Notes From The Carlyle – November 2018

Unknown.jpeg I came to Bemelmans to pay homage to Tommy, their long time bartender, who passed away at 78. Though retiring after 53 years in 2012, I always thought somehow he’d come back, like it was all a great mistake.

Wishful thinking on my part.

We met in the 80s when I drifted into Bemelmans because some actor stood me up, as crushed as the ice in my glass.

Tommy, having a daughter of his own, dried my tears with his hankie, administering advice and kindness through the healing powers of potato chips and soft Irish ballads, making us fast friends.

“There there Lassie, all will work out.”

I’d see him at least once a week when I’d sit at the bar while he regaled me with stories, how he shook hands with President Kennedy, and waited on Harry Truman, Bobby and Teddy. My favorite tale of course, was how he once helped Jackie into a cab.

“She was so polite, thanking me in but a whisper,” he’d say, every time I asked him to retell it.

There’s even a drink named after him that’s on the menu…A Tommy Rowles made with rum and cognac. “Has to be a good cognac,” Tommy would say with a wink. “Ya always want the real thing there Lassie, don’t forget that.”

As I sit here remembering him, despite, the new barmaid, who no doubt will become a Tommy in her own right, I can still feel his presence presiding with that eternal twinkle in his eye, his cocktail shaker purring over the prattle and grand piano.

I loved what he said when asked, how do you make the perfect martini? He said, just forget the vermouth.

“I don’t know why people put it in. A bottle of vermouth, you should just open it and look at it.” And you know, he was right. Who doesn’t just prefer ice cold gin in a chilled crystal glass.

“So it’s been a while,” said the barmaid when she came to take my order. “How come you’re not sitting at the bar in your usual place?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Just wanted to reflect a bit.”

“So what’ll it be?”

“How bout a Tommy Rowels, on ice, just make sure it’s a good cognac.”

She smiled, then said, “How bout we’ll both have one, on Tommy.”


Unknown-1.jpeg Tommy Rowels (1940-2018)


About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
This entry was posted in alcohol, creative writing, Culture, friendship, History, humanity, humor, inspiration, New York City, words and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Notes From The Carlyle – November 2018

  1. robprice59 says:

    A good bar tend is worth his/her weight in platinum.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ally Bean says:

    “He said, just forget the vermouth.” I think that’s good advice for any and all mixed drinks. Lovely tribute to someone who helped you become who you are today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elle Knowles says:

    Always sad to lose old friends but you still have the memories Susannah. ~Elle

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A throw back in time. Some of my favorite places from my young adult years are no longer open or else they are now a tattoo parlor or dollar store. Sigh! You have great memories of a kind man. He should wrote a book but he was probably discreet. That endears him to everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to admit that I don’t always like talking to people. However, there are just some who get your attention and hold it without effort. I have known a few of those…glad you got to know one for years.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. skinnyuz2b says:

    Susannah, isn’t it comforting that we all have those special places with special people that make us feel welcome and at home? It’s always so sad when they disappear. Luckily, I think Bemelmans and Tommy’s legacy will stand the test of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sorryless says:


    There are a few things you shouldn’t compromise on, and the peeps fixing up your drinks happens to be one of them. A beautiful ode to a prince of his city.


    Liked by 1 person

  8. You can tell a story better than anyone I know.


  9. RIP Tommy …. the stories he must have heard in his life … whew.

    Liked by 1 person

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