At Alani, a riverside Ossetian restaurant in Tbilisi known for its home-brewed beer and arbitrary menu options, I share a pot of ostri – traditional beef stew – with my partner, Brian, and another female friend.
A middle-aged Georgian man in a leather jacket approaches us. “You,” he barks at Brian. “Come drink.” It is an order, not an invitation.
He escorts Brian to his table, where nine more men, glasses full, sway over gargantuan platters of shashlik and uneaten French fries.
He pours Brian out a shot of chacha, a traditional Georgian moonshine with the potency of vodka and the taste of gasoline. They toast, as is customary, to the loveliness of women. They all down it together.
My friend and I watch, uninvited, from across the restaurant floor.
“Irish,” says Brian.
They laugh. A challenge. They grab his arm before he can leave. “More!”
They pour out another shot, then another. Brian does his best to match. Only on the tenth do they, suitably impressed, let him leave.
Brian makes it all the way back to our table before staggering to the floor.