Do I Look Like I Would Run?

So the other night, douchebag and douche-baguette GF roll up to the bar late evening… a well-dressed Caucasian dude about 45 or so, in a suit jacket, and his younger, well-manicured blonde girl toy.  Both take about 10 minutes of studying the menu before finally ordering.  These folks are not answering when I say “hi, how are you?” or “what can I get for you?”  Whatever.  I continue along offering what I believe is excellent service, brushing off their rudeness.

They wind up with a couple of entrees.  The chick orders vodka and soda, and the dude orders coffee.  I’m nice enough – as is customary.  The bar is not full, but not completely dead either.  These two are complete dicks.  Every interaction is some kind of curt order or no reaction at all – especially Miss DB.  The guy utters something like “this is milk, right? I want cream.”  I politely inform him it’s half-n-half and he’s plows through his coffee happily.  

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Bar Rot

Eeewwwwww!!! WTF is it?

You corporate suits don’t have to worry about this issue too much.  At worst, your occupational hazards are going to be making your sales numbers for the quarter so that you don’t lose your monthly car stipend, and still have a shot of making Executive V.P., partner or something like that.

Blue collar bar folk, on the other hand, are incessantly getting their hands wet, then drying them, handling dirty ass cash, clutching acidic lemons and limes, shaking other peoples’ dirty ass hands, washing in soapy water, sanitizing agent laden water, blaa blaa blaa…  What this all results in is Bar Rot – also known as Paronychia.

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Bar Manager Theft

If you ever get a gig bartending at a big establishment where you don’t count the tips yourself, but instead, the managers/owners insist upon counting and divvying it all up, walk, don’t run - get the hell out of there.  Your environment undoubtedly is, or eventually will be, ripe for your pocket to be picked and your income compromised.

You’re in an undocumented cash environment.  No one yet knows exactly how much you’ve made; that is, unless you suspect unscrupulous goings-on, and have schemed to prove the wrong-doings by counting every dollar you put in the tip jar, before it heads to the pilfering station.  Personally, as well as through the accounts of fellow barkeeps, I’ve found this situtation to be all too common in large trendy lounges and big nightclubs where you can sometimes have 5, 10 or even more bartenders in action on a given night.  

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Urban Legend: André the Giant – The Greatest Drunk on Earth

I spent my early childhood at the alter of what was then known as the Worldwide Wrestling Federation (WWF).  I idolized guys like Jimmy Snuka, Big John Studd, Tony Atlas, George “the animal” Steele, Bob Backlund, Ivan Putski, The Samoans, The Iron Sheik, Bruno Samartino and of course, André René Roussimoff.  I’m showing my age here of course, rattling off these names of now “old,” retired, fat or dead wrestlers.  

If you ask me, this was the golden  age, the heyday of “professional” wrestling, however scripted of fake.  I lovingly recall several evenings in my youth, taking in WWF spectacles at Madison Square Garden cheering on, and sometimes crying for my heroes when I thought they were hurt.  ”André the Giant” was by far my favorite – a huge teddy bear of a man.    In any case, the article below originally appeared on and is reposted from Drunkard.com.  Google this story and you’ll find endless links and varying opinions as to it’s validity.  No matter, it’s simply legendary now and I’d prefer to go to my grave believing the fair tail.

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Bartender Theft

Let the shitstorm begin.

I don’t think there is a topic more, how shall we say, “energizing,” from an owner/manager perspective, than theft.  Put bluntly, it’s the bleeding that you can never stop. You can only cauterize the wounds in a sense.

Any halfwit putting together a business plan must account for losses.  Personally I’d estimate about 20%.  Holy crap! That’s a hell of a lot of loss! Yes – but not uncommon.  There are all kinds of losses –  the most significant, in order,being (1) employee theft and (2) spoilage (3) vendor/customer theft.  Today, let’s address bartender shenanigans shall we?   There’s a ton of information on the Interwebz regarding theft .  However, most of it is from an owner’s perspective or some sort of training/knowledge-share in the form of commercial loss prevention. What you just about never hear, is the truth about stealing from an insider’s point of view – a bartender in the trenches.

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Things Bartenders Must Do

  • Greet your customers.  Few things get under my skin more than rudeness.  Countless fellow bartenders I've worked with over the years have clearly had very poor upbringings. You must always say hello and goodbye to your customers in some way and always thank them for their business upon their departure.  When I serve them food, drinks, the check or just about anything, I always utter some kind words and smile.  This is  plain good manners – not just bar manners. It's shocking how many people don't do it.  
  • BevNaps or coasters.  Every drink gets one or the other.  If it's a really busy moment at a club, I get how you can, on occasion, let this slip.  But in general, you must make every effort to put something under every single drink.
  • Straws.  Every drink with ice gets one unless it's a drink with just a cube or two- like a Whiskey.  Drinks without ice generally do not get straws, ( e.g. cocktails up).
  • Shake your drinks.  Technically, anything containing juice must be shaken. While not always possible or absolutely necessary, it's a good idea, particularly with complicated drinks.  Never, ever, ever skip shaking something containing sour mix.
  • Wipe your bar down after every guest.  I mention this in my filth article, but I need to stress this  again.  Keep dry rags around to wipe your hands.  Keep damp rags around to wipe the bar down frequently.  Rinse and ring out your bar rag once in a while and change it every couple of hours.  A dirt-ass bartender is straight-up disgusting.  Imagine a customer rolling up to a bar and sticking their elbows in sticky sugary mess.  
  • Know your booze.  You must understand and be able to clearly explain to customers things like (1) your beers and the differences among them – stouts, lagers and ales (2) subtleties between Rye, Scotch, Irish, Bourbon and sour mash [Jack] (3) basic wine skills and recommendations – dry,semi-dry, full-bodied, fruity, sweet, grape varieties, regions, etc.  You don't need to be a sommelier, but at least have a basic knowledge if you work anywhere other than a nightclub.  I've worked with PYTs behind the bar who can't differentiate between even reds or whites.
  • Know your drinks.  If you don't know how to make basic standards like Long Island Iced Teas, French Martinis, Rusty Nails, etc. along with your house specialties, you're in the wrong business.  Few things are worse for your customers and your income than an incompetent barkeep googling basic recipes on their iPhones.  It's downright unprofessional.  If someone orders something really obscure (e.g., Scooby Snack, some other Wrong Coast idiotic shot, or house special from another bar), kindly tell them you haven't heard of it before. Follow by explaining that you'd be glad to prepare it if they could tell you the ingredients.  As with other professions, it's your job to continually keep your skills sharp. 
  • Mind your beeswax.  It's one thing to have an appropriate dialogue or conversation with a customer. It's quite another to inject yourself into someone's conversation while you're working.  Evaluate and be mindful of the level of engagement your customers are expecting. Respond accordingly while taking into account your other work responsibilities.  Let your customers set the pace of interaction.
  • Be engaging.  This goes hand in hand with manners and greetings.  When the bar is not busy, you should not be standing around, ass leaned against the back bar, mouth agape, watching the Giants game with your hands firmly in your pockets for minutes at a time.  Walk around. Talk to people.  Get to know your customers.  Hell, juggle some bottles, spit some fire, make a fancy flaming free drink for some regulars, do a little dance or backflips.  Just don't be a lame, boring, inanimate speck on the wall.  You'll suffer financially.
  • Get the manager or bouncer, when necessary.  You're often charged with, not only serving drinks, but playing pseudo-law-enforcement for a variety of situations.  You can't do everything, nor is it appropriate for you to try (depending on the type of establishment).  In most cases, it is not in your best interest to personally man-handle customers, yell at them,  or argue about the bill.  You have things to do (read: make money).  When things have escalated beyond your capacity, get help and move on.  That's what those folks are there for.  Now, if you're running solo in a pub and you are the judge, jury and executioner, the situation is obviously a bit different.


Bartender Regression

The following is a repost from Behindthebar09.BlogSpot.com. A blog run by a fellow bartender up in the 51st state – Windsor, Ontario specifically.  It’s hilarity at it’s finest but Oh! So true!  This guy is no longer actively blogging and I fear his brilliance may disappear.  So read up.  Again, this is not my writing.

“Who the Fuck is Reggie?”
A new era is at hand, the dawn of a new and dark time is upon us.  This new generation will be the “Ignorant Drunks.”  That’s right, slowly but surely new adults are becoming sloppier, deadlier, and more ignorant than ever.  Gone are the days of creativity and flavour; today’s club-goer sticks to bud-lights and rum and coke.  I’ll bet you that a majority of 19-23 year olds, including bartenders, don’t even know what a ‘Cuba Liba’ or a ‘Cape Cod’ is.  Not that I blame them.  Bartenders these days are awful. they lack creativity, energy, knowledge, and personality.  Hell, the only thing bartenders have in common these days is titts.

Hey, I’m all for lady bartenders, I always encourage more women to try it out.  What I’m against, however, is hiring bartenders who know fuck-all about bartending, but get the job because of their blond hair and fresh cantaloupes.  Everywhere I go now I see bartenders moving so slowly, using one hand at a time, and denying people service because they have no Idea how to make any drinks.  Sure, every bar has at least 1 bartender who knows what he or she is doing, and I applaud them.  Bartending is no longer a passion, its no longer an art.  No no, bartending has evolved in to a hideous beast.  It has evolved into a part time job for hot girls.  Theres no more creativity, bartenders aren’t unique.  When I ask a bartender to make ‘their special shot’ or ‘something new’ and they pour me a liquid cocaine, or a jager-bomb….  fuck you.  Try and enjoy what you do, it’s a hell of a job, and for many; a very lucrative career.

And for those consumers out there, the many that make it possible for these bartenders to exist:  try something new.  Look up old cocktail recipes, mix your own liquors, try scotch; good scotch, get into wine, try a martini, order a cape cod.  Get away from Budweiser and jager bombs guys, and ladies; no more cosmos,  You’re not Carrie Bradshaw.  Try some beer, learn to like nice wine.  I’ll tell ya, there’s nothing sexier than a woman who can handle some scotch.

The point is people, both making drinks, and drinking them is an art.  It’s something a lot of people take great pride in.  Learn to appreciate it, learn to enjoy it.  You wouldn’t go out for dinner and settle for shitty food (if you would then you’re an idiot), so don’t settle for shitty drinks.  Try one new drink every month, learn how to make drinks properly, and most of all, learn to control  yourselves.  Stop drinking and driving, stop fighting for no reason, and bartenders; you have a wonderful job, explore it, be creative, and take pride in what you do.

 

Drinking on the Job

Well, well.  Boozing staff – a huge concern of owners – second only to theft, which I’ll cover later.  Look, on the job, every bartender drinks or has drunk – period.  In some places I’ve worked, drinking on the job is encouraged. In others, it’s banned outright. Yet still in others, it’s somewhere in the middle – tolerated . Regardless of the owner’s policy, I assure you the bartender will at some point be drinking – guaranteed.  It’s pretty much part of the job description.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is a big fat liar or just plain ignorant.  I’ve worked with militant management/owners that fire anyone they catch.  They even apply this policy to having a shot with a big-spending regular that has requested as much.  That’s the most ludicrous reaction I’ve ever witnessed!  What’s the point?  The bartender is there to serve and please the customer – keep him/her happy, drinking, eating, out of danger, entertained and coming back to spend more money.  I don’t know where these out-of-touch managerial folks come from that believe otherwise, but where I come from, declining drink offers is an insult.

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What the Bartender Won’t Tell You

  • Olive Juice.”  Commonly used for dirty Martinis.  It’s not juice at all but rather a brine (aka, salt water).  In all but the most obsessive-compulsive, Victorian wannabe, hoity-toity bars that do things like make their own pickled cherries for instance, bar olives are cheap items bought in bulk from food service distributors like Sysco.  They typically are delivered in gallon jars and come 4 to a box.  When new, both olives and their brine pass for acceptable.  However, they get redistributed to condiment trays where they sit for hours/days while barbacks, bartenders and often unscrupulous customers like to dip their dirty hands.  To boot, in cost savings effort, all the trays (and their accumulated content) will often get dumped back into storage and refrigerated all night for the next evening’s service.  Imagine in the worst cases what might be lurking in there…
  • The sights and sounds of most European tourists instantly incite depression and rage.  This is due to the fact that many of them do not believe in tipping, play dumb, or plain just don’t know.  I don’t buy the ignorance bit much as it’s likely not their first time hearing about U.S. customs.  Furthermore, the gratuity issue is mentioned in just about every guide book on the planet.   Endless European customers either do not tip at all or will commit some awful faux-pas such as dumping $1.78 in coins after lingering for 2 hours and running up a $150 tab.  Industry-speak for these types of folks is “Eurotrash,” unfortunately.  What’s particularly sad is that these customers often ruin the perception in bartenders’ (and waiters’) minds about other Europeans who tip decently and are well respected – of which there are many.
  • Orders for hand-made frozen drinks, coffee and the like are despised.  They take an inordinate of time to prepare.  Time = money.  I can easily serve 3 other drinks in the time it takes me to make one of these examples.  If the bar is slow, no big deal – no issue.  I’m proud to show off my special drink skills.  Likewise, if you’re enjoying several drinks, food, etc., have run up a decent tab and you’d like to end with a coffee or special drink, it’s not an issue.  What becomes a problem, for example, is evening happy hour, the bar is 3 deep, 4 people occupy prime bar space, order 2 coffees, a black&white milkshake and 2 waters and sit there for an hour with refill after refill.  This is a lose-lose proposition for obvious reasons.  Go to Starbucks please.
  • We’re sick.  Unlike your day job with the drab fluorescently lit cube, standard-issue Blackberry, and corporate benefits, most bartenders who don’t have union gigs at high-end hotels cannot call in sick very easily.  Our shifts must be covered not by management but by us.  To boot, we don’t get paid when we don’t work.  As a result, short of a broken leg, most bartenders and waiters will come in sick even if they have something terrible like the Flu.  Obviously, we’ll load up on meds and do our best not to spread the wealth.
  • Fear of a gaggle of female customers.   In my nearly two decades of bartending in major cities, I can tell you that middle-aged men are the ideal customer from gratuity and maintenance perspectives.  Groups of women,  young/middle-aged/old whatever, are the worst especially when it comes time to pay the tab.  In countless instances, again at a busy time, a group of four 23 year olds will arrive, take 10 minutes to figure out what they’d like to drink despite menus and suggestions, order one at a time, then whip out 4 different credit cards and ask to close them all out individually!  In other cases, older sets will sit there for hours, scrutinize and question every item on the bill, argue over who’s paying and how, and finally tip you $1/drink despite cost, time, complexity and food.  The examples are endless.  In general, men don’t exhibit this behavior.  Obviously, there are exceptions.  But, as with other distinct groups, the stereotype has been established for good reason.
  • Maraschino Cherries.  These are prey to the same issues as the olives I mention above.  Maraschino cherries for the most part are/were Marasca cherries from Croatia brined/pickled in Marasca liqueur.  What you’re buying in supermarkets and getting at bars are Imitation Maraschino Cherries.  That is, they start as other varieties.  Sulfur Dioxide, Calcium Choride, Sodium Metabisulfite, and Red #40 are added for processing, preservation and coloring respectively.  Personally, I don’t touch this chemical-laden stuff.  There is an old bar tale of bar cherries taking days/weeks to digest.  I personally don’t believe that tale but it’s been repeated incessantly as a result of modern day industrial food service processing.  That said, like the olive story, there are places where you can buy natural/organic super delicious real-deal cherries if you poke around.
  • Markups.  The markup on spirits is often 300% – 400%.  That’s quite a bit!  The markup on draft beer and and wine can approach 500% depending on numerous factors like dumping four pitchers in foam down the drain.  On fountain soda, it can easily be 1000%!  The house typically makes a lot more money on drinks than it does on food (varies but is often 50% – 150%).  It sounds absurd but it’s not if you stop to break it down.  In running a bar/restaurant, the costs are astronomical and numerous.  The biggest cost is labor – not your bartenders because we either don’t get paid anything or we get some sort of minimum wage which works out to zero net due to some complex formula incorporating anticipated gratuities.  The next biggest cost is often real estate – lease or mortgage.  Then you have dozens of ancillary costs like corporate rate utilities, food/beverage stock, corporate and payroll taxes, licenses, repair/upkeep, numerous insurance policies, violations, and of course, loss – due either to spoilage or theft.  If you haven’t accounted 10 – 25% or so for that last one, you’re extremely naive.   A business owner with half-a-brain will have someone (owner, GM, accountant or all three) sit down and figure out what all those costs are.  The business has to be able to make enough profit to overcome all those costs and provide the investor(s) a an ROI (return on income) however much that may be.  Many business fail because partly because they’ve failed to properly calculate these projections.  Getting of topic a bit, many businesses fail because of lack of sufficient operating capital particularly during slow periods.  Taking this all into account, these are the reasons why a beer your local watering hole might cost $6 while you can get one the same one at the bodega for $2, or $1 or less on a per case basis at a beer distributor.  Don’t hate the bar.  Think of it as paying rent for you to sit there, take in the sights, converse, be served, listen to the DJ and use the bathrooms.
  • No, we don’t remember you.  Almost every shift, some unremarkable customer will yell out my name and say “remember me? I was here last year!” I have no clue who you are dude.  But, most of the time, I’ll play along and placate you.  I’ll go along with your little mind-game cuz (1) I want you to be happy and (2) I’d like you to quickly divorce your wallet from it’s contents.  ’Nuf said. On the flip side, if you’ve come in several times and have made yourself memorable by either tipping very well (or tipping very badly), we will remember you.
  • Asking how much drinks are before you order.  You do have a right to know how much things are before you buy them – agreed.  However, in a bar, right or wrong, asking for pricing on drinks paints you as someone who (1) can’t afford to be here (2) doesn’t have enough cash/credit on them and (3) is probably not going to tip well if at all.  You may not be able to read that sentiment on the bartender’s face and in most cases, you won’t get scolded but you’ve set yourself up.  In a busy club, you’ll simply get passed up and ignored for the next customer – not so much in a bar/restaurant.  If you’re concerned about being able to afford the drinks at a particular establishment, or if you’re just a cheap ass, it’s probably best to limit your drinking to your couch.  If not, do yourself a favor and ask for the drink menu instead of directly asking the bartender for half-a-dozen prices.  This way, your curiosity will be satisfied without arousing suspicion.