Back when I was a frequent flier (and before I had a fetus the size of Mrs. Potato Head growing in my uterus), my first stop in a new city was always a cocktail bar. I’d try to find a stool near the bartender, order the most obscure thing on the menu and then people-watch to get a feel for the place.
Whether I was in Austin or Auckland, there always seemed to be a common thread: the hums. Ice clinking in a glass. The murmur of a tipsy crowd. Corks popping. Rain hitting a window. Cars honking outside. Limes being sliced. These are the universal sounds that reassured me no matter where I was in the world, there was comfort and connection to be found in a good bar.
So when the pandemic grounded us and the saloon doors swung close, it felt like we were missing out on something real. An energy that could not be replicated over a Negroni made at the kitchen sink or a birthday tequila shot taken in front of a webcam, no matter how hard we tried to bring that familiar bar atmosphere home.
Enter “I Miss My Bar,” an online tool created by the staff of a Mexican cocktail bar to recreate — to a delightfully effective degree — your favorite bar’s ambiance sans bar. Available at imissmybar.com, the straightforward gizmo is like sonic therapy for those who can’t go out right now or who just need a mental break from the afternoon grind.
The interactive audio device lets you play around with seven sound loops: bartender working, people talking, full room, rain on window, night ambiance, serving drinks and street ambiance. You can turn all of the effects up to 10 or toggle each track’s volume individually to build your perfect environmental mix. And while immersive audio alone can’t fully transport you to being in a bar, it is a surprisingly fun simulation for your senses.
Maverick, a popular cocktail bar in Monterrey, Mexico, worked with local designers at Lagom + Tandem to build the player. René Cárdenas and Oscar Romo, owners of Maverick, first consulted with their bartenders to figure out which sounds “always represent the experience of having a cocktail at a bar” and “represent the experience of sitting in any kind of bar, in any country, place or time while not losing the local identity of Maverick.”
Then they recorded most of the sounds at the bar itself, which is why if you listen closely to the “people talking” and “street ambiance” effects, you’ll be able to pick up conversations in Spanish. The team narrowed the effects from 20 to seven they liked best and then released it at the height of the pandemic in an attempt to provide their regulars, plus cocktail enthusiasts around the globe, a way to reconnect.
“We all miss our bar. Hanging out with friends, deep conversations over gin and tonics, meeting great new people, the atmosphere,” the bar said in a statement at the time. “Even though these things will never be replaced, at Maverick we’ve made this modern digital artifact to keep you company … [until] we can meet again safely. Plug your device to a decent speaker set and use it as a background sound for your Zoom parties, or just for your daily wind-down cocktail at home.”
Additionally, Maverick has a bilingual Spotify playlist its staffers update weekly that can be played along with the effects. This week’s playlist includes beachy grooves like “Balera De Mar” by Opez and “Late Night in Kauai” by Childish Gambino.
Even as many bars have opened back up, the digital bar soundscape of I Miss My Bar is still wildly popular, attracting nearly 1 million unique visitors a month.
“So many people have connected with this project all over the globe because it’s not just about aesthetics, and for us, the approach was never that,” Cárdenas said. “We made a project driven by real human emotions: nostalgia, the fear of never being able to see each other again, our natural instinct of being social and sharing our time, stories, food, thoughts and feelings.
“A bar is not just about the actual cocktail. It is about the experience. It is about being there with friends yet being surrounded by strangers. Even though they are strangers, you feel some company [with them]. It is about the music, the smell, the sound. We tried to make this some sort of companion of the experience — giving people a tool to take the bar home.”
And for those of us who still can’t return to drinking in bars, for whatever reason, I Miss My Bar will continue to serve as a soothing escape to our favorite setting, just a browser click away. Maybe my infant will even get hooked on the serene white noise of my custom mix playing in the background to “Baby Shark.”
Alyson Sheppard is Lagniappe’s resident hangover specialist. Find her on Twitter: @amshep.
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