If you go into any bar or lounge these days, just take a look at what’s going on. Anyone fancy a guest? Well if you are as tech savvy as every other American out there you’ll notice that there is a large amount of phone going on. Someone is either texting or tweeting or updating Facebook, etc. about their life goings at the bar. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that interacting with our phones and posting our whereabouts and updates is living. Ok, so maybe you want to let your friend know where you are or what great cocktails you are consuming, at let’s say 1534 :). These things are all well and good, but what I have started to notice is that the fine art of verbal communication and conversation has been some what lost in this new modern world of iphones and droids.
Understand that I am not advocating against the use of phones at the bar. This is not a rant or a complaint. Just an observation into what I have seen going on in the nightlife scene.
We’ve all been guilty of it, and to some extent these modern devices have become essential to getting business done; but whatever happened to the actual interaction at the bar instead of the virtual interaction going on? It seems as though people are more interested in striking up a conversation with their Blackberry instead of the bartender, or worse, the attractive woman next to them who is obviously slowly drinking her Floradora, waiting for you to say something to her. What’s even worse is that it seems as though an increasing amount of bartenders are content with this behavior. As a result, I have slowly started to notice that while not only have the customers lost the fine art of conversation, but the new breed of bartenders are not as social. At the sight of this I believe one Jerry Thomas would be turning over in his grave.
Bars are social havens. That is the reason why in the dead of winter with 4 feet of snow on the ground we leave the comfort of our own homes and apartments and drudge over to our local for a pint. Not to go there to post pics on Facebook or become Mayor of the bar on 4square, I go to bars for the what might happen. I bartend for the social interaction, and I do what I do because I get to meet some very interesting people, talk up some very gorgeous women, and listen to some real idiots, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So how do we change the mindset of these new bartenders slightly lacking in social skills, and shakeup these scenes we’ve seen at bars all across the country? My suggestion, and something I have done at 1534, is to make up funny rules. These rules are the complete opposite of a very well known bar, and I put them on my menu to not only be cheeky, but as a conversation starter. You would not believe how many people end up asking the bartender about rule number #7 (must sing to any power ballad) or how many guys point to rule number #5 (attempt courtship) to the cute girl at the bar. I also think rewarding the lack of use of the phone at the bar would also make for a fun environment. Do a type of earth hour thing where you tell everyone seated at your bar that if they cannot use their phone for 30mins you will give them all a shot. See what happens. I predict conversation, actual human interaction, and about 45mins will go by before anyone realizes they haven’t looked at their phones. So let’s pick up more pints and less iphones, more picking our heads up to acknowledge the guest than to turning our heads down to look at our droids, and lets only use our blackberry’s at the bar to take pics of the drink, shots you’re doing with your new best friend the bartender, or the cute blonde who you just got a number from.
Floradora: 2oz Gin .75oz fresh lime juice .75 oz Raspberry syrup or house made grenadine Add ingredients in a mixing glass. Shake with ice. Strain into a highball over fresh ice or crushed ice. Top with Ginger ale Lime wedge Garnish and Raspberry
Sometimes in this ever evolving, always changing, must use the newest, the most obscure, and the most niche, we lose sight of what our job is: to put money in the cash register quickly. The modern cocktail has seen a resurgence of classical cocktails that have blazed the way for new and exciting cocktails using all types of crazy liqueurs and hard to find ingredients. Sometimes this makes for an amazing experience no one would have had had the knowledgeable bartender hadn’t sought out these items and toiled with them until they were able to create a wonderful cocktail. These cocktails are incredible if done properly, and given the love and care they deserve in order for the customer to taste each and every item in the cocktail, and experience the sensory journey the bartender had in mind when he/she created said cocktail. However, with this cocktail resurgence and this new found desire to incorporate the newest and most unique ingredient or liquor into as many cocktails as possible results in some horrible cocktails, as well as missed opportunities for the bartender to show their real meddle and win over some new customers. These bartenders have lost sight of what’s most essential, and more importantly they have done so at the expense of both the venue and the guest.
Now I don’t claim to have the most amazing palate in the world, and although I am well traveled I have not by all means consumed every herb, fruit, or spice there is. What I do do is go to a lot of bars and drink a lot of drinks, and I have learned to appreciate all the subtle nuances in a dish, a spirit or a cocktail. If you tell me there is sundried purple basil leaves, toasted pumpkin seed syrup, and jasmine tincture in the cocktail and all I taste is gin, lemon juice, a sweetener, and soda then you my friend have wasted not only my time and money, but that of the venues and the prep guy. This is why I am a firm believer in the idea that simpler is better.
We as bartenders and (cocktologist) have all been guilty of adding that one more ingredient that we think will put our newest creation into cocktail lore. However, when the guest doesn’t notice it, and only notices that it took 15mins to get the drink instead of 10 then we have failed them miserably. One of my favorite bartenders of all times had the pleasure of coming and doing a guest bartender night at 1534 in New York. He put together a well balanced, diverse, and delicious cocktail menu with cocktails only using 3-4 ingredients. In fact, all you cocktail history buffs, look up some of the most heralded classic cocktails and we are talking about 3-4 ingredient drinks. Not 6, not 7, 3 to 4. Now I know Dave Embury was not schlepping his ass down to China Town for rare ingredients and the Jerry Thomas didn’t have the brand ambassador from the newest most unique liqueur coming to his bar to get him to put it on his new cocktail menu (actually that one could be true). No these guys used what they had, and with what they had they created some of the greatest drinks we consume. And when they did large scale cocktail parties they probably thought simple and not ‘how many spirits and components can I put in this drink to dazzle them’. Maybe they did maybe they didn’t. All I know is that the belief that you need to put everything put the kitchen sink into a cocktail to make it great is ridiculous. If given the opportunity to wow a customer why not make them a Jack the Rose or a Blinker. I recently had the chance to work a large scale food event here in the city that showcased some of the best cocktail bars and restaurant bars in New York. Maybe it was laziness on my part or experience (I am going with a combination) but I decided to make a cocktail for this event that has come to be known as a modern classic. I did a Goldrush: 2oz Bourbon, .75oz Lemon Juice, and .75oz Honey syrup (believe TJ of Milk n’ Honey is responsible for this). To say that the drink was well received by the guests would be a large understatement. People where very surprised to find out that such a delicious cocktail could be made with just three ingredients.
So guys when we are behind the stick we need to remember that putting money in the register is first, then making sure that we give each and every customer as best an experience as possible, to get our guests a quality beverage in their hands as fast as possible, and that sometimes the simpler the drink the better. Slainte
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Spring is in the air and oh boy have the birds been chirping!
Yes my friends… it is that time of week again. Time to reflect on the flight patterns of our fellow silly drunkards who have somehow been led away from their airborne destinations. Silly birds. Lets go over some rules kind friends….
Bird rule #101: a martini is not a lychee, raspberry, pineapple, strawberry, chocolate, apple or any other fruit, spice, combo in the long realm of ingredients out there.
Bird rule #71: ordering a jack and ginger and a vodka cranberry and asking which one is the vodka cranberry….
Bartender (yes this is NEW) Bird rule #3: just because you wear a vest and tie…. does not make you a drink jedi.
Well my fellow bird watchers out there, please feel free to respond and stay attentive to any new flight patterns that may be emerging. I promise to stay focused on the task at hand in the meantime. I have my binoculars and field manual at the ready…. Bird rules=Truth……
The Bird is the word.
The Privateer Old FashionedContemporary Cocktails Original Ingredients¼ oz Maple syrup (grade A or B)½ Bar spoon all spice dram2oz Appleton Estate Reserve Garnish: Long orange peel & lemon peelGlass: Dbl old fashionedIce: 2”x 2” large format cube Preparation:Add all ingredients into a dbl old-fashioned glass by order of the ingredients. Gently add the cube and trim if necessary. Stir in the glass 20 times and garnish with the oil of lemon and orange. Place the long peels around the cube and cross them as the stick out of the glass. Shake Down HighballMuddled fresh berries.5 Lemon juice.75 Ginger agave nectar2oz Appleton Estate ReserveTop with soda Garnish: 2 raspberries & 1 blackberry on a pickGlass: HighballIce: Kold Draft or cubed ice
After last call, counting the tips, and heading home, I’m always one day older.
And so are you.
I’m 31 years old. My daughter is 16 months. As our bartending careers move forward, so do our lives, and for some of us that has brought a new career; fatherhood.
Over 10 years ago if you asked me if I would be supporting a family through mixology, I would have thought you were nuts. Now as I look around at my peers I see that I’m not the only one who has accepted this challenge.
Being a good father is kind of like being a good bartender. We always have to be in control of the situation, we have to be patient, we have to be kind, we have to know when to say when. We have to be good listeners, we have to anticipate peoples needs, sometimes even before they know they need them. We have to be creative, determined, and trustworthy.
Every job has it’s pro’s and con’s. Don’t get me wrong, being a bartender has way many more positives than negatives, it’s just that being a father now makes those negatives a little more difficult. I’ve missed friends weddings, birthday celebrations, heck even my own 21st birthday because of work. I’m not complaining, I get it. We’re the party starters, we’re the one’s the people come up to at those weddings and birthday parties to make them forget about their mundane lives. Now, missing out on my daughters’ experiences is something different. I have a hard time dealing with that.
A couple of Sundays ago was Easter Sunday. For most of the Christian denomination it is a day filled with family, food, and bunny rabbits. For me it was filled with guests, beer, and drunk old guys. I worked that night, and the night before that, and the night before that, and the night before that. Tempting as it may be to sit in holiday traffic for 2 plus hours on little to no sleep on the LIE, I regretfully declined my mother’s dinner invitation. But I felt guilty. Not for my mother, or for me, but for my little girl. All of her cousins were going to be there having an Easter egg hunt. My brothers and sisters, whom I or her, don’t see enough of were going to be there as well. Was my career choice limiting my daughters’ family time? This wasn’t the first time work had gotten in the way of family time. But I guess that’s part of being a father, making tough decisions.
All in all, it’s been a whirlwind 16 months. She really is growing up so fast. I too have grown in these 16 months and I look forward to the future of both my careers and towards the challenges they present.
Harry’s New York bar… Home of the bloody Mary and French 75. I had the extreme pleasure of tasting both cocktails there on my recent trip to Paris. Delicious. And I was amazed to learn that the way we make it in the states is a bit different than how it’s executed at Harry’s. Gin, sugar, lemon juice, champagne and….. Absinthe! Sooooo..next time you’re in the mood for this great classic, throw a barspoon of absinthe in and tell me what you think. Stay thirsty my friends!
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The month of March is here and with it comes my favorite holiday for drinking. St. Patrick’s day, or as my Irish grandmother liked to call it, St. Paddy’s day. That glorious day of all things green and Irish. Where even if your not Irish, you stand up and represent like you are for one day. (there’s a saying that everyone has a little Irish in them) The reason this is my favorite holiday for drinking is that the feeling permeates through the air that one should be happy, festive and filled with laughter. And connected. Connected and joyous to be around friends and to be open to make some new ones. For me, this is what drinking is about, no pretention, just honest straight forward fun while throwing a few (or many) back. Now when you see a headline with the phrase ‘behind the stick’ on it, you would think that I would be getting ready to drop some special secrets about how I prepare to handle St. Patrick’s day behind the bar. But truthfully, I usually never work on this day. I drink on this day. And so what I’ll do is state what I believe to be proper products to consume on this day and have ready at the bar. Hence, any bartender should have these products in his or her holster ready to pour with great speed and skill. I deem these truths to be self evident! One shall have Irish Whiskey at the ready. Jameson, Powers, Bushmill’s, Middleton, Red Breast. Have them nearby and throw some pour spouts on them. And be sure to start your shift off with a staff shot. All staff must partake in this. Go team. Have your shot glasses ready to go in great abundance. You will likely be going through many. Beer. Guiness. Shall I say more? If I was selfish, I would stop there, but I sadly recognize that many other beers are consumed on this day. Make sure to have beers fully stocked and ready to go. Have a few bus tubs filled with popular brands on ice. Prepare for war. Smiles. These should be in abundance. As mentioned above, this is a holiday of fun and happiness. Look at people in the eye. Laugh. Tell bad stories. Dance. Put your arm around someone. Tell things that you haven’t told anyone all year. Wear something with green. Its all appropriate! And so since this story might be a bit light in content, I’ll leave you with a couple recommendations to check out on this day. Farrell’s: located in Brooklyn on 16th street and Prospect Park West, Farrell’s is an OLD school bar of simplicity. They serve Bud on tap and that is it for beer. They come in 32oz styrafoam cups. And they’re selection of spirits is minimal. They have about 15-20 in total. Farrell’s is on the corner and it turns into a block party. Much fun to be had. Swift: 34 east 4th street. Some will argue that Swift pours the best Pint of Guiness in the city. I shall not argue. This is an Irish pub/lounge that is a treasure to drink in. Over 50 beers and a giant spirit selection. Proud to be Irish and done right. In general, besides St.Patrick’s day, this is a bar I recommend to anyone, it just so happens that I find it to be a great starting point. CONTEMPORARY COCKTAILS Bar crawl. Legendary status. Do it. Locations to be determined. That is all my friends.
As we come upon St. Patrick’s Day 2011, I think it’s appropriate to look back at one of New York City’s oldest and most venerable Irish bars; McSorley’s Old Ale House.
For over 150 years, the old bar at 15 East 7th Street, has been serving New Yorkers, immigrants, presidents (Abe Lincoln himself), athletes, authors, musicians, and starting in 1970, women!
The dust sits inches think on the light fixtures. It’s probably been up there since before I was born. Nostalgic photos from yesteryear adorn the walls. What looks like a musket from the Civil War rests on the back bar. Bartenders wearing black garbage bags as pseudo poncho kilts race back and forth along the weathered, nicked up wooden bar. Sawdust is scattered on the old floorboards. They close at 1 o’clock in the morning. Probably because as all of us pub bartenders know, nothing good’s gonna happen after 1 a.m. No jukebox, just the rhythm of clanging glasses. No liquor, just “light” and “dark”.
McSorley’s was started as an Irish working man’s saloon in 1854 by Irish immigrant John McSorely. He had arrived 3 years prior on the ship The Colonist from Liverpool. John served cheese, crackers,and raw onions just like back home, on the house, and affordable beer to the men of his adopted home. In 1910, at 83 years of age and over 50 years of caring for his bar, John passed away leaving the ale house in the care of his son Bill McSorley.
During Prohibition, beer, ale, wine, liquor, and hard cider were illegal. McSorley’s stayed in business by serving what they referred to as “Near Beer.” Nearing death himself, Bill sold the bar to Daniel O’Connell, a customer and NYC policeman, in 1936. Unfortunately, Mr. O’Connell died only 3 years later and left the saloon to his daughter. Patrons feared she would renovate and innovate. Thankfully she did neither. Her husband took over the reins and in keeping with the promise she kept her late father, Mrs. O’Connell only entered the bar on Sunday’s after they were closed.
You see, that’s what makes New York, the greatest city in the world, tradition. Unfortunately, we now live in an era where promises and words are meaningless. Tradition gets in the way of revenue. Promises only hinder advancement. Hopefully we’ll wake up and realize that once somethings gone, it’s gone for good. The Dodgers are never coming back to Brooklyn, Chumley’s Bar isn’t getting rebuilt, and there is no more Meatpacking District. I could go on and on. But let’s get back to tradition.
Perhaps the single greatest novelty of McSorley’s is that it has served one beverage in its history! "A rich, wax-color" is how author Joseph Mitchell described the McSorley’s brew in his 1943 book "McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon." Fidelio Brewery is credited with originating the golden hued libation that McSorley’s is famous for. Unfortunately after Prohibition, Fidelio was forced out of the beer making business. With alcohol of any sort outlawed, brewing operations switched to the basement of McSorley’s Old Ale House where it remained business as usual until Prohibition ended. Through the years different brewers have made McSorley’s Ale. Today it is actually brewed by the Pabst Brewing Company. McSorley’s Ale is available in both kegs and bottles throughout the region and of course at McSorley’s Old Ale House, where the old barkeeps say it tastes a little different.
In 1970, McSorley’s under order of the court and law from the city council considers becoming a private club, but relents to the pressure and opens its doors to women. There are no restrooms for the women. Don’t worry ladies, today there are.
So this St. Patricks Day if you find yourself on the East Side of town and you don’t mind maybe waiting in line a bit, belly up to the bar for a history lesson at McSorley’s. You won’t be disappointed.
Celiebo is an advocacy group for the celiac and gluten-intolerant community, which has been certifying restaurants as compliant with regulations that make them safe establishments for gluten-restricted diners since 2010. The Celiebo education team works with the restaurant staff to instruct them on how to safely serve a gluten-free patron in every phase of the dining process—from menu architecture to food preparation and service.
Contributed by Tim Cooper
Contemporary Cocktails, Inc.
Damn… Oh no they didn’t…. Oh indeed they did! As promised last week, I am following through on/about the ‘Reematch Beeeyatch’ cocktail speed competition: 25 of New York City’s top cocktail bartenders banging out Tiki-style drinks as fast as possible. And what a fun shit show it was! Otto’s Shrunken Head was filled to capacity with all kinds of devious folk. Cheering, heckling, and trash talking were all flowing at maximum capacity as the place got packed within the first hour. And in the end, New York City got it’s ass handed to it by a gentleman named Scott Marshall by way of Bah Stun.
Each bartender put $100 of their own money into the pool and were reminded that ’25 enter, 1 person leave!’ (Sometimes a playful Mel Gibson movie quote must suffice.) And that is indeed what happened. All week long there was a relentless chain of emails detailing times, mama’s, and sad truths (specifically the word WEAK). In the end, there was a lot of weakness and not too many mama’s in the house. I will admit that I talked a few words of trash and in the end fell flat on my face as I was one whole minute off my consistent practice time run. It’s one thing to have your cute little template of drink making ready to go in a quiet perfect bar setup but quite another when you have over 100 people screaming and hovering over you in a high energy environment. Stupid Tim Cooper.
The majority of contestants were disqualified for going over the 4 minute mark, and the rest came in somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes with the exception of Scott Marshall and Nick Van Tiel. With that said, now is a good time to give a shout out to all of the judges, as I can’t even imagine the disgusting number of unbalanced drinks that they had to taste all night long: Willy Shine, Simon Ford, Aisha Sharpe, Jordana Rothman, Sasha Petraske, and Claire Smith. Big ups to you all!!! It’s a ‘Hangover Beeeyatch!!!!’ was Simon Ford’s next day post on Facebook. The ‘Like’ button was pressed many times that day.
All in all, it was an extremely long but glorious event. Each contestant came out to a handpicked song of inspiration. And for those who didn’t come with a song, they were appointed the legendary Benny Hill theme song…”Da naa naa neh neh nehna nehna neh ne nehna neha…etc.” (Candice Coy anyone?) All bartenders had to make the same 10 drinks but in any order they deemed appropriate. They were: 2 Daiquiris, a Mojito, an Caipirinha, a Mai Tai, a Planters Punch, a Zombie, a Pina Coloda, a Cuba Libre, and a Beer. Once all were completed the final requirement was to fire off a “BBBrrrrraaaaaapppp!!!” which is slang for gun busting. And some guns busted louder than others.
In between and somewhere near the end, there was a wee bit of drinking involved. In between and somewhere near the end, there was making out involved. In between and somewhere near the end, there was a shirt removed. And at the end, there was a shirtless man with a lot of hair all over his body. I told him I never want to see that ever again. Yes, Giuseppe Gonzalez. Never again. Or maybe again, but not for a while. Perhaps once a year. With all that said, this was one of the most drunken, sloppy, silly, events that I have ever attended. It was legendary…And there will be another REEMATCH. In New Orleans, Louisiana to be exact, at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail. And with that said, next time there will be DESTRUCTION. Shout out to all contestants as you are all winners in my book:
John Lermayer, Remi Shobitan, Candice Coy, Giuseppe Gonzalez, Jamie Gordon, Nick Van Tiel, Scott Marshall, Karin Stanley, Phil Ward, Erick Castro, Sammy Ross, Dom Venegas, Jason Litrell, Jim Wrigley, Gardner Dunn, Mickey McIlroy, TJ Lynch, Kenta Goto, Joe Brooke, Andy Seymour, Jane Danger, and I know I am forgetting a couple peeps…many apologies. My memory game is not so tight…. Tim
Contributed by Justin Noel
Contemporary Cocktails Inc
When coming up with new cocktails its always cool to look to unique ingredients for inspiration. Yuzu instead of lime, galangal in place of ginger, etc. Here’s a variation of a Painkiller using a couple of unique ingredients:
2oz Appleton Estate Reserve Rum
.5oz Demerara Syrup (2:1)
1oz Coconut Milk
1 barspoon of Tahini Sesame Paste
Prep: In a mixing glass add barspoon of Tahini, Demerara Syrup, coconut milk, and Appleton Estate Reserve Rum. Add one or two Kold draft cubes. Whip the cocktail. Strain into a glass over crushed ice. Give a little swizzle. Top with coffee tincture. Add a bit more crushed ice. Grate some fresh nutmeg and serve
Coffee Tincture: Fill one cup or 8oz of Espresso Beans. Take a high proof liqour like Wray and Nephew Overproof or Lemonhart 151. Add about 8 oz of high proof liquor to the cup of espresso beans and let sit for about 10hrs. Strain out espresso beans and bottle coffee tincture.
A hint of sun, temps reaching close to 60 degrees, and a girl on the subway trading in her UGGs for some sandals can only mean one thing; menu changes. Yes my culinary imbibing brethren spring is slowly peeking its head from behind the snow filled clouds of winter, and we all start taking off that extra layer of clothing. With this new emergence into spring comes the desire to start making menu changes, not only to the ever changing seasonal food menus we have grown accustomed to, but also to our ever expanding cocktail menus.
The seasons changing can be inspirational motivation for us bartenders, as it gives us an opportunity to tweak our menus to reflect seasonality in ingredients, but also seasonality in spirit selection as well. Since we all strive for perfection when creating a menu one of the major things we need to look at when thinking about comprising a new cocktail menu is to what degree the spirit selection impacts the list. If you are say going from a late fall/winter menu to an early spring menu maybe a menu still comprising of cognacs, Armagnac’s, and rye might not be too relevant. So we set back and take stock of our produce options as well as our spirit options.
I love the thought process during a menu change because we as a collective group start learning or sometimes relearn how to use these spirits that maybe we hadn’t played with much for a couple of months. Reeducating ourselves that the cognac based cocktails, while still great, might slowly become a bit too heavy with spring, and therefore, we need to start at the amber rums, the genevers, and reposados as ideal replacements. While, also incorporating the vast amount of produce that slowly starts to come back into season. Start minimializing the cooking spices, and replacing them with some apricots, dark fruits, and savory herbs. While not yet summertime, we realize that spring offers us a chance to move away from heavy spirited cocktails, hot drinks, and libations utilizing mulled spices to ones using lighter bodied spirits, fresh green herbs, and some effervescence.
While not abandoning our technique in order to make menus filled with muddled herbs and fruit, we make slight spirit changes and cocktail changes, so drinks crafted after the Manhattan become drinks crafted after the Negroni. So we as bartenders look at our menus, much like chefs do and try to make sure that a balance is there. You can’t take 4 rye and bourbon cocktails off a menu, say two were stirred up drinks and two were shaken down cocktails, and replace them with 3 gin cocktails shaken and topped with soda, and an amber rum cocktail served over crushed ice. It speaks to the limits of imagination, but also highlights a lack of balance in technique, style, and drink selection. With that being said I take a look at my menu and start figuring out how to replace my spicy Rye and nutty, woody Pineau des Charantes inspired Manhattan cocktail and look to my liquor cabinet and produce shelf to see what kind of seasonal stirred cocktail I can replace it with. One good option is a variation of Ada Coleman’s “Hanky Panky” cocktail. Hocus Pocus by Misty Kalkofen at Forty Four in the Royalton Hotel, NYC.
The Hocus Pocus
1 3/4 oz Beefeater Dry Gin
1/2 oz Combier
1/2 oz Carpano Antica
1/4 oz Fernet Branca
Stir all ingredients over cracked ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with orange oil.
Stir up one of these and I guarantee you the inspirational juices will start to flow and those new menu ideas will start coming to life.
At last year’s Tales of the Cocktail in NOLA a conversation came up between me and a few fellow bartenders. The subject was tipping.
Gratuity, benefaction, bonus, boon, bounty, contribution, donation, fringe benefit, greased palm, or as Bill Murray so succinctly put it to the Dalai Lama, “a little something for the effort”.
Tipping bartenders in America has been a tradition since after the Civil War. Wealthy Americans began traveling to Europe, and funny enough, brought the tip home to show their worldliness. Since then a lot has changed, or has it?
When I first started tending bar eleven years ago, I was a twenty-year old college student. While at bartending school I remember the instructor telling me and my fellow classmates that $150 a night was a “good” shift. In my first job after graduating, I subsequently made about $150 a night. Pretty good for me I thought. I was getting about $1 per drink. I concluded that this was a fun job, with good money, and once I graduated college, I’d move on to working in my degree’s field. Well things didn’t turn out that way.
Eleven years after nervously pouring my first drink, I’m still at it. On a slightly bigger scale however. My fellow barkeeps in New Orleans were grumbling that although the game has gotten bigger and better, for the most part their tips haven’t.
Using the pre-determined $1 per drink tip that is customary in most of the country, I think my compatriots have a point. Modern mixology and bar craftsmanship has been spreading throughout the country faster than a shaking bar tin. For the most part, drink prices have increased dramatically as well. For example, when I first started bartending in NYC a Mojito cost $8. Today the same Mojito, albeit probably better made, costs $22 at one of my current gigs. Better ingredients, rent, competition, fresh produce cost, and premium spirits, as well as inflation, have all contributed to the marked increase in drink pricing. Why then are some premier mixologists still getting the short end of the tip?
When dining at a fine restaurant in New York City diners pay a premium for their culinary delights. Eighteen to twenty percent of the bill is the customary tip for excellent service. Why then when you enter a magnificent cocktail den, the same customs don’t apply? For the most part, many of the bartending professionals in these establishments are there because this a career path they have chosen to be a part of. For them, bartending is not a second job, it is their only job. In a restaurant, the sever divides his tips amongst the rest of the service staff. In a bar, the bartender divides their tips with any other bartenders, barbacks, or prep persons on staff. That $1 tip on an expertly crafted drink experience that can cost anywhere from $12-$24 doesn’t seem that great when you do the math.
Tip percentage is the number that makes a difference. The dollar tip on the twelve dollar drink only equates to an eight percent tip. Makes it a little hard to live in New York City, or any big market city, for that matter.
In Europe most of the bartenders do not accept tips. They are paid daily wages by their employers. We all know the healthcare situation here as it compares to Europe.
Some American cities, like Miami for example, include a service charge on drinks. One of the establishments I work at in New York also includes a service charge on drinks paid with a credit card. These fees are always subject to customer approval. If the establishment operators are charging more for cocktails and customers are paying more for cocktails, shouldn’t the bartenders get a little piece of the action?
Some will argue that included gratuity defeats some of the characteristics that make bartenders great, the counselor, the comedian, the story teller, etc… I disagree. I think that when you have hardworking individuals, who are proud of what they do, they will work very hard to make sure that service charge stands up. In an industry where many of us are uninsured, under payed (in terms of hourly compensation) and overworked I think that included service charges could alleviate some of the complaints I overheard on the streets of New Orleans.
“Whenever you talk cocktail history, it’s always the Democratic party that’s involved, Lord knows why,” Wondrich said.
The initial definition of the cocktail in the Balance and Columbian Registry noted that the drink “is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head.
“It is said also, to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because, a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else,” according to the paper.
At least one famous cocktail — the Manhattan — had its origin in a Democratic club. It was the toast of the Manhattan Club around 1880, Wondrich said.
While I’ve never experienced a hangover in my lifetime (knock on wood), I know plenty who have. Hopefully these concoctions will help with the hangover blues the next time you try to recapture your youth