Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Guy From Belgium

I had a guy come into the bar recently. Each round of drinks that he ordered, he paid the exact amount for the drinks, stiffing me on the tip each time. On the second round, he even paid me using real change, I'm talking about quarters here folks. After I noticed the constant absence of a tip on each of the rounds of drinks this fella ordered and remembering that he had a slight accent in his tone, I asked him which country he was from. He said Belgium. Hmmmm....

So I did a little research of my own on the tipping practices in Belgium. Turns out:

Tipping in Belgium is not obligatory as service charge is always included. However, people often give tips as a sign of appreciation. Usually, this is done by paying in bank notes with a total value slightly higher than the price of the meal and telling the waiter/waitress that they can keep the change.

So either he thought that my tip was included in the price of his drink or he knew better and just was being a douche. I would like to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but he did it all night long, paid with change and was only ordering our drink special, minus the ice. Trust me, he got more mixer than alcohol.

Red flags all around.

WhiskyFest Coming to SF in October

Attention all whisky lovers: America’s largest whisky celebration is coming to San Francisco. The 3rd annual WhiskyFest will be in San Francisco on October 16th at the San Francisco Marriott, from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. This event will be featuring over 70 pouring booths, allowing attendees to sample over 200 whiskies (single malt and blended scotch, Irish, bourbon, Tennessee, Japanese, Welsh and Canadian), while being able to personally chat with master distillers and distillery representatives. In addition to all the various whiskies, there will be a few vodkas and rums available for tasting as well.

The focus of WhiskyFest is education.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The BaCu Sour @ Coda

The BaCu Sour is a modified version of a drink I concocted sometime last year for a bartender competition. The BaCu Sour is a vodka-based drink that consists of vodka (I prefer to use Stoli), St. Germain, a touch of simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, basil and cucumber with a splash of Hendrick’s gin, served up in a chilled martini glass. The garnish is simply a fresh basil leaf floating on top.

The name of the cocktail gives the drinker clues as to what the cocktail entails. “Ba” stands for basil. “Cu” stands for cucumber. “Sour” is referencing the type of mixed drink family the cocktail belongs to. Read More...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Timing is Everything

When it comes to finding a bartender job, timing is everything. There are many different factors as to why bars might not call back a bartender applicant for an interview. It’s important to not to take these things personal and to not let it negatively affect your bartender job search.

Let’s say that you hear about a new bar, restaurant or club opening in your neighborhood and decide to stop by to drop off your resume. You speak with the hiring manager briefly and you get a really good feeling from the conversation. You’re sure they’re going to call you and offer you a position behind the bar, but they never call. Or what about after doing some specific bar research, you stumble upon a bar that you know you’d be a perfect fit for? You have all the right experience and the bartender you’ve been chatting with tells you that they think there might be some shifts opening up. You come back to the bar to speak to the hiring manager and give them your resume only for them to tell you that they aren’t hiring, but they’ll keep your resume on file. Read More...

Friday, September 18, 2009

What is St~Germain?

What does St~Germain, Domaine De Canton and Chambord all have in common? Besides the fact that they are all considered liqueurs in the cocktail world, all three of these products original founders are all related to each other. St~Germain is a product of Cooper Spirits International, which is run by Robert Cooper. Domaine De Canton (a ginger flavored liqueur) is a product of Robert Cooper’s brother, John Cooper. A few years back, Robert and John Cooper’s father bought Chambord (a black raspberry liqueur), brought it to the United States from France, made it popular here in the states and then sold the company.

All three of these liqueurs are equally delicious and a great addition to any cocktail. My favorite of the three liqueurs is St~Germain. Read More...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yelp: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Ever since I first began my career as a bartender, I have always had one major goal in mind: to always make the customer happy. Working in the service industry, I am in the business of customer service, of pleasing the customer. Sometimes, customers are really easy to please. Other times, customers can be high maintenance and demanding. If a customer is well taken care of, then there is a greater chance that the customer will come back in the future and tell their friends about their experience.

Before 2004, most people would hear of new restaurants and bars based on word of mouth. If a customer had a great or terrible experience at a restaurant or bar, that customer would tell their friends. Yelp has since brought this “word of mouth” service online in the form of Read More...

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to Keep Your Cool Working Behind the Bar

Every bartender has had one of those nights. You’re four-deep at the bar. The bottles in your well are running low and you have no idea where your barback is. The server tickets keep spitting out from the printer. Your clean glassware supply is quickly running out. You’re almost out of change in your cash drawer. Your bladder feels like it’s going to explode and of course the next customer you approach to take their order says, “Um, I don’t know what I want. What’s good?” Aaaahhhhh!!

These are nights all bartenders have nightmares about.

I can always spot an amateur bartender because on nights like these, they either freeze or have a terrible attitude towards their customers and fellow bar staff. These are stressed and it shows. So how do great bartenders keep their cool behind the bar on the really busy nights? Read More...

The Corn Refiners Association Responds?

I received an interesting response via email today from the president of the Corn Refiners Association in regards to the bar review I wrote on Rickhouse a couple of days ago. Here is the email I received:

Dear Ms. Neves:

We read the September 12 article “Bar review: Rickhouse,” with interest. There has been a lot of confusion about high fructose corn syrup. We would like to provide you with science-based information on this safe sweetener and be a reference for you for future articles.

High fructose corn syrup contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives and meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) requirements for use of the term “natural.” The FDA stated, referring to a process commonly used by the high fructose corn syrup industry, that it “would not object to the use of the term ‘natural’ on a product containing HFCS produced by [that] manufacturing process....” (June, GA. (Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition) Letter to: Erickson, A. (Corn Refiners Association) July 3, 2008.) Please see the attached letter from the FDA dated July 3, 2008.

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.” The ADA also noted that “Both sweeteners contain the same number of calories (4 per gram) and consist of about equal parts of fructose and glucose.” (Hot Topics, “High Fructose Corn Syrup.” December 2008.)

To read the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup, please visit Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information about the products made from corn.

Thank you for your consideration

I'm not quite sure what to think of this. Why are the corn people contacting me, defending high fructose corn syrup? Especially when the only mention I made in my review was quoted directly from Rickhouse's menu, which states:

In preparation of cocktails we use fresh juices, natural sugars and local produce. We do not use high-fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors. A city with such a wonderful cocktail history and imbibing culture as San Francisco is entitled to great libations. That is what we are prepared to offer.

At the very least, I am very flattered that there are higher ups from organizations such as the Corn Refiners Association reading my articles.

Original Small Batch Bourbon Collection

I have a customer who every time he comes in, always requests the same drink: Knob Creek, neat. On one of the nights he came in, we had a chance to talk “shop” about whiskey and bourbon and the different types within the category. Surprisingly, I armed my regular customer with so much newfound information on his drink of choice. Now each time he comes into the bar and I have time, we pick a certain bourbon or whiskey off the shelf and talk about it. This is part of how I get inspired to write many of the articles I post here on A majority of my inspiration comes from my customers, which is why I dedicate this article to my friend and regular, Mike, the Knob Creek drinker.

According to Fred Noe, 7th Generation Beam Distiller, “Tasting one of these small batch bourbons is like tasting the past. This is the way bourbon used to be. The way it was meant to be.” In 1988, Booker Noe, the grandson of Jim Beam decided to bring back the tradition of small batch bourbon making that had been popular before Prohibition. Before Prohibition, this type of bourbon was only made in small quantities, was more potent, more aged and more varied. The result has been the Small Batch Bourbon Collection from Beam Global. Beam Global features four different bourbons in their Small Batch Bourbon Collection: Bookers, Basil Hayden, Bakers and Knob Creek. Read More...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bar Review: Rickhouse

When it comes to San Francisco’s bar and cocktail culture, there is a little something for everyone. You have the dive bars where ordering a shot and a beer is the standard. You have your fancy nightclubs selling bottles of spirits and bringing it directly to the table with ice, glass and mixers in the form of bottle service. You have live music venues that serve everything in a plastic cup. You have restaurants featuring specialty cocktails that pair nicely with the food entrees on the menu. And then there are places like one of San Francisco’s newest members to the bar scene, Rickhouse, located at 246 Kearny Street (at Sutter). If any of you in San Francisco remember the old Ginger’s Trois bar, this is the space.

From the company who brought to San Francisco, Bourbon & Branch now brings to the city, Rickhouse, minus the required password for entrance and the house rules. Rickhouse features an impeccable selection of spirits, local beers and California wines. There are three pages consisting of 96 different brands of American whiskey and rye whiskey alone! Read More...


I remember when I first started bartending. I thought that this would only be a job to support me while I went to school to get my college degree. Little did I know, six years later,. that bartendng would actually be my chosen profession. So I guess that make me a "lifer"

The thing about "lifers" in any given profession is that we give a shit. This is our career. It isn't just a job to get us by. We take pride in what we do because we love doing it. The cool thing about bartending is if you stop loving the bar you are working at, there are many more bars to chose from. When it comes to bars, there are so many to chose from. So many different types. There is a little something for everyone.

I'm pretty happy that bartending found me by accident. I would have never guessed that I would grow up to be a bartender. I never thought in a million years that I would ever love bartending as much as I do. I take pride in making sure that all my customers are happy. I care about making sure that every one of the cocktails I make is made to the customer's satisfaction. I give a shit.

I'm a lifer and that's nothing to be ashamed of.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Beer Goggles Theory Has Been Debunked

The idea of having beer goggles just might not fly anymore. According to a recent study done by the University of Leicester, located in England, the infamous “beer goggles” theory has been proven to be only a myth. In the study, 240 men and woman in bars and cafes were asked to look at pictures of females and asked to comment on their age and attractiveness. The study included 120 sober men and women. The other 120 men and women had consumed alcoholic beverages. The pictures used were of ten different women, all of the age of 17. Some of the pictures had been digitally altered to show the same woman, aged at 13 years old and also at 20 years old and showed the women wearing makeup and without makeup.

The overall results of the study found that

Thursday, September 10, 2009

George Dickel, the Other Tennessee Whiskey

In keeping with celebrating Bourbon Month for the entire month of September, here's to dropping more bourbon knowledge:

Currently, there are only two Tennessee whiskeys on the market: Jack Daniels and George Dickel. Most people have heard of the famous Old Number 7, but not too many people are familiar with George Dickel. This is the story of the other Tennessee whiskey.

In 1870, George A. Dickel set up shop in Cascade Hollow, Tennessee, which is located half way between Nashville and Chattanooga. George declared his whiskey to be the smoothest tasting whiskey available for public consumption. He believed that his whiskey was as smooth as the finest scotch so he dropped the “e” from whiskey in order to keep with the scotch whisky tradition. Read More...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Times Are Tough, But

I know that times are tough, but it is never okay or acceptable for a person to bring their own bottle of booze inside a club, bar or restaurant (unless you bring in an unopened bottle of wine, then you pay a corkage fee). Bringing in a flask filled with "name your favorite spirit here" is a major faux pas. Its trashy and its illegal. ABC could swipe a business's liquor license away if they caught outside booze being brought in and consumed on the premises. No liquor license means no liquor sales which ultimately result in loss of business and loss of jobs for the business's staff.

Tonight while cleaning up, I stumbled upon an empty bottle of tequila that was brought in and drunk by one of the night's customers then discarded underneath a table. I mean if you truly can't afford to go out and have to stoop to the ultimate low of bringing your own booze to a bar, you should really reconsider going out in the first place.

Now it just makes me wonder about all of those people who only ask for non-alcoholic mixes like soda and juice. Are they really not drinking or are they smuggling in their own liquor?

Classic Cocktail: Mint Julep

Bartenders in San Francisco gripe every time there is a warm day here in the city (there are only a handful a year) because they know customers are more than likely to ask for a Mojito. Mojitos are a classic, labor intensive cocktail that requires basic ingredients such as rum, mint, lime juice and soda water and a little elbow grease in the form of muddling the mint within in the drink. In the whole grand scheme of things, the drink isn’t that big of a chore to make. Sure they take a bit longer to make than a mixed drink that only calls for a base spirit and a mixer, but Mojitos are tasty and refreshing, even more so on warm summer days.

The Mint Julep belongs to the same mixed drink family as a Mojito, which is considered the “Smash” mixed drink family. Being a Smash drink just means that fresh mint and other ingredients are muddled together in preparation for the drink.

The Mint Julep is the Mojito’s cousin from the South. Read More...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wine On Tap

Customers come in every single night, see the taps behind the bar and naturally ask, “What kind of beers do you have on tap?” I show them my list of bottled beers and tell them that we don’t have beer on tap. It’s wine. I always love the look of shock and confusion my customers give me in response to my answer. My answer always sparks a conversation on our Wine On Tap program.

Wine On Tap is a new and innovative way of serving wine by the glass here in the Bay Area. There are currently only a handful of bars/restaurants with a Wine On Tap program in the area. The bar/restaurant I bartend at and am the bar manager of, Coda (1710 Mission Street, San Francisco) is one of them. Read More...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How Much Is...?

It's always a red flag to me when a customer approaches the bar and says something along the lines of, "How much is....?" or "What can I get for...?" even after I put a drink menu down in front of them that lists the prices of all of our drinks. Whenever I hear a customer ask me something like this, I know I am not getting tipped. Especially when I watch them dig in their pocket, pull out a few crumpled bills and then mouth to me "sorry" when there isn't enough for a tip. It's obvious that people like this have never worked in the service industry and therefore don't realize that those of us who do, survive off of our tips.

The type of bar you are in will give you an indication on how much your drinks will cost. Look around your drinking environment. A dive bar is obviously going to have cheaper prices than say a a shee-shee nightclub or a bar in a fine dining restaurant. Also, take a look at the bar's specialty cocktail menu. Expect to pay higher prices for a cocktail that is labor intensive and calls for a lot of fresh ingredients.

People who go out drinking in San Francisco generally have a good idea knowing how much a cocktail or beer will cost them and therefore don't require their bartender to run through the bar's entire inventory and price list. Drinks and spirits are divided into categories: well, call, premium and super premium. If you are a babe on a budget, go for the wells because the wells will be your cheapest bet in any bar. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to know how much something is, especially if it's something off the back bar (back bar=higher prices) or if it's something you don't normally order. Ask to see a drink menu or ask what the price is on the specific drink you are ordering. Just don't expect your bartender to rattle off all of the prices for everything behind the bar.

For the people who start off the transaction with their bartender, "quizzing" them on prices, stiff their bartender on the tip and then have the nerve to bitch about their drink not having enough alcohol, your best bet is to take your few crumpled bills to the corner store and buy yourself a six-pack.