If you’re an adult past the legal drinking age in your ‘hood, and have had the good fortune to make it back alive from an evening of even moderate imbibing more than a few times – then chances are you’ve run into a particular type of drink slinger, who with his/her less than pleasing demeanor, has left a particularly nasty scar on the memory of your otherwise stellar evening. At best, you may simply been treated like a cold number by an unexpectedly austere ingrate. On the flip side, perhaps you flashed your cash (and cleavage), while repeatedly gesturing for service at a 3-deep bar, only to have waited (from your perspective) an extraordinarily long while. Upon finally being paid some attention from the barkeep, (a) your drink tasted like murky, NYC Summer Subway Puddle (b) your round was missing a drink (b) you were overcharged (c) he/she slammed down your cold Salade au Chèvre Chaud with cold abandon and (d) the resultant argument with the manager got you escorted to the curb by two terrifying, seemingly uneducated, 375-pound, 6’7″ men. To add insult to injury, the local constables then threaten to cuff you for theft of service lest you sign the [already gratuitized voucher]. What a farse! My friend, you’ve been shat upon by the all to common Douchebag Bartender. There’s only one problem: Bitter Bartenders are made, not born.
Know what these are? They’re Store-n-Pour tops and they’re disgustingly dirty. This particular photograph is from a bar I worked at many years ago. Store-n-Pours are plastic containers juice containers that can be found at practically every bar on the planet. The idea is that you can “pour” when they’re in use, and you can “store” unused juices by swapping the spout for a plastic screw-on lid at the end of the evening. Outside of juices provisioned to come out of the WunderBar (soda gun), there is no more efficient access to commonly used juices, mixes, and other liquid preparations in a commercial bar environment.
I’ve been fortunate enough to hold perhaps a dozen or so bartending gigs over the last 18 years. Some of those gigs have lasted several years. Other seasonal or event spots lasted just a few days. Some – well – have fallen somewhere in between, for whatever reason. I’ve also had the opportunity to manage; being on the other side of the interview table. I’ve spoken to hundreds of candidates and reviewed their requisite resumes. Like all hiring managers – I’ve consciously and intuitively made attempts to judge them up and down on everything from the lettuce in their teeth, to their odor, to which shoes they’re wearing, the hesitation to answering certain questions, and the speed and ease which with they fashion cocktails when I’ve told them to get behind the bar to prepare drinks X, Y and Z.
I started yet another bartending gig a couple of weeks ago after being out of work for nearly two freaking months. Being unable to find acceptable employment and blowing through savings for that long is, how shall we say… unnerving? I’m sure many of you can relate. It’s not as if I wasn’t looking or wasn’t utterly over-qualified in the venues I was applying to. There has been an unusual seismic shift in the New York City bartending air recently – one which I’m far from accustomed to. In my experience, I’ve never, ever gone more than 2 or 3 interviews without getting hired. To get my latest gig, I swear I’d been through about 20 or so interviews as well as 5 or 6 callbacks (second interviews) in about 6 weeks. For me, that’s downright shocking and unacceptable given my (1) extensive NYC experience (2) always-on game face (3) interview knowledge and skills and (4) forgive my audacity… appearance.
After my seasonal gig ended in October, I did manage to find a seemingly great gig in another Meatpacking spot right away, albeit in another mega-corporate, mega-conglomerate establishment with their hard and fast rule-book. It didn’t last only because we could not come to a consensus on schedule even though I had clearly stated my availability during the application process. Basically, I can’t fucking work repeated opening shifts due to my other obligations (read: day job). That little tidbit really puts a damper on finding a great bartending position as the majority of hiring managers are seeking nearly complete flexibility. Restaurant bars are essentially out of the question, in my case. Unless you have seniority, or are sexing the G.M., you really can’t demand only night shifts. That basically left me nightclubs and some pubs as only options. So be it.
I mean look… I’m old and experienced enough to know that interviewing in this industry is often akin to an acting/modeling cattle-call from several perspectives. You do not get excited and put your proverbial eggs in one bartending/serving basket. That’s simply stupid. However, I’ve managed to sometimes break my own rules as a result of a particular interview or two where I’ve really bonded with the owners/managers, sometimes going so far as to have them engage me in highly personal, salacious speak – laughing and joking as if we had known each other for years.
If you haven’t noticed, this town is uber-competitive in every calling – even McDonald’s piss-boy positions. The higher-paying, easier, and more prestigious the job, the more difficult getting hired becomes (again, unless you’re blessed enough look like bobble-head, trophy-GF Kate Upton, Bar Rafaeli or some reasonable facsimile).
That said, for your reading pleasure, I’ve compiled a list of why you may not be getting the job your heart so desires, tho you swear up and down the dude/chick loved you to pieces during the interview:
Gotta give a shout-out to Gawker media – Jizz…. uh… Gizmodo in particular. My fellow tech brothers (while normally waxing on all things steampunkerrific and modern technoboobery) seem to relish educating their nerd following with an occasional tidbit on – I don’t know – the finer points of professional “imbibery.” Part of me suspects that some of their editorial staff are former Hospitality F.O.H.’ers. Another part of me believes that since they incessantly drop knowledge on all the whizzbang gadgets most folks can’t yet afford, they spend their ginormous salaries performing immensely valuble “field tests” at the neighboring McSwiggans Ale House – all in teh name of science.
Let’s face it: our forebearers, forefathers – or whatever you want to call them – on the other side of the pond, have a few things not going so well for them. The lot of them have got grills fresh from the tannery and uric acid treatment facility, arranged in the antithesis of symmetry. They desperately cling to the powerless puppet show called a Monarchy, where the biggest claim to fame these days is (1) random, spied, Duchess boob – in and of itself, a non-event and (2) a worldwide devotion to said Duchess’s hotter, younger sister’s, pretty fabulous ass. The U.K. also has the dubious distinction as being the first in line at the political trough, shamelessly following the U.S. into the latest/greatest, unjustified, Imperialist , invasion like a dumb puppy on a leash – misinformation be damned.
Having been behind the stick for nearly two decades now, along with owning a tenth of .001% of el Blogosphere-O real estate for a short while, I get my fair share of interesting questions. Looking back, if I could tally them, I’d say some of the most frequent are (1) can you hook me up [booze-wise] (2) you get laid a lot working here, don’t you [or some variation] (3) how much money do you make and (4) how do I get a bartending job?
I often work in gourmet eateries frequented by the likes of the Firecrotch, KimYe and every Tom, Dick and Harry in between. Oh, they’re no Alain Ducasse type of places but shit – they sure do put on a great front (and mostly fail). Yet, the bar/restaurant/lounge going public couldn’t care less how many Michelin Stars these spots aren’t bestowed. From their perspective, the eats are damned good and the eye-candy, even better. So when you roll into my restaurant bar, peruse the menu, and ask me “what’s good?,” be prepared for a big, fat, fake-ass smile. Brace yourself for a litany of grad-school approved, Madison Ave fluffed superlatives suggesting the priciest (read: bigger tip percentage) McNuggets on the menu and how scrumptious I say they are. There’s just one problem: it’s all a big fat fucking lie.
Folks calling themselves “Mixologists” are truly strange characters. The truth is that they almost all suffer from an elevated inferiority complex. They bend over backwards to have you identify them, not as the plebian “bartender,” no… but as something much more – someone who studiously and methodically “crafts” your “beverage.” They’ve gathered their Turbinado Sugar, Organic Basil, Candied Ginger, and Fennel Seeds and have them all on tantalizing display in the bar trough – almost always in fancy little mason jars. There’s just one major problem: these people are fucking retarded slow at making drinks.
So you want to be a bartender, eh? Oh, it’s not that hard – or is it? Like many other of life’s pursuits, the job is what you make of it. Meaning: you make it difficult or you make it easy. The more you study (not necessarily books), the more knowledge you absorb, and mostly – the more experience you acquire, the better you will be at bartending and easier your job will become. Notice, I didn’t say “…the better you will be at slinging drinks.” If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you’ll know that there’s a shit-ton more to being a great bartender than just memorizing index cards with drink recipes that you gleaned from (God-forbid) Mr. Boston.
Things that make
guests customers look, sound, and be treated as… wait for it – stupid.
1. “Give me a Ketel and Vodka – on the rocks” Translation: I’m 27. I work at Staples Copy Center. I live in my parent’s basement, have recently graduated from The Chubb Institute of Technology, and would not be where I am today without municipal assistance and a refillable prescription of Clonazepam. PSA: think before you speak and before you order.