I first learned about bottle service my freshman year in college. I was new to the Big City and all of its glamorous social practices and an acquaintance of my roommate had been "lucky" enough to be treated to the experience by her much older, i-banking boyfriend.
I initially thought she was talking about some sort of elite recycling agency that sent people to your house to separate the light from the dark-colored glass.
"HAH, no!" she replied. "It's when you go to a club and you have a private table with your own bottle of alcohol. And juice and stuff. You mix your own drinks. It's very expensive, like $150."*
Mix my own drinks. "Hmm," I thought, "I get that luxury for free at dorm parties." Call me old-fashioned, but (at least at the time) I correlated a high-cost drinking experience with high level of service.
*Historical note: At that time, bottle service did not necessarily include your own waiter/waitress to concoct libations.
So I privately scorned bottle service and my roommate's daft acquaintance. Besides, I wasn't running with high rollers and wouldn't be in the awkward (but in a way oh-so-desirable) position of turning down the opportunity to sit in a VIP booth with my own bottle of Ciroc and a pitcher of organic grapefruit juice.
Several years later I was writing an article on an up-and-coming nightspot in Boston and as part of my research, I was allowed to accept comped bottle service (value $200) from the club. I recruited my then boyfriend (now husband) and a good guy friend to indulge with me on a rainy Thursday night.
My incurably pretentious and vain self was tickled pink at the idea of being a "VIP" with my own table, alcohol, and bootylicious server. I convinced myself that bottle service had probably evolved from its rather vulgar roots. We would surely be drinking complicated martinis made from the ridiculously expensive bottle of liquor sitting in front of us.
Nope. Our waitress, cute as a button in her bustier, willingly and cheerfully prepared us drinks...all of the three-one-ratio. As in, three parts OJ, one part vodka. Three parts tonic, one part gin. You get the picture. We could request different proportions, but there was no getting around the fact that at the end of the day we were being served rather lame "cocktails."
Which brings me back to college. Bare-bones Cape Codders and Screwdrivers and G&Ts are totally appropriate and appealing in certain environments, like the coach cabin on transatlantic flights, the backyard barbecue, and, certainly, the frat house shindig.
That bottle service continues to masquerade as a high-class, elite activity boggles my mind. I know, however, that I'm definitely in the minority. The practice wouldn't exist if a sizable number of people weren't interested in forking over a lot of money to sit apart from the masses and imbibe effete mixed drinks made from their own private bottle of alcohol. In my day, that socially allergic group of kids that guffawed at each others' inside jokes while one marginally cuter girl among them plied them with booze was called the Science Olympiad Team. And that hearty drunken revelry was an attempt to distract us from the reality that we were not Cool Kids.
Or were we? Readers, chime in with your own thoughts. Is there some hidden value (deep-fried Twinkies, seaweed facials, discreet sexual acts, etc.) with bottle service that I'm missing? Enlighten me.