Monday, July 28, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bartending Is Hard Work

I know that bartending is glamorized in our culture and in our movies, but it is a lot of work. Sure, you can work a six hour shift and make more money within that amount of time then you could working at a lot of other jobs. All of that money also comes to you in the form of cash. Plus, you still get a paycheck for the minimum wage for all of the hours you worked. But don't let the hype fool you. Behind all the mirrors and smoke, bartending is a lot of hard work. You are on your feet all night long. You are at the mercy of every customer you help. They depend on you to know how to make the cocktail they are ordering and expect you to make it in a relatively short amount of time. Depending on the type of bar you work at, you might also have to provide a full menu service at the bar as well. Trust me, whenever you add any type of food into the equation, it can be a bitch. I wont lie.

I just got done working a full week behind the bar. When I say full week, I mean five nights a week at at least 6 hours a shift. That's a lot of time to be working behind the bar. Being on your feet all night long and the late hours eventually takes its toll. The exhaustion is so much more different then say working a 9 to 5 in an office where you get to sit on your ass all day.

I am not complaining in any way. I am much happier where I am at now. I love making most of my money in the form of cash. I like getting paid after every shift I work. I like having my days free. I enjoy having three days off a week (usually). I am just making a note that being a bartender requires a great amount of work as well as any other job would require, both physically and mentally. Can you tell I am looking forward to my days off this week?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How I Became A Bartender

A customer asked me the other night if I went to bartending school. I told her that I didn't, but people do go to bartending school to learn the industry. I didn't have time to break down the pros and cons for her. I only had time to tell her what I did. My training was all on the job. That's usually how most people start in the industry.

I was very fortunate in that I had an "in" from the get-go. I had a friend who owned a few places and was willing to take me under his wing. This is the best way to get into the bar industry, in my opinion. You not only become well versed on the technical sides of things, but having an "in" like that also sets you up for future networking opportunities abound. Sometimes, it really only comes down to who you know, not exactly what you know. Sad, but very true.

I got my start in bartending over six or seven years ago. At the time, I was going to college full-time and really wasn't digging my job. It just didn't make me feel happy or very good about myself. I called up my friend one day out of the blue (who owned a few bars in the city I lived in) and told him that I wanted to learn how to bartend. The next week he had me on the schedule at one of his bars. To this day, I still can't thank him enough for helping me like that.

I fell in love with bartending immediately. I had never been a real big drinker. In fact, I knew next to nothing about all of the spirits. I was a fresh, clean slate and eager to learn. The first bar I worked behind was on the restaurant side of a restaurant/nightclub venue. I worked there for a year learning all about the bar and restaurant industry, building up my repertoire of regulars and developing my specialty cocktails and shots. Once my friend felt that I was ready, he moved me on to one of his more busier bars.

I worked at the busier bar (which had a large college crowd and lots of late, crazy nights) for almost two years. This is where I continued my education on beers (we had several beers on tap) and spirits (we had a healthy selection of everything). We even made blended drinks! This is also the bar I really started to focus on my speed and taking numerous orders at once.

Once I graduated from college, I headed to the big city. Here, I had hit my bartender prime by scoring a bartending gig in a very busy, two-leveled nightclub, three nights a week. In addition to pouring the standard cocktails, shots and bottled beers, I also became well-versed with working with cocktail waitresses and taking care of the bottle service at the bar.

I had a lot of fun in those earlier bartending years, not only discovering a new profession in a new industry, but discovering myself as well. After five years, I decided that I couldn't bartend for the rest of my life. I had reached a form of bartending burnout. Now that I had my college degree, I fely like I had to grow up and get a day job that required me to work 40 hours a week, behind a desk, in an office downtown.

The job was fine, but I had never been more miserable in my life. I gave it a go for two years until I took the time to do some serious soul searching and realized that I was nowhere near where I wanted to be. I opted to come back to bartending so that I could have my days free to do the things I really wanted to be working on.

Now, I am happy to be focused on what's important to me and to be working behind a bar again. I was fortunate enough to have another friend who recommended me to the current bar I am working at. See, sometimes it really is all about who you know. This time around bartending, I am expanding my horizons even further with working in a restaurant/lounge that encourages me to learn, in detail, about all the the different spirits and liquors we carry and to try the extensive wine list while pairing it with the foods we serve from the kitchen. I am even encouraged to develop my own drink recipes for our specialty cocktail menu. And here I thought I had learned all that I could about bartending. I hadn't even begun to scratch the surface!!

To the customer who asked me about bartending school the other night-I honestly have no idea. Some people in the industry are strongly against people going to bartending schools and others don't seem to mind at all. I am neither for or against the schools simply because I have never gone myself. How could I possibly recommend something I have never even tried personally?

What I tell anyone who is thinking about becoming a bartender is that 10% of the job is knowing the drinks and 90% of the job is your personality. It takes a strong personality to conduct a bar and entertain patrons. Just keep that in mind.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stepping Outside of the Box

Stepping outside the box. That's exactly what I feel like I have been doing since I went back to bartending back in June. Maybe not stepping outside of the box in the traditional sense, but just me getting out of my own comfort zone. Trust me, being in my comfort zone is where I usually like to be. Don't most people? There is no room for growth inside a comfort zone. In the past, I have been used to the type of bartending that doesn't require much thought or creative capacity. Basically, being a bartender at these places means being a beer and cocktail factory and cashier. I have worked at bars where you serve the same drinks over and over again. There are no specialty cocktail menus and rarely are there any fresh ingredients, except for the standard lemon and lime wedges, cherries and olives. One place I worked at even stocked mint which surprised me when I first started working there. Nothing wrong with that.

Now, I work in a full restaurant/lounge type of place that has a specialty cocktail menu, uses a number of fresh fruit ingredients, has an extensive wine list and where I am encouraged to come up with new cocktail recipes and discover all the different spirits we carry. It's a great learning environment. After being behind the bar here for almost two months now, I am really starting to appreciate the fact that I work at a place that forces me out of my comfort zone and encourages me to learn new things. I feel like I have had a whole new aspect of bartending added to my repertoire. Hello fine dining!

I can honestly say, I am no longer a lazy bartender. My barback doesn't set up and tear down my bar for me. I run and fetch the items I need in a pinch. I stock my own bar. I can even sell you food off the menu and pair it with a really nice glass of wine or refreshing cocktail.

And here I didn't think I could quite possibly expand my horizons as a bartender. Boy I was wrong. No wonder why people are bartenders for a living.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

High Maintenance Customers

Why are some people such high maintenance? I don't know what's worse-people who work in the industry who are high maintenance (because really, they should know better) or the people who don't work in the industry and have no clue. I pride myself on delivering exceptional customer service, having a wide knowledge of alcohol and mixers in general, serving drinks in a timely manner and making a tasty beverage. What I don't pride myself on is keeping up my peepy attitude when someone repeatedly has me make their drinks for them, has me running into the kitchen for some obscure ingredient for their obscure cocktail or people who just bitch and complain because they are on the other side.

Case in point, I had a couple of different incidences last night with high maintenance customers. The first situation was with a customer who asked for a Cosmo with a splash of cranberry. When I brought her the drink, she told me it was too pink. I immediately offered to make her another drink. No problem. The second time around making the drink, I took careful care to just add a splash of cranberry. Maybe even a smidge. I brought her the drink and she told me that it was still too pink. What the? I didn't know how else to make the splash of cranberry any lighter. Luckily my co-worker (who had dealt with this customer before) offered to make the third drink and showed me just how light she wanted it. We are talking a splash of cranberry, but with your finger over the gun so only half of a splash got into the drink, not a whole one. The customer swore up and down that she could really taste the difference. I guess the customer is always right. She eventually got drunk later on in the evening and stopped being so picky with her drinks.

The second situation was with a customer who asked for vodka and soda with muddled basil. Normally that would be fine if it was a drink we made on a regular basis. We have mint and we make a ton of mojitos. We have strawberries and make a slammin muddled strawberries and strawberry infused vodka drink. We don't use basil in our cocktails, ever. But I know it's in the kitchen for some of the dishes the chef prepares. This customer that ordered the special request drink works within the company and knows how our operation works. She knew I had to go into the kitchen to fetch the basil. With a smile on my face, I retrieved the basil from the kitchen and proceeded to make her cocktail. It just interrupted my work flow for a bit. At least I was ready for her round two and three.

At least these high maintenance customers tipped well. Sadly, sometimes it is common for a customer to be high maintenance and not tip well. As long as my customers take care of me, I will happily take care of them. Even if that means bending over backwards for them in the form of fetching rarely used ingredients or remaking a drink a number of times, just the way they like it.

Just don't ask me for a "Strong Island" and then tell me you are going to "take care of me" and only give me a dollar. That type of shit will really send me over the edge.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wise Bar Rules To Live By

I found this online somewhere and saw a lot of truth in each of these rules. A funny, yet honest read.

1. Our names are NOT "Hey" or "Yo", nor do we respond to whistles or banging your bottle or glass on the bar!

2. Mouth closed, money out! Just because we look at you, doesn't mean we're ready for you!

3. If we are making drinks, do NOT say, "When you get a chance." Cause when we get a chance, we'll ask you what you need!

4. NEVER EVER EVER touch the bartender!

5. DON'T tell us you bartend too! We know who does, and who doesn't by how you conduct yourself!

6. There is NO SUCH DRINK called 'Kettle One and Vodka'!!!

7. If you order a "Diet Rum and Coke" instead of "rum and Diet Coke", I'm going to laugh at you like the drunk asshole idiot that you are!

8. Do NOT start the order off with, "GIVE ME A STRONG DRINK!" You are guaranteed to have the WEAKEST DRINK EVER!!

9. Don't say, "I'LL TAKE CARE OF YOU" if you don't know what that means! $1.00 tip is NOT taking care of us!

10. We don't care who you are or who you know- the old lady before you hit on me too and the old lady before her and the old lady before her... We're bartenders, we want your money--I'm NOT GOING HOME WITH YOU.

11. Waving your money at us just annoys us - We know you're there and we'll get to you when we get to you!!!

13. DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT PRICES!! You drink expensive shit, you pay for it!

14. Yes, there IS alcohol in it! If you can't taste it, you've drank too much and I should cut you off!


16. Know how to order/pronounce your drinks. Do NOT say, "Can I get a Stoli's and Tonic?" It is ONE Stoli ! The same goes for ordering "a Jameson's" Look at the bottle! It's: JA-ME-SON. No..'s "

17. I can't wait to throw your stupid drunk ass out, once you cross the overall rule-of-thumb: "DON'T BE AN ASSHOLE!"

18. Last but not least, if you do tip us well and we buy you a drink, DO NOT announce that to the WHOLE bar that the Bartender "hooked you up"You will NEVER get a free drink again!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Tricky Business of Being Nice

Ah, the tricky business of being a nice bartender. This a big grey area for most female bartenders. Maybe not so much for the bartenders themselves, but more so for the customers. When working in a service industry, you want to be as nice and efficient as you can. The nicer and faster you are, the more likely you are to make more money. As a bartender, your work is a stage. You "perform" for a crowd as everyone at the bar watches on. That is why it is so important to leave the bad days and bad moods at the door, before you start your shift. You always have to have your game face on when working behind a bar.

With that said, I have been hit on many times as I have worked behind the bar over the years by both men and women. It's just the nature of the beast. When you are in the business of serving alcohol, people's inhibitions are lowered. People develop liquid courage over the course of the night and really, what is there not to love about a bartender? I have to say that I am the most social when I am behind the bar. Way more than if I were to go out for a night out on the town. You have to be social in this type of position or you will never make it.

Last night, I had a couple of guys at my bar who were really cool. They were just these two normal guys drinking beers at the end of the bar when I started my shift. Over the course of the night, I approached them and got into conversation with the both of them. The night was a bit on the slow side and I was getting kind of bored doing sweeps over the entire bar without having any drink orders to take. Basically, time was standing still and I was craving a shot. We have this new policy at work where employees can no longer pour their own drinks. But, if a customer buys you a shot, then that's acceptable, as long as we use our best judgment and not get carried away (AKA: remember to do our J-O-B). Without expressing my desire to have a shot to my male customers at the end of the bar, they asked me if they could buy me a shot the next time I came to check on them. I was more than happy to accept. I then explained our staff drinking policy to them and told them how ironic it was that at the moment they offered to buy me a shot, I was actually craving one. Usually, I don't like to drink when I am working behind the bar, for obvious reasons).

The first round, we each took a shot of Fernet with a ginger back, a staple drink of San Francisco bartenders. We quickly switched to tequila by the next round. ;)All in all, these guys were super cool and helped my shift fly by. They were fun, painless and entertaining.

At the end of the night when my guys were closing out, one of them wrote down his phone number and told me to call him. This is the part of the transaction I hate the most. It's flattering, but I have a boyfriend who I am in love with. I know that I will never in a million years call this guy. But I want them both to come back and be patrons of the bar. All I could do was thank him, accept his note and throw it in the tip jar. I guess you can't blame people for trying.

When I worked in a big, busy nightclub a few years back, anytime a guy asked me for my number, I would give him one, the phone number to the club. I saw no harm in that. It was rather amusing actually to see how many times I could give out the club's number over the course of the night. Then I would report back to my fellow bartenders at the end of the night what I had done and laugh about it. Ah, the good old nightcap, bonding bartender stories with coworkers as we all sat around counting our tips.

So, if you are a bar patron out there (male or female) who gives your number to a bartender in hopes of a call back, don't hold your breath. Just remember the bar is a stage and we are just doing our J-O-B. Just enjoy your drink and the company, but don't take it personally when we don't call.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stop Yelling At Me!

One thing that really irritates me when I am super busy behind the bar is when customers yell their drink order out to me before I make eye contact with them. Sometimes they yell. Sometimes they grab. Sometimes they put their boobies on the bar and expect you to be so distracted you can't do anything but help them. Sorry ladies, it may work for some guys but it doesn't work for this female bartender.

Last night, this guy started yelling his order out to me when I was in the middle of helping someone else out nowhere near him. I stopped what I was doing, looked at him, shook my finger and told him he had to wait his turn like everyone else. When I was finally able to get to him to take his order, he not only apologized, but he tipped well. I think he watched what I was doing while he waited his turn and saw that I was moving and pouring as fast as I could. It was a good experience for the both of us. I really like it when customers who are in the wrong, see the light and apologize. That's nice.

Then there are the annoying girls who feel like they don't have to wait because they are girls. Sorry honey, attitude like that will only make me want to help you last.

Also, when it's your turn, do me a favor and have your entire drink order ready. It helps me serve you and the rest of the bar faster. There is nothing more annoying than making an order only having to make four more drinks for it. That kind of going back and forth sucks up time and money. The girl that did that to me last night repeatedly didn't even tip.

I hope she broke her heel or maybe got a nasty hangover from all of her apple martinis. Just remember Karma is a bitch lady!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Overheard This Conversation

I just happened to overhear an interesting conversation at the bus stop yesterday. Of all of the conversations I could overhear, I was really surprised that I heard this one. Fate maybe? Luck of the draw?

There were two women in their older twenties sitting at the bus stop. One woman was bitching to the other woman about the crappy service she received recently at a local wine bar (name withheld because it's not important). From what I could gather, it sounded like the woman had two bad experiences with the same bartender. When her and her party were first approached by the bartender for their drink order, everyone knew what they wanted to order except for one of the girls in her party. The bartender took everyone elses order, made their drinks, gave them their drinks and asked the girl if she had decided on what she wanted to drink yet. She hadn't. The bartender told the group that he had to move on and take someone elses order and that it would be awhile before he would get back to them. The woman telling the story was pissed.

Please excuse me while I interject. I can see both sides of this coin. Sometimes when you go into a bar and especially if it's your first drink of the night, you don't always know what you want to drink right away. That happens to everyone from time to time. It's all good. As a bartender, I can see exactly why he would have reacted that way in this situation. More than likely, the bar was packed and he was just trying to move fast and take as many drink orders as he could. Every bartender knows that the more drinks you make, the more tips you will get. Every now and then on a busy night, you come across someone clueless or has no idea what they want. It's all good, but most bartenders aren't going to wait around and babysit the customer until they decide what they want. They are going to move on to someone who is ready and holding cash. ;) On the otherhand, if the bar wasn't all that busy and a bartender obviously had time to work with a customer and figure out his or her's tastes, then that reaction would have been an inappropriate one. Customers have to realize that time is money in the bar world. There are a lot more customers then there are bartenders. Please help us help you and be prepared in the really busy times.

Later on in the story, the woman was bitching to her friend about how the bartender had made a drink for her that she did not like. She told her friend that she didn't even drink the drink and asked the bartender to take the drink off of her tab. When the woman got the bill to sign off on, she noticed that the drink in questioned was still on the bill. The woman asked the bartender why the drink was still on the bill when she had asked that it be removed. He told her that he had already ran her card and asked her what she wanted him to do about it. It was at that point she asked him to speak to the manager.

I am going to interject again. In most service industries, the customer is always right. When alcohol is involved, that above statement may not always be true. In most of these cases, the general manager is going to side with the staff because usually it is the staff who is sober and the customer is not. Generally, the manager will present some sort of comp to the customer and tell the staff person not to worry about it. Situation resolved. In this woman's case, if this situation is the way it really went down, I would have to side with the customer. If a customer didn't like a drink I had made for them, I would offer to make another drink immediately. If they weren't interested in another drink and had clearly not drank the drink in question, I would refund them or take the drink off the bill without hesitation. Maybe the bartender in this case was still frustrated with this group from earlier and just didn't want to deal with them in any way shape or form. Who knows? Maybe the woman's group did other things to piss off the bartender that she had selectively left out in her story to her friend. We will never know.

Bottom line, when you work at a job where your salary is based solely on the tips you make, it's in your best interest to please each and every one of your customers within reason. Pissing off people for no good reason or having a holier-than-though-attitude never flies, no matter which industry you may work in.

PS: Customers that order all their drinks at once, pay in cash, tip well on each round and are polite will not only get my attention faster, but might even get a shot or two bought by me over the course of the night and be deemed "Awesome Customers" of the night because that's the type of bartender I am. You take care of me, I will bend over backwards to take care of you.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Bartending jobs here in the city can be hard to come by if you don't know the "right" people. By "right" people, I mean knowing someone on the inside of the place you want to bartend at. It seems like this city is filled with a ton of bartenders and not a whole lot of bartending positions. Every place that I have ever bartended at, I have known someone on the inside first. Craigslist is a great idea, but realistically people in this industry don't hire anyone off the street. It's like this weird insider thing. Bar people feel more comfortable hiring someone they know or who has been recommended to them.

I have responded to a few ads on Craigslist calling for bartenders. Not once have I ever gotten hired from one. Those ads usually generate cattle calls for local bartenders or people who wish to be bartenders. You generally have to wait in line outside of the establishment and one by one you are summoned in for a brief interview and chance to drop off your resume. It's great interview experience, but I don't need interview experience. I need the job!

This is one industry where you have to know someone who knows someone in order to get your foot in the door. Networking and persistence. Eventually, someone will hire you. Seriously.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bartender School Instructor?

I am thinking about becoming a bartending school instructor during the day, three hours a day, five days a week. I have a friend on the inside and he told me I should do it. I am seriously considering it. Sounds like it could be a fun gig in addition to the bartending.

Hey, I have always wanted to be a teacher. At least this way, I don't have to go through the lengthy procedure of getting certified. My work experience seems to be good enough. Plus, this would help me network more in the San Francisco bar industry as well. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Must Read For Bartenders

If you are a bartender, I highly suggest you read, "The Joy of Mixology" written by Gary Regan. The book was recommended to me by a fellow bartender. I started reading it last week and haven't been able to put it down. This book has everything one would ever need to know when it comes to bartending. This book discusses the history of cocktails and mixed drinks, what every bartender needs to have or be able to do, the theory of mixology, foundations of the bar (garnishes, mixers and supplemental ingredients), bartending tools, glassware, a very clear explanation and chart of cocktail and mixed-drink families and hundreds of recipes.

Do yourself a favor and don't just skip to the recipes chapter. Really read this book from start until finish. I have read a few different bar books and I feel like this book really gives it's reader the whole spectrum of how things work and function behind any bar. I have been bartending for a few years and thought I knew a lot about bartending and cocktails already. Now that I am reading this book, I am realizing that I still have a whole lot more to learn. I love books that expand my horizons!

The book itself is easy to read and hard to put down. It isn't super long either. I wish I had known about this book when I first started bartending.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Getting Up Early

It sure is hard to get your butt out of bed early in the morning and get it into the gym for an hour long workout when you work nights. But once that workout is done, it feels so wonderful and rewarding.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Don't: Bad Bar Service

Last night, I had really bad bar service. I am not going to name names or point fingers. I am not in the business of bad mouthing. The service (or I should say lack of) should reflect more on the individual than the establishment so I will just leave it at that. I just wanted to note the experience here as a major "Don't". For those of you who already work in the industry or have ever had any sort of customer service type of job, common sense would tell you that this sort of experience should never happen to any customer in any sort of business. Period.

A group of five of us walked into the bar and were deciding on what to drink. Everyone in our group worked in the industry at some level (server, bartender, barback and a dj). We are all pretty well versed in the bar scene and have a pretty good idea on the cocktails we like to drink. Our bartender came up to us and wanted to take our order right away. He acknowledged our presence and was efficient in wanting to take our drink order. There were a couple of us in the group who hadn't quite decided what we wanted to drink yet. The bartender became irritated and quickly moved on to someone else in the group who was ready to order. I can understand this sort of behavior in a busy atmosphere, but at this point, we were the only patrons at the bar so I didn't understand the rush.

I ordered a beer because I didn't feel like I even had a chance to scan the specialty cocktail menu. Plus, I didn't want to irritate our bartender anymore than I needed to. Mental note-the customer should NEVER have to worry about irritating the bartender. That's bad customer service. My boyfriend on the other hand hadn't decided what he wanted to drink at that point. The bartender fetched my beer and immediately asked my boyfriend again what he wanted to drink. He still hadn't really had a chance to decide on what he wanted to drink. I told the bartender to give us a few minutes so he could decide. The bartender told me he couldn't leave until I paid for my beer. What? Was he seriously afraid of me walking out and not paying for the beer I ordered? I looked at him and asked, "Really?" He looked at me square in the face and said, "Well, that's how it works. You order and you pay." I told him I was a bartender and I understood how it worked. He thought I was agreeing with him, but I wasn't. Obviously he has never worked in a busy enough atmosphere where he has had to take multiple orders before. All I wanted was to give my boyfriend some time to think about what he wanted to drink and then pay for our drinks together, all at once. Seeing that this wasn't going to happen, I paid for my beer and reluctantly left him a dollar tip.

When my boyfriend finally decided on what he wanted to drink, the bartender questioned his order. He asked something like, "Are you sure you want ginger ale in that?" What!?! I just wanted to tell him to shut up and make the damn drink. We even thought about just getting up and leaving at that point, but I kept my cool. I have taken some abnormal drink orders in my day, but never have I had asked a customer, "Are you sure you want that?". No matter how weird or outlandish an order might seem, you take the order, you make it and then you charge the customer appropriately. Bartenders are not in the business to judge someone's drink and question their orders. They are in the business to provide good customer service, make delicious drinks and make them in a timely manner.

After we ordered our drinks, the bartender kept coming over our way with a scowl on his face. I felt like we were inconveniencing him in some way just by being there. I didn't feel welcomed at his bar by any means. I even watched as another customer came up and requested something in her drink. It looked like she said it didn't taste right and wanted a little more of something added to it. The bartender added whatever she asked and then replied in a snotty tone, "Your Welcome!". I was shocked. I had seen the whole transaction take place. The customer was polite and had even said thank you. I could tell from the look on her face, she was just as shocked with his service as I was. What was this guy's deal?

Later on in the night, we watched as another bartender and the crappy bartender had gotten into it with each other behind the bar. We couldn't hear what they were saying, but their body language spoke loud and clear. It was obvious that we weren't the only ones who thought this guy had a major attitude problem. The crappy bartender ended up either getting sent home early or had gotten fired because we didn't see him for the rest of the night.

I want to believe that this guy didn't give crappy customer service on purpose. I want to believe that maybe he was just nervous and through his ignorance, just didn't understand the natural follow of things behind the bar which ultimately lead to his poor customer service. I know we all have our bad days and off nights. We are human and it happens, but when it comes to a service industry job such as bartending, you have to leave the crap at the door and put your game face on for your entire shift. The customer may not always be right (especially when there is alcohol involved), but all customers deserve a certain level of friendliness and respect.

Without customers, you have no need for bartenders. Period.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Pressure To Drink Behind The Bar

This post is more aimed at those who work behind the bar.....

Do you ever feel the pressure to drink while at work? Working in a restaurant/nightclub/bar is a very different kind of work environment. Your job is to not only serve good food and/or tasty drinks, but you are responsible for entertaining your guests. With that said, the entertainment is usually focused around alcohol. Go figure.

I know a lot of places out there forbid their staff to drink while on the clock. And with good reason. I have seen many people abuse the drinking privilege (yes, being allowed to drink on the clock is a privilege not a right) in every single bar I have worked at. Some people can't control themselves and let themselves get carried away with the shots. Some people can't control their liquor. Some people just can't control themselves. A lot of people can get carried away with the night and forget why they are there in the first place.

I am a bartender that likes to always be in control of the situation, no matter what type of situation it is. I always want to be of sound and mind when I deal with cash, balancing my drawer, dealing with intoxicated people, breaking up nasty conflicts or having to cut someone off. A bartender always has to be ready for anything-the bad situation, the rush and the clean up. I always like to ready stone cold sober.

Don't get me wrong. I have had my moments. We all have. I remember bragging about back in the day when I went through my whole 6 hour shift on 12 shots of Fernet and finished with balancing my drawer to the penny and was still able to stand up. But that isn't something I am necessarily proud of. I certainly wouldn't do that to my current employer or my body today.

I feel like no matter which bar you work at, there are always pressures placed on you to drink. Even if there is a no-drinking policy put into place. There are pressures from co-workers who slip shots throughout the night to one another. There are pressures from customers who want you to drink with them and try to buy you shots. As an example, I had this really nice customer the other night who seemed to really vibe off of me. He insisted on buying me a glass of champagne (my favorite BTW) even though I told him I couldn't drink it while I worked. So I poured a glass, charged him for it, thanked him and then had to stare at the glass for the rest of my shift. What a waste, but I appreciated the gesture.

If bartenders drank with all the customers who wanted to drink with them, could you imagine what that night would be like? Or how about the next morning for the bartender? Yup, I have been there too. That's how I became an expert at disguising my shots. Coke looks like a lot of dark liquors. A mixture of juices can pass off as an sort of fruity shot. Water looks like vodka. You get the idea.

So my question to you is how do you deal with the pressure to drink while at work? Are you one of those bartenders who caves in easily and says "F It?" and drinks anyways? Are you one of those bartenders who stands your ground and refuses any drink that might come your way? Or are you one of those bartenders who plays along and tricks the customer into thinking you are drinking with them when you really aren't?

Let me know. Post your stories....

Sparkling Wine vs Champagne

Yesterday, we went to the Domaine Chandon winery and took a tour and did a special tasting. The special tasting was awesome because it was just us and the tour guide tasting the different champagnes and one of their still wines (the pinot noir). In this kind of setting, I was encouraged to ask as many questions as I wanted to. The first question I asked was one that I never quite understood-what is the difference between sparkling wine and champagne?

Honestly, the only difference between sparkling wine and champagne is the name-not the way it is produced! Originally, I thought that only grapes used to make champagne from the Champagne region of France could be called champagne and that everything else in the world was called sparkling wine. Part of that is true actually. The Treaty of Madrid made it so that most countries in the world such as Italy, Spain and Africa could not call their champagnes "champagne". The treaty made it so that all of the countries who signed agreed that champagne produced in the Champagne region of France could be called "champagne". That's why is Italy its called spumante, Spain its known as Cava and in South Africa its called Cap Classique, for example. The reason why the United States can get away using the term "champagne" is because during the time when this treaty was put into effect, the United States was in the middle of Prohibition. We didn't sign the treaty, hence we didn't have to follow the rules. How very American of us! The reason why Chandon refers to their champagnes as sparkling wines is out of respect for the French. Their parent company (Louis Vuitton) is French. Go figure. The French are VERY protective of their language so the explanation makes sense.

Whatever you want to call it (sparkling wine or champagne), after our tour and tasting yesterday, I now have a deeper appreciation for the bubbly stuff! Did you know the foam you see in the glass when you pour it from the bottle is called the "moose"? It's the same as the "head" in a beer. The more moose you have, the better the quality of champagne you have. The bigger the bubbles in the glass though, the bigger the headache.

As for what to look for in a good glass of champagne, there are three things: the moose, the bubbles and the taste. You should never judge a bottle or glass of champagne on the price alone. Just because a bottle of champagne is $100 doesn't mean its going to be amazing. You must take into consideration the size of the moose, the size of the bubbles and how it tastes. If you don't like the taste, it isn't going to matter what you spend on it. As a rule of thumb when it comes to champagne, the most expensive is not necessarily going to be better. It really comes down to your own personal taste.

Did you know that "Extra Dry" means that there is extra sugar? The order of sweetness from least sweet to most sweet is: Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demi and Doux. Also, do you know what makes a "Rose" a "Rose"? It's just a mixture of champagne and pinot noir. That is what gives it the blush color. There are also three types of grapes used in producing champagne: red pinot meunier, red pinot noir and chardonnay.

When it comes to champagne in general, the basic rule of thumb is to chill it and then kill it. Once the yeast is pulled from the bottle and the contents are corked, its ready for consumption. The aging process for champagne ends when the yeast is extracted from the bottle. So the longer you wait to drink a bottle, the lower in quality it becomes.

I now have three new champagne cocktail recipes to try this week at work!