Friday, November 11, 2011

Bartender Secrets (Part 2)

            There’s one place I know everyone goes, and it ain’t church.
            At least once a week (or for others, several times a day), most of you will step into a bar and order up a drink from your local, friendly bartender (And they better be friendly to you or you can rat them out to me and I’ll write a profile on them in the coming blogs. I now plan to wage a very public war against shitty bartenders).
            You walk into the bar. It already sounds like a joke, but the punch line is a good time.     
            That’s the name of the game.  
            A good time. Alcohol is not meant to be drunk when depressed. Being that alcohol already is a drug, and a depressant at that, it can make a perfectly rational man try to wrestle with my doorman Tommy from Bed-Stuy (i.e. Bad Decision). You will be chicken-winged directly.
            Now that you’re in the bar, I want you to look around. Let’s do a checklist of a good bar real fast.
            Good music? Check.
            A smile and greeting from the bartender? Check.
            A couple of shot and beer specials for the financially insecure? (and who isn’t these days?) Check.
            Okay. Now I want you to remember what a weird creation a bar is. There is no other place like it in the world. It is a state and federally mandated room where you are legally allowed to serve and consume drugs.
            That’s it.
            And people gather in a socially acceptable way to take drugs together.
            Now think of what a dive bar is (my personal favorite). A socially acceptable place where people are served drugs in a dark room. Wow. When you put it like that, that makes all of us bartenders State And Federally mandated drug dealers!
            Who can beat that?
            It’s like working down on Wall Street.
            I just discovered a very interesting little book titled “Ten Nights In a Bar Room, and What I Saw There” written by a Timothy Shay Arthur in 1865, and later used by Temperance Leagues towards the fight for Prohibition. In the publisher’s preface, it states:
            “Ten Nights In A Bar Room gives a series of sharply drawn sketches of scenes, some touching in the extreme, and some dark and terrible (Note: He should try the Subway Bar). Step by step, the author traces the downward course of the tempting vendor and his infatuated victims, until both are involved in hopeless ruin.”   
            I guess ole Timothy Shay Arthur didn’t have a penchant for the sauce. Ten nights Timmy? Try 10 years, brother. See what you see then. I’ll tell you about tempting vendors and infatuated victims.  
            The bar life is full of these interesting caveats of information and secrets. The only way to learn these things is to do the job for some number of years.
            I’ve covered some other Bartending Secrets a number of blogs ago (to read click go here).   
            To continue our little list of Bartending Secrets, please read on, to learn what all of us ‘downward course’ tenders have gathered in our whiskey soaked stations serving the world drugs.

            There is a huge difference.
            A monkey can be trained to use a church key and crack open bottles of beer for everyone. I was just at a bar off Grand Street last night (I’m not going to start throwing stones just yet) and this young lady was working. Right when we walk in, she’s sitting on the bar on one side and two lowly looking fellahs are sitting on the other side. There was no conversation or engagement. She looks bored as she slips off the bar, huffing as she approaches us. With no emotion, she asks:
            “What’s up?”
            My jovial friends and I look at each other and make our order. She nods, brings the order, charges us, and goes back to the other side of the bar, jumping back up on the bar. My friends don’t care, they got their drinks, but I was pissed. This is the difference between a person who just goes through the motions and serves you drinks and a real bartender.
            Sure, a bartender is supposed to know some drinks, but on top of that, you’re happy to see them. They just make your day. They know what you like. They get it. You need to catch a buzz and we’re happy to get your there.
            You wanna talk? So be it. What topic? Politics? Sports? Human mysteries? We got that. Wanna bitch? We’ll listen. The real bartenders of the world actually give a shit about people.
            I’ve actually heard bartenders talk about how much they hate people.
            I suggest they find a different profession.            
            CHANGE ON THE BAR, and other BAR VOODOO
            Don’t do it. Like the ‘hat on the bed’ curse from Drugstore Cowboy, change on the bar calls upon a demonic curse on the business day. I can spot change on the bar from 12 feet away.      
            Don’t do it.
            Don’t buy anything with it.
            Don’t put it down on the surface.
            Don't drink at bars that price their beer at $4.25. That makes change potentially to fall on the bar.
            Do not tip with change, ever. This tells the bartender he works for change and is otherwise a jangling fuck you to the barkeep.
            If you are cursed with no business, the remedy for any bar and restaurant, as told to me by a Haitian bartender in New Orleans, is to sprinkle salt and sugar outside the front door, right in the center, blow a little of that ‘gris-gris’ on the pile, cover with two actually wooden stirrers in an X shape on top, and give it fifteen minutes. Customers will be rolling through the door in no time.
            And if your customer has the hiccups, old man Theodore (the bartender who taught me the ways and means behind the bar) espouses the three ingredient cure: take a lemon, pour white sugar on it, then douse it with Bitters. Have the ‘patient’ suck the lemon dry and, seconds later:   
            Hiccup free world.
            Stay tuned for more Bartender Secrets.
            Until our next drug deal….       

            To see what the bartender really knows: Send your weekly questions to 





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