As mentioned in previous articles, stereotypes unfortunately exist for a reason, right or wrong. People are human and as such quite often identify with people who look, eat, breath, speak, walk and think like them. That’s not the case 100% of the time obviously but looking back on human evolution and behavior, it would be idiotic not to think that does happen pretty regularly. Stereotypes + alcohol + money = elevated, accentuated, and often comical prejudice sometimes despite what people think or how both patrons and employees present themselves. What goes on in peoples’ minds are sometimes but not always manifested in their actions.
Inevitably in this business, there will come a time (many of them actually) where you will have to refuse customers service for a wide variety of reasons – many of which you can imagine. Obvious inebriation comes to mind immediately – unless you enjoy having said drunk get in his/her car, mowing down some school kids, resulting in the PoPo cuffing you and shutting down your bar, whether you own it or not. This is where the aforementioned T.I.P.S certification and experience dealing with these types of customers comes in handy.
So let’s address the law first. In NYC and NYS, the interpretation that you’ll get from most professionals is that you can refuse to serve anyone for any reason so long as you don’t discriminate against that person for reasons of religion, creed, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, military status or color. Effectively, you can get away with not serving folks if they have become or are suspected of becoming problematic, intoxicated, dangerous, or really – for any reason at all. Just don’t state a stupid reason that will land you and your establishment in hot water. This is commonly referred to in the industry as the “Inkeepers Law” or the “Inkeepers Rule” and dates back to English and Colonial Common Law. It should be noted that the law does vary from state to state here in the U.S.
Well, well. Aside from quick and easy off the books cash (off the books rarely exists as of the last few years) and sleeping until the afternoon, going home with the bartender is probably the top priority of just about every bartender and patron, man/woman/beast, that has ever stepped foot near a watering hole. Don’t lie. I’ve seen your googly eyes and incessant gleaming smiles. Your brand of crazy only become less inhibited as the night goes on – or worse, progresses to blatant propositions, endless inappropriate staring and pulling a Ma Bell by physically reaching out and grabbing someone. Yikes!
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear – bartenders are working and are in the service business. Pay close attention to that line. What it means is that, much like that lovely girl (what’s her name? Candy Rox?) at the Midtown strip club, bartenders are serving and entertaining you, capitulating to you whims with a smile, routinely flirting and leading you on (regardless of your sexual orientation), in an effort to make as much in tips as they possibly can. Although there are lots of good happy barkeeps in the world, sometimes or I should say often, this is an act – part of the job. We like to keep people happy. Happy customers = well compensated service employees.
Far too many customers are completely disillusioned and misinterpret the bartender’s actions for love interest. Keep it real folks. This is mostly not the case even in the case where you offer and we accept your phone number, email, business card, etc. Sorry to break hearts. Trendy busy bars in particular hire hot help. The reasons are obvious – to attract your business.
Now on the flipside, there are going to be hookup instances. Actually, it’s pretty rampant amongst staff in most places. And yes, it happens between customers and staff as well to a lesser degree. The best way to land that bodacious beauty behind the bar, just like us daydreaming dudes trying to land strippers, is to not be a douchebag. That means (1) having manners/being polite (2) tipping very well [read that one about, I dunno, 100 times] (3) being interesting without being overbearing (4) having a sense of humor [extremely valuable trait] and finally (5) not being creepy [read that one again too].
Not being “creepy” involves many things. Unfortunately for many folks, this is not obvious and direct result of bad stock (e.g., your parents and upbringing). You can’t sit there for 2 hours your eyes emblazoned on the long-haired fox, sporting a skin tight mini-dress and PlayBoy cleaving, slinging beers. Your head can’t be tracking her every movement across 30 feet of bar and your only communication has been “1 beer please.” Jesus H Christmas! You should be in jail not at the bar! You’re prime fodder for the next university Rambo massacre.
So, what’s wrong with this picture? Looks like a yummy Margarita on the rocks with salt, right? Well, this is not a Margarita that I would ever entertain paying good money for. It looks like little more than pond water in a glass.
What am I talking about? This is supposed to be a standard Margarita but someone has taken the extreme lazy way out and made it with some liquor store, supermarket or worst, liquor distributor bought pre-mix. Furthermore, the proportions are way off, there is no frothing agent and it’s not shaken. Now being a purist and an OCD Margarita snob, this drink at left strikes me as undrinkable.
After cheerfully greeting your patron, if Mr./Mrs. customer orders a Margarita from you, your next questions should be: (1) Would you like that on the rocks or straight up? (2) salt or no salt? (3) what kind of tequila would you like [as you rattle off or try to upsell them on finer-than-well stock]? I often go further and ask them if they’d like it (a) frozen or regular and (b) any particular flavor? Customers often don’t know what they want and/or they’d like to be sold. They also frequently want something specific but do not order properly (e.g., they’d like a frozen Margarita but simply assume you should know this). Asking will potentially save you time, embarrassment, lost liquor and subsequently, income.
Take a look at the Herradura Margarita on the right or the up version bellow. Better, aye? Yes indeed. All Margaritas (non-frozen) must be shaken – not rolled, not stirred but shaken unless your customer desires otherwise. Keep in mind that much like good eats, a good drink’s tastes consists of (1) taste (2) temperature and (3) texture [what many Margarita mixologists neglect].
Here’s the basic recipe:
- 1.5 – 2.0 oz tequila
- .5oz Triple Sec (or sub Orange Curacao or Cointreau)
- .5oz fresh lime juice (and/or Roses Lime Juice if you’re lazy, cheap, or spiteful)
- .5 – 1oz sour mix (equal parts lemon juice and simple syrup)
- 1 tsp. egg white (frothing agent). If you’re cheap, lazy, terrified of eggs or all three, you can cheap-out and just use commercial LemonX by the gallon in place of sour, simple and frothing agent.
- Glass: Highball, Martini or Sombrero
Additives: Contrary to rampant abusive Margarita butchery, they are not supposed to include O.J. or anything else than what I describe above. That does not mean that bars can’t invent their own drinks and have special variations/flavors – I don’t mean that at all. The issue I have is that many bartenders have been passed down bad habits, never learned the old school drink, and are trying to pass off their tricked out version of a Margarita as a basic one – no good when that’s not what I ordered or am expecting for my money. Furthermore, there is no Grand Marinier in a traditional Margarita. If you’ve asked for a “Cadillac” or “Golden Margarita,” then sure.
Cadillac Margarita - Add .5oz of Grand Marinier to your concoction before shaking.
Golden Margarita - Add .5oz of Grand Marinier as well but also use a “golden” tequila not white. Typically, you’ll want to use an Añejo or Reposado variety tequila as a base.
Look. This isn’t rocket science nor is it a dissertation at Dartmouth grad school on the finer points of global economics. Anyone can memorize a couple of hundred popular drinks. It’s not difficult but a result of repetitious training of some kind including flash cards and/or making the drinks in practice over and over again. It will sink in eventually.
- B-52: Kills Bad Guys: Kaluha, Baileys, Grand Mariner (in that order). If this is straight up, it must be floated. Don’t get lazy. It defeats expectations especially on this drink.
- Mai-Tai: Rum Sour To Go. Rum, Sour Mix, Triple Sec, Orgeat (almond) syrup, Grenadine, O.J. Write it across a piece of paper and the following ingredients vertically corresponding to the letters of each word. Again for the complacent set, shake it. Anything with juice, sour mix in particular, must be shaken.
- Anything up against the wall: Think the tallest bottle at the bar – always Galliano
- With a bang: Means add vodka. In other words, they want to get their buzz on a whole lot faster.
- Long Island Iced Tea: Keep the first 5 bottles of your well the same – always and you’ll have zero problems memorizing this one: vodka, rum, gin, tequila, triple sec. I’ll go into specifics of this drink and alternate versions later. However, add .5oz of each liquor above, .5oz of sour mix, shake and top with .5 – 1oz of cola.
- Slippery Nipple: Sambuca and Baileys in that order (floated). “S” for Sambuca.
- Buttery Nipple: Butterscotch Schnapps (somewhat obviously) and Baileys in order again floated.
- Mudslide: Just remember what it looks like – a mess or mudslide off a cliff: .5 – 1oz of the following: vodka, Kahlua, Baileys. Pour the Baileys in last and slightly stir with a sip straw or stirrer. Do not shake. It’s supposed to look all marbled.
- Cosmopolitan: Care for some TLC: citron vodka, triple sec, lime juice, cranberry juice
- Metropolitan: KTLC. I have no idea why this works but I initially memorized it as a radio station call sign: Absolut Kurrant, triple sec, lime juice and cranberry juice.
- Godfather: Shoots Assholes: Scotch + Amaretto.
- Godmother: Visits Assholes in the hospital: Vodka + Amaretto.
- French Connection: brandy or Cognac and Amaretto. Think about the neighboring countries where Cognac and Amaretto originate from. This cocktail has an alternative recipe of brandy or Cognac and Grand Marinier.
- Blowjob: Kahlua, Baileys floated and topped with whipped cream. Obvious, no?
- Bay Breeze: Vodka, pineapple juice, cranberry juice. Pineapples grow in the bay, get it?
- Sea Breeze: Vodka, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice. Grapefruits do not grow in the bay. They may but who really cares. Just use the tip to commit it to the nether regions of your noggin.
- Malibu Bay Breeze: half Malibu, half vodka, pineapple juice, cranberry juice.
- Alabama Slammer: Makes you look like an A.S.S. – Amaretto, Sloe Gin, Southern Comfort + O.J.
- Red Devil: Kamikaze + Alabama Slammer
- Orgasm: Usually had on you B.a.C.K. – Baileys, Kahlua, Cream
I committed the following drinks to memory simply associating them together with one or two changes differentiating them:
- Sex on the Beach: Vodka, Peach Schnapps (.3/4oz of each), cranberry juice and orange juice.
- Woo Woo: leave out the orange juice from the Sex on the Beach.
- Hairy Navel: leave out the cranberry juice from the Sex on the Beach.
- Fuzzy Navel: leave out the vodka and cranberry juice from the Sex on the Beach leaving only Peach Schnapps and orange juice.
Here’s one of my biggest pet peeves from the initiated barkeep – the pour. Ask most bartenders in clubbish type of hotspots how much they pour in a shot/drink and they’ll tell you “…a four-count” or something to that affect. It’s not entirely their fault because that’s what they were taught. However, anyone who is remotely interested in continually bettering themselves and their respective crafts is always learning – I included. I don’t purport to know everything – no oneknows everything.
Ask that same person again how many ounces that four-count translates to and you’ll get the deer-in-headlights lobotomized stare into never-never-land. If you’ve read my Training posts, you’ll notethat this is because most bartenders have zero formal training. Nor have they bothered to open a book (other than that horrific Mr. Boston garbage) in an effort to get a bit more edumacted since memorizing a few simple and popular drinks.
For the record, the “standard”pour of 80 proof spirits is 1.5oz although you’ll find many, many barsoverpouring to something like 2oz or even 2.5oz especially in the inner Citywhere drinks get relatively pricey. Back to that “four-count.” It’s a decent way to measure that 1.5oz butit can vary based on (1) how full/empty your bottle is (2) the type and qualityof your pourers (3) hiccups and (4) the random barkeep’s idea of “oneone-thousand.” Continue reading
One of last night's more interesting interactions….
Me: Hey! How are you? What can I get for you [handing drink menus, bevnaps and smiling on during an extremely busy happy hour rush]
Two Hot Girls: Can we just get some water?
Me: Sure. Can I get you anything else [as I hand them water knowing full well what is about to ensue]?
THG: Not right now
Me: [5 minutes later] Hi again! Would you like anything from the menu?
THG: We're good with just water
Me: Sure. Anything else?
Me: I'm sorry, but you'll have to order something to be able to sit at the bar. There are folks customers looking for seats.
THG: Are we that annoying to you?
Me: Look, it's a really busy night and you can't simply take up 2 bar stools. If you'd like to stay, please order something…
THG: But we're girls [giggling]. We just want to hang out
Me: I don't care if you're girls, guys, lizards, from Venus or Pluto. I need you to either order or get the fuck out – now.
THG: [looking confused and insulted. 1 minute later casually unglue themselves from their stools and leave]
Now normally, if customers pull this crap and (1) the bar is not busy (2) they offer a reasonable excuse such as waiting for their boyfried/girlfriend or (3) some way, somehow they can attract business [e.g., they're hot], I will often tolerate them for a good while until one of the conditions above have changed. These two were in another realm of entitlement entirely. Unfortunately, this type of situation and uncomfortable ensuing confrontation happens quite a bit I'm sad to say – a sad commentary on etiquette, entitlement and just downright lack of class.
Many, many hot girls in New York have disproportional Big Head Syndrome. The reason is that us guys have enabled them for their entire adult lives.
This is one of those things that enrages me inside and ruins my mood for following half-an-hour or so. As the years have gone on and this experience has repeated itself more times than I care to deal with, I have tended to brush it off much easier than in the past. My exterior and demeanor with ensuing customers would never let on that I'm severely pissed.
I've happened to spend an inordinate of time working at a bar that mixes seasoned professionals side-by-side with 20 year old fresh-faced completely untrained inexperienced barkeeps. Ugh!!! I'll try not to spend too much time complaining and digressing about how asinine and downright wrong this situation really is.
In any case, I was once that fresh-faced idiotic bartender. My first gig was at 23, straight out of bartending school, right after a brief but very lucrative career as a penny stockbroker. Bartending was supposed to be temporary while I searched for a new "real" job. Regardless, I think it was my second or third interview. I landed my first gig at a brand new 2 bar, 2 floor upscale spot on 7th ave and 131st Street. It was supposed to be the resurgence of the area and I assure you it was! It was glamorous, luxurious, well decorated and well promoted. The place was initially packed. What is was not was well run unfortunately.
Being a kid with zero Practical Experience bartending but with memorization of probably 500 drinks and fresh out of class, I was nervous. Sure enough, I was clueless around an actual bar, actual customers and worst of all – customers knew it. I had walk-outs galore, made crap money sometimes, got crappy shifts quite often, wasted a lot of liquor, and essentially got the shit kicked out of me on a professional level. However, what I did receive was something worth millions of dollars – experience. Like most jobs, nothing you can learn in books or in school can substitute for real world experience and it shows instantly. Would you feel better ordering a perfect Bookers Manhattan from a 65 year old, silver haired, portly dude, in a black tie at a 125 year old mahogany bar or a 23 year old super hottie in Daisy Dukes at the newest packed club's rooftop? Why?
As I got my chops at bar after bar over the years, things got easier and easier. Confidence grew and all the issues of bartending in my inexperienced youth quickly disappeared. I've got balls enough at this point that I can walk into just about any bar and demand (and get) a job. It doesn't happen overnight.
The main reason I was lucky enough to get my first gig is because the hiring manager thought I was hot – period. I was indeed extremely lucky. It's nearly impossible to get a gig a busy City bar without experience and fitting the mold that the hiring manager/owner is looking for combined with timing. Those last 2 bits are critical to getting a good gig. Often, it's about timing and luck. If you happen upon an interview at the right time, like someone who has been there 10 years is leaving and there is no one to fill their spot, it's not inconceivable to land the gig whereas last week, you would have had zero chance. Unfortunately, those vacancies and the corresponding timings are not advertised. Otherwise, like in other professions, you can often get a good gig based on who you know as opposed to your skill set and pounding the streets.
Well, at the risk of enraging just about every politically correct, personality rubber-stamping, draconian societal you-must-like me snob, I’ll make the comparison: I’m believer that in this business, who you are is both a result of your DNA as well as shaped of your environment/experiences just like, ehem…. your sexuality <flame_on>. Why do I make this point? There are all kinds of personalities and abilities – many of which are much better suited to bartending than others.
Your people skills, manners, attention span, patience, thick skin, acting ability, flamboyance, humor, poker face, ability to apply different rules to seemingly similar situations play MUCH MORE of a role to your bartending prowess and subsequently, income potential than your proficiency to make a world-class, or more often, a shitty, flat and too sweet Margarita.
Most anyone can memorize or be taught the drink ingredients. NOT everyone can visualize and categorize who to server and when, in a 3-people deep bar where you have a drink knocked over, appetizers arriving for a couple, 3 empty drinks in front of a college set, a blender spinning a Daiquiri, 4 burly dudes asking for 3 different beers and 11 shots, a computer that’s gone down and is no longer processing credit cards, a broken ice machine (happens a lot), and an Granny demanding a Makers Old Fashioned (the right way) at the very end of the bar all simultaneously.
Furthermore, if you’re the kind of chick/dude who did not grow up with your annoying parents badgering you with things like: utensil etiquette, greeting people on the way in AND the way out, “thanks,” “please,”…. if you can’t carry on a conversation with your service bartender, waitress, hot co-worker while CONSTANTLY SCANNING THE BAR for needs, than this business is not for you – at least not in a busy club/bar. You will fall flat on your face or be relegated to crappy shifts making $100 – $200 where you could be making double/triple those numbers, and/or constantly be leeching of your fellow bartenders in places where you pool, pissing them off severely, or worse – potentially having them throw you under the bus or outright steal from you!
The point is, using these tips, to try and figure out of this business if for you, if you could learn to acquire these necessary good habits or if you’d be better off in that icy fluorescent cubicle, sporting the tweed suit, the latest Manolos, going over those PPT sales figures in the Sales conference room with the bigwigs, and hitting the happy hour on the other side of the bar with all the other suits.
You cannot be a successful bartender if you do not scan and pay close attention to your patrons while, conversing appropriately, being pleasant, speedy, flirty, clean and knowledgeable. You must stop leaning on the back-bar for 15 minutes straight looking bored, dressed in your best dirty New Balance 991s, unshaven, unapologetic (and giving buybacks) for screwing up an order, and are much more interested in spending 10 straight minutes flirting with your boyfriend/girlfriend or Facebooking while customers are waiting.
Unfortunately, quite a bit of what I’ve detailed here cannot be taught. Some of it it can. But quite a bit of it, or the ability to learn these qualities, is something you either have or you do not. I myself am OCD.
- T.I.P.S certification (Training for Intervention ProcedureS). In other words, how to handle drunkards and other problematic customers. This can be a huge win in terms of safety all-around, dealing with clearly inebriated customers who demand more drinks, making everyone feel as if they’ve won, legal liability should something terrible occur, and keeping the bar revenues and gratuities flowing even from someone you’ve cut off.
- Knowing and being able to visualize and/or count 1.5oz and 3.0oz and their multiples, the standard or legal spirits quantities. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen befuddled inexperienced bartenders either get the deer stare or waste about 1/2 bottle of premium booze when a large party calls for a boatload of mixed shots like Washington Apples or the like. Worse, I’ve seen noobs and barkeeps who’ve been on the job for years toss 6oz of top-shelf whiskey or gin into a shaker and throw out half after it won’t fit in the glass. This is unfortunately rampant with non-front-of-the-house service bartenders.
- Knowing that “whiskey,” unqualified, usually refers to Rye.
- Knowing the differences between Rye, Bourbon, Sour Mash (Jack Daniels), Scotch, Irish Whiskey, etc. Most people have no clue whatsoever.
- Understanding ice. When to use it and why. Most amateurs will overflow the glass with ice and have mixed drinks in particular spilling over the edges and making a huge mess. Very unprofessional. A drink calling for ice should be filled 1/4 – 1/2 inch from the rim – period.
- Understanding the Martini process and how temperature plays into smoothness (not necessarily watered down).
- Using the mixing glass and large shaker. A myriad of bartenders are clueless as to how to separate a standard 16oz glass shaker (pint glass) from a metal shaker, won’t use the two in conjunction as a result and claim they often get “stuck.” Jesus Christmas! They are intended to stick together to allow you to shake your drink properly. Finish your shaking then give the combo a moderate bang with the butt of your free hand, at 90 degrees of the lean, while holding the set upright with the other. The glass will break free every time with a little practice. DO NOT bang them on the bar!
- Purposes of the small and large shakers and 16oz mixing glass
- What the trough is for and keeping your bar clean
- Backbar and Doghouse
- Differences and uses of Aperitifs and Digestifs
- Basic wine understanding. Unless you’re running a dive bar or dirty pub, you need to understand at least very basic grape varieties and food pairings. Be able to make recommendations. You don’t need to be a Sommelier but don’t make yourself look like an ass not knowing the simple stuff like sweet/dessert, full bodied dry, light semi-sweet, fruity middle-ground, earthy, oaky, grassy, tannic and the like. You’re a professional (definition: primary source of income derived from…). Know your business.
- Condiments, which drinks get which garnishes and why. Believe it or not, an insane number of so-called “professionals” do not know that anything with tonic automatically gets a lime or that a “Sour” is not a sour unless it has an orange and a cherry.
- Twists are not simply garnishes and they are not equal to slices/wedges (customers are often oblivious to this fact as well and create problems when ordering as a result). Twists refer to lemon twists unless otherwise stated. Some drinks to call for orange twists or peels. In any case, if you roll and subsequently twist a lemon peel, you will notice lemon oil oozing from it’s pores. This is what you after and want to rub on the rim of the glass in question then dunk into usually prior to pouring the cocktail. The lemon oil creates a subtle but detectable/delectable taste nuance that alters the character of the drink in question often balancing out other delicate flavors.
- Proportions. A Margarita is not equar parts Tequila, Triple Sec, Roses Lime Juice and sour mix unshaken. Yuck!
- Simple syrup vs. Lemon X
- Understanding what a Julip and Spring strainers are for
- Knowing that every drink served with ice gets a straw. Drinks wihout ice do not get straws unless the customer requests one. Do you know how many times I’ve seen bartenders attempt to throw in both sip and full-size straws in an up Martini???