like a lot more alcohol consumption than it is.”
Freeman, who spends much of his time walking between bars, said he’s actually lost three pounds since January.
He scribbles down his notes about each bar on a tiny white pad, or sometimes on recipe cards. Mostly, he offers a brief description and a notation about his drink. Like No. 458, the Reade Street Pub:
“A long, narrow, fairly dark place. Wood-grained Formica bar with tile foot rests. Shaded globe lights hang over the bar. The wall behind the bar is paneled with mirrors. ... I had a Reade Street Ale. How could I not?”
Given his current pace, Freeman hopes to finish his work early. Tentative plans are for a midtown Manhattan visit to bar No. 1,000 on Dec. 4, his 61st birthday, although he remains philosophical about that, too.
“It’s like somebody posted on my blog. ... ’If you don’t have a dream, how can you make a dream come true?”’ Freeman said. “I’m not sure exactly how that translates to this, but OK.”