Beating Stereotypes, Ma Brotha…


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.  

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Refusing Service and The Law

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.

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Macking With The Staff

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.  

Margarita (Classic)


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

Don’t skimp or neglect the sour mix or upscale replacement nor listen to naysayers who insist it adds suckage to the drink.  They don’t know what they’re talking about.  Do a taste test side-by-side with a few testers and gather feedback if you don’t believe me.  Like many other drinks, this one requires practice and experimentation until you get it right every time.

On the rocks – no salt - Add the above ingredients together with ice, shake vigorously several times, then pour into a high-ball glass.  

On the rocks – salted rim - Here’s a beginner mistake or busy club shortcut… they will often mix the ingredients in the same glass they prepare the drink in, drag that drippy glass over to the salt dish, dip, then pour the mixture back in the glass.  Don’t be lazy – do it right when you have time.  Take a clean highball glass, rub the rim with lime and dip into the salt – set it aside.  Mix the ingredients in your shaker set (16oz pint glass and large metal shaker).  Keep in mind the volume of your highball and visualize it in your glass shaker.  Pour the ingredients together, add ice, shake vigorously, then pour into your highball glass.

Up – salt or no salt - Follow the same procedure above regarding glass and drink prep.  Strain into an appropriate glass and garnish.  I personally prefer to first place the glass in front of the customer in this particular instance with a BevNap, pre-garnished, then strain directly in front of him/her.  It’s a terribly slow and messy experience trying to move nearly full Martini or Sombrero glasses with salt several steps down and across the bar.  

NOTE: All Margaritas are garnished with a lime.  If it’s served on the rocks, you must provide a straw or sip-straw.  Frozen – regular straw.  

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. 

Memorizing Drinks

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.

Many, many years ago, I had the pleasure of initially training at some school at what was then a very seedy 8th Ave around the Port Authority bus terminal.  If you read my Training article, you’ll understand why I strongly believe you should get some formal bartending training.  Inany case, in class puffing on a cancer stick whilst teaching us a mock bar (yesyou could still smoke in an office building back then), was long scraggly haired Skeletor-faced Mikey ( I think – it was a long time ago).  He was the sort of teacher you’d dream of but rarely encounter; someone who “kept it real” and knew what to convey from the book and what writing was bullshit.  He taught you what you really needed to know based on decades of bartending in and around the City. 

Among many other invaluable practical tips, was one of memorization by association.  Nearly everynight I work with a colleague or service bartender, one of them will roll up onset and ask something like “what’s in a B52, Mai-Tai, or Harvey Wallbanger?”  Every spot has its regular drinks more orless but you will occasionally be challenged to unpopular or obscure drinkrequests.  You need to know yourbusiness. You’re a professional.  Thelast thing you want is to spit out an idiotic series of “um… um… umm.. ah…. I’llbe right back” then run off to your craptastic Mr. Boston “bible” or sit theregoogling the request on your iPhone. 

Flash cards work very, very will if you’re committed.  The easiest trick to remember drinks, just like many otherthings in life that need to be memorized, is by association.  Those trick classes and demonstrations yourimpressive motivational speakers and slick salesman perform asking 50 people’snames then rattling them all off 1 hour later without fail are performed byassociation.  So, without further ado,here are some real world examples – you can easily make up your own:

  • 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.  
There are numerous other examples of association with no right or wrong necessarily.  Make up your own.  Do what works for you. 

The Pour

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

Two Hot Girls and Entitlement

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?
THG: Nah.  
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.