Friday, December 21, 2012

It's The End Of The World As We Know It (or whatever)

            Officially it’s all supposed to come crashing down at noon, and since the actual time right now writing this blog is 11:46am, I’ll try to wrap everything up in 14 minutes and “get my kicks before this whole shit house goes up in flames”, as Jim Morrison said.  

            And since the Mayans totally designed their calendar around American time, everybody best mind their p’s and q’s come this witching hour. They no doubt based the end of the 13th 1444000 day cycle, commonly referred to as the Mayan Apocalypse, on California time because it’s now 12:11pm and I’m still alive sipping on a Budweiser at Teddy’s Bar and Grill.
            Who were these strange Mayan peoples who predicted the end of all things?
            What were they into? How did they roll as far as drinking? These are questions a bartender asks. 
            We do know a couple of fun facts about them.
            They ate a shitload of corn (called maize), just like us here in the Grand Ole Opry of American lifestyle. Corn, being the most useless thing that grows out of the ground for the human body (sadly too, my favorite food), was apparently a quite plentiful element in their culture. They were into some severe body modification, but unlike Seattle folk, they did it to honor their Gods, not to just piss off their parents and ruin otherwise beautiful unmarred skin.
            The men of the Mayan world would file their adult grown teeth to sharp points to appear more ferocious and there was even a modification to make someone cross-eyed in reverence to their Cross-Eyed God Kinich Ahau. Awesomely, the women in their culture, the high-fluent ones, would drill holes in their teeth and fill them with precious metals, Lil’ Wayne style.
            Fucking straight up gangsters. Love it.
            Scribes (the writers) were highly revered. Got to give a small shout out to that, since here in America writers are treated with only slightly less vehemence than the poor, and unfortunately writers are often scribes and dead broke, therefore being one of the more lowly classes of careers in the country other than hostesses (what we like to refer to as the ‘pincushions’ of the restaurant industry. Let your imagination go wild).             
            The Mayans also had a wonderful penchant for sacrifice, and their preferred method was to cut directly into the abdomen and pull out the person’s heart while they were still alive. Blood rituals were common.
            However, suicides, sacrifices, and still births were supposedly directly sent to heaven, so that’s cool. Sort of like a carpool lane for the early dead. These fuckers were so out the box they believed in giving their own blood to their Gods, usually through cutting their tongues and genitalia, bleeding onto paper, setting it aflame, and letting the ashes rise up to the heavens.
            And that was their Saturday nights.    
            My question is: Why listen to these deranged peoples and their prophecies? Who would ever listen to crazy people spouting off about resurrection, ‘talking snakes’, virgin births, vindictive angels, and angry Gods?
            Oh, right, our last President. Yeah, the leader of the free world and the only person with access to the nuclear red button that could actually end the world.
            People have been talking about the end of the world since the world as we know it began. Ever hear about the Prophet Hen of Leeds in 1806, supposedly giving birth to eggs that had scrawled upon it “Christ is Coming”? People freaked out, went nuts, until someone found this hen and watched it until it let loose another egg that didn’t say shit. People moved on.
            And so will we.
            Lots of trouble going on these days and people are all worked up.
            As your bartender (to all of you thousands of readers, oh yes, we that level now kids), I must say, please, this drink is on me.
            Would you care for a proper Manhattan (chilled glass; 1 part Rye, 2 part Bourbon, ½ of Sweet Vermouth, a dash of bitters, and orange rind floating like a motherfucking canoe in there)?
            Or perhaps a Negroni? Or a Night Of Passion? A Sex on the Beach (with a towel) perhaps?
            Take a little sip, savor it, sit with the feeling for a moment.
            Close your eyes.
            I’ve made sure I’ve put on some wonderful music (‘Steady Petty’=Tom Petty rock blocks cure all problems). You feeling good? You feeling okay?
            Next, let me introduce you to my friends who also hang out at this bar. 
            You got Michael Blain over here. He’s pretty hilarious, devastatingly good-looking, and one of the best travel partners ever (you know the true test of a human is how well they can handle travel. I, or course, am an exceptional traveler, and have been told by many that if they had to be stuck on some lonely ass road in the middle of the Rocky Mountains they would want to be there with me. “You’re better than television”, an ex girl-friend once told me. I have always been transitory, better moving, and every time I start feeling the dust begin to settle upon my skin I get that strange feeling, much like when the seatbelt first locks your body in on the rollercoaster, I know it’s time to start ramblin’ on. A rolling stone gathers no moss, as they say ).
            Right over there a couple bar stools down is my Well-Published Friend Christopher Turck. You ever want to hustle anything, you better listen to this man. Some people say in common parlance ‘they wrote the book on it’. Well, ole Turck did write the book on it, and it’s 33rd on the New York Times Best Seller List. So listen hard and go fuck yourself.
            My buddy Wyatt just walked in. There is some Brazilian term I can never pronounce or remember about a person who lives only on his wits, never seems to work, and yet casually, and with much loose class, survives and prospers. This is Wyatt. You’ll love him.           
            Many have, in more ways than one.
            How’s that drink treating you?
            Let’s do a quick shot, you and me together, just for this December 21st, 2012.
            What are you having?
            Me? I’ll take cheap, well whiskey (I know, Diane, I know). You? High class shit? Of course. No problem. Here you go.
            Let us raise our class to this day. To everyday.
            Blain, Turck, Wyatt, get over here.
            Meet dear reader.
            Let me say a cheers:
            “Heaven is a woman who always laughs at my jokes, a bar that never closes and a great conversation that never ends”.
            Happy holidays, folks.    
            I’m going to California to listen to Christmas music while staring at palm trees.
            Yeah. Fuck it.
            It could be a helluva lot worse.
            Quick, amazing shout out to Lisette Voytko for giving The Bartender Knows her own shout out on her Facebook last week. You’re officially hired as The Bartender Knows press agent. We are trying to sell a book here, people, and every little bit helps.
            Also, thank you for all the great fan letters and comments I receive weekly from this blog. Don’t hesitate to keep sending questions you want me to answer. Spread this shit around guys. 
            Us bartenders may know a thing or two. Unless I'm in Paris (read) or in love ( read). 
            Than the bartender doesn't know shit.
            'Till next week!





Saturday, December 15, 2012

YOU ARE WHAT YOU DRINK (By Guest Blogger D, The Bartender's Bartender)

            Okay, it’s time again for another appearance by our infamous Guest Bartender D., The Bartender’s Bartender. As some of you know, D. has been a beloved bartender from our posse’s favorite, and now sadly shuttered for good, best dives to crawl out of Williamsburg, Brookyn: The Subway Bar and Cyn Lounge.
            D., battered and bruised, rising from the ashes of these two fine establishments, now has returned with a wonderful contribution to The Bartender Knows, You Are What You Drink. I have often wondered what it said about me that I preferred Well Whiskey and Budweiser as my choice intoxicants. I no doubt believe D. has her opinions. And, being my bartender (and knows roughly 67% about the truth of who I am and never fails to remind me of this fact) has seen me in my best and embarrassingly worst. This kind of intimacy is frightening, and slightly unfair. Unlike marriage, I don’t get any home-cooking, strange birthday sex requests, or a cuddling partner, I only receive the troubling scrutiny any bad husband would.
            D’s real name is Diane, and yes she still bartends in the neighborhood, but it’s up to y’all to find out where. I’ll give you a hint: craft beer and top shelf whiskey.
            Good luck in Williamsburg with that clue, dude!
            But if you find her, you will not be displeased: Hot, girl-next-door looks, always friendly, endlessly patient, and a waterfall of sarcasm, you couldn’t ask for a better bartender.
            But back to the immortal question?
            What does alcohol say about us?
            The bar is now open.            

            “Hey? What ya havin’?” I ask you when you walk in.
             I wonder if people realize how much their drink choice says about them. And that the bartender has already judged people by what they have just ordered. I mean, we categorize everyone the second they walk in the bar (sizing people up is an innate skill for service people. And 99% of the time, the initial assessment proves to be correct in the end).
            But you are what you drink, so let’s see what your drink choice says about you!

            VODKA SODA

            You are a 22 year old girl who just walked in the bar with 5 other 22 year old girls.
            It’s probably somebody’s birthday.
            You spent 3 hours getting ready to go out.
            You’re oddly dressed up for the shitty Irish dive bar you’ve found yourself in. And if you’ve somehow ended up in Brooklyn because one of your friends just moved to Williamsburg from Murray Hill, you look around bewildered like a deer in headlights, but pretending you are totally comfortable. Sort of looks like a rich kid looking for an apartment in a bad neighborhood.
            You come up to the bar and ask for a vodka soda which comes out as ‘vakkasodaaaa’, as in “lemmegettavakkasodaaaa”.
            Ugh. Then I inevitably ask, “What kind of VODKA would you like?”
            Blank stare.
            Ok fancy little lady. Shitty well vodka for you then.
            She’ll then order 5 more, one at a time. This is so frustrating.  
            People- please order all drinks at once. The bartender hates what could’ve been done in one motion will now takes five trips back and forth.
            This girl will leave a bad tip even though it’s her parent’s credit card. (She never has cash).
            Now, I know some people drink vodka sodas because they are lowest in calories and if you are watching your weight, I understand. Just know that this drink puts you in that category.
            If you are a 45 year old man and not a 22 year old girl drinking vodka sodas I am going to think you are a total weirdo.
            Drink a beer or a whiskey. Man up, dude.
            As for our gaggle of young ladies, they will continue drinking vodka sodas until they meet that special douchebag who works in finance and then get married and have babies and get fat and not care about drinking low caloric cocktails and switch to drinking wine all day with their equally rich miserable friends. 

            The common equalizer among us all.
            Everyone at one time or another is a beer drinker.
            My favorite beer drinkers are daytime lunch-break construction workers who will have 15 Budweiser’s before returning to work on whatever high rise or bridge they were working on.      
            They tip well, have great stories, and are usually local neighborhood guys or from Long Island and probably know my Uncle Jimmy.
            Nothing makes a slow afternoon shift fly by then a group of these guys. They put a pile of twenties on the bar and leave it up to me to do the math.
            This is a class move, as stated in a previous The Bartender Knows blog (bartender secrets pt. 1).
            On the other end of the beer lover’s spectrum lie the craft beer drinkers.
            Beer nerds!
            They like microbrews and know all about hops and yeast and other obscure beer shit, but it’s cool because they love beer, so they’re passionate about it. And they drink beer with 10% alcohol which is no joke. These guys are serious for beer.
            As for me, I want a beer in the summertime. A nice cold Budweiser. I want a beer at a barbecue or the beach or when I’ve had too much whiskey but don’t want to stop drinking.
            I want a forty on a stoop in a brown paper bag. There’s times when all you want is a beer. And so beer drinkers are alright by me. 

            I would like to describe the Hennessy drinker without stereotyping in general.
            But fuck it.
            If I am going to stereotypes 22 year old white girls and 50 year old blue collar dudes, I’m coming for you Hennessy drinker.
            This guy is a black dude, wearing lots of diamonds. He always pays cash. He has a wad of twenties in his pocket. He rolls deep with at least 5 other guys. He orders for everyone (usually at once—thanks for that Hennessy dude).
            If you don’t have Hennessy, he doesn’t want whatever your substitute cognac is. He doesn’t want Remy or Courvoisier. He likes name brands and is loyal to Hennessy. If you don’t have it, he will switch to Grey Goose or Patron.
            Whatever’s top shelf.
            Never whiskey.
            Maybe Jack. But that’s rare.
            Typically he does not wait patiently for service and will wave me down from across the bar despite how busy I clearly am. Usually he won’t tip. Like Europeans, many thug dudes pretend they don’t know about tipping or don’t see the point.
            But he’s putting far more money in the bar register with one round of Henny than six rounds of the hipster beer/shot combo, so for the sake of business, I accept that the bar is getting rich off this guy while I am not.
            So it goes. 

            Whisky drinkers are my all time favorite people.
            I may be biased because I myself am a whiskey drinker.
            What sets apart the whiskey drinker from the beer drinker or the other hard alcohols is that drinking whiskey is a skill one must learn. No one likes whiskey the first time they drink it.
            I remember the day I chose I be a whiskey drinker. I was 21 and had just moved to Brooklyn with my boyfriend. I felt like a grown up. I wanted to drink a grown up drink.
            I said to myself, you are going to learn to drink whiskey until you like it. And that, dear reader’s, is what I did.
            Jack Daniels.
            My first whiskey boyfriend.
            It was tough at first.
            Burned going down.
            My drinking coach (my Uncle Jimmy who exclusively drinks Dewars rock, pronounced “Dewahs”) told me, take a sip and as it goes down, breathe out.
            The burning stopped and I slowly started to LOVE the taste of whiskey. I also learned that Jack Daniels makes me, and most people I know, belligerent as a motherfucker.
            I switched to nice smooth Irish Jameson. My point is: Loving whiskey is for life.   Whiskey people don’t later become Vodka or Tequila people. We are married to that brown bottle forever, ‘till death do us part (maybe from cirrhosis).
            So when you saddle up to my bar and ask for a Jameson rocks or a Maker’s neat or a Manhattan up or whatever, just know I love you.
            I do.
            I just love you.
            Unless you order well whiskey. Then I know you’re cheap. But I still love you. Especially if you’re drinking a beer/whiskey shot combo. I mean, that’s just economical and times are tough.
            I understand.
            Love you anyway.

            Let’s give it up for Diane, The Bartender’s Bartender! And yes D, I am that cheap. But I’m rich in love, my dear. And sometimes in words.
            ‘Till next time! 





Monday, December 10, 2012

BARTENDER SOLACE (Where The Good Go To Be Bad)

            It’s hard out there for the working class.
            Seems like there’s trouble at every turn: rents due, girlfriend or boyfriend trouble, more taxes, no insurance, less security.  Each day there seems to be a new challenge, a new controversy, a new disaster that we, the mere working folk, must somehow drive asunder. And it’s no surprise why, night after night, people crowd into the bars, looking for advice, a funny story, and a friendly face.
            And the bartender is there, ready to help. Just like Charon of Greek Myth, if you got the silver coin, we will gladly row you to Hades.
            But what of the bartender?
            Who are these strange creatures? How did they get this position as salient helpers of the dispossessed?
            Always by accident.
            I certainly did not think when I was a wee lad I would be pacing behind the bar on greasy mats, endlessly relating anecdotes to a moderately attentive audience.
            I always knew I could talk.
            I had that down.
            I knew I could be fast and agile. I’m talkin’ octopus style fast, making 20 drinks in under 4 minutes fast.
            But the path towards this illustrious ‘career’ (if one could call merely drinking, doing basic arithmetic, and being able to talk to anyone who walks into your joint a ‘career’) is one fraught with much debasement and peril.
            I often wonder why some bartenders are total assholes. I know now, of course. You lose so many years of your life working your way up to work behind that 3 feet of sturdy wood that if some dumb punk ass trust fund kid gives you attitude you are more than happy to tell the kid to fuck off without guilt.
            The servant class gets into your blood stream, becomes you, something you cannot escape. You wear that sense of service like the shitty clothes your parents used to dress you in and you come to resent it. My Mother told me when I was just entering the world of hospitality, warning:
            “Matthew, be careful what becomes a choice now doesn’t turn into no choice at all later.”
            And, unfortunately, she was right.
            Now I’m in its tax-free money clutches.
            Now I’m 35.
            Now I have done this for so long I don’t know how to do anything else.  
            There are certain things that are ingrained in me. For instance, after years of waiting tables, I can no longer be served by anyone. The first moments of awkwardly being sat by the hostess irritate me to the point that by the time the server approaches the table with a tired smile and says:
            “Hi, I’m Fred, and I’ll be your server tonight…” it’s hard for me not to jump out of my skin with disgust.
            I don’t hate the waiters. I certainly don’t hate the art of service. I just can’t be waited on like those people who like to be waited on.
            They’re out there.
            Some sick little pompous nature in mankind loves to be catered and pampered to.
            I don’t have that gene. And if I did have that gene in the beginning, it has been burned out of my skin by the 20 years of customer service my life has added up to.
            Just like in war, the only people who know the battle are those who serve. And we are Legion.
            But what do we, Bartenders and Server alike, want after our long shift? Where do we like to go?
            Here’s a short list of what we, the servant class, really want out of life once we’ve throw our aprons and our church keys down for the evening.

            Seriously, shut the fuck up.
            After 10 hours of listening to the demands, desires, overheard confessions, and drunken nonsense, all we really want out of our evening is some goddamn peace and quiet.
            Like grave quiet.
            Hence why we service folk love our little dive bars where no one can find us. We need this peace. Dark, scary places like Rudy’s Bar in Hell’s Kitchen, The Levee Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn during the day, and what The Subway Bar was before it’s untimely death (to read more).
            It’s frightening how much us service people must escape the burping, gurgling, slurring, farting, bantering, hiccuping, coughing, snorting public. Every aspect of humanness, the disgusting nature of us after 4 drinks (not everyone can be a classy drunk), becomes a wincing affair. So we need the darkness, the escape. We need in a way to become inhuman, hidden like forest creatures away from the loud, polluted freeway of humanity.
            Have you watched people eat lately? Try (as any server does) watching hundreds of people eat WEEKLY. You will slowly come to understand the truth.
            Francis Bacon painted human beings as foul, meat-like horrid monsters. This is how he looked at humanity. This comes as no surprise to any service worker. We know how gross human beings are. We’ve cleaned your vomit off of our bar. We’ve mopped up the nasty-ass ladies bathroom at the end of the night (9 times out of 10 the ladies room is far more disgusting than the men’s room).
            What we want is a quiet, empty, shitty little bar where we can twiddle our thumbs and drift off into the abyss of our own dreams, forgetting your extra mayonnaise and light beer needs.

            This is huge. All of you know how much I want to strangle shitty bartenders. Reach right over and grip the smarmy, arrogant, necks of these over-privileged douche bags.  
            Just the other day, I walk into Matchless Bar in Greenpoint with a friend trying to get a well-needed beer. Now, anyone who has been in the neighborhood for awhile remembers that Matchless Bar used to be the cool alternative to the annoyingly uber-cool Enid’s back in the day (talking 2006 hood-year A.D.).  
            Now, the Hydra has taken over. 'Bar Matchless' (as they call themselves) added a stage, then a smoking patio, then a kitchen, then shitty metal that blares at ear-piercing levels, then an entire staff of complete asshole bartenders, slow as molasses, with noses stuck straight up their own beholden ass of hipness.
            I’ve made promises that I would never slander a public business ever again.
            Fuck that.
            Now this is happening.
            I walk into ‘Bar Matchless’ with my friend, already weary of the joint, but being that its 3pm, I’m thinking I might actually be able to get a decent drink only five minutes after I order it (it approximately takes 13 seconds or less to pour a beer). We walk into the not crowded bar and there’s a young brunette working behind the bar. She sees me and I smile and say hello.
            She scowls instantly.
            I look over at my boy Joe P. confused.
            She looks over again, and I say, very innocently: “How are you?”
            “Yeah,” she spits out, “I’ll be right with you, okay!”
            Her anger is immediate.
            Finally when she comes over, I try to stipulate: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by anything. I’m a bartender too, I was just…”
            “I’m trying to serve someone! Don’t you see that!”
            I look at Joe. He looks like Hitler just walked in the door, wide-eyed.
            “Jesus Christ man, let’s get outta here,” I tell him. We head for the door.
            “Yeah! BYYYYE!” The bartender screams out.
            We were blown away. This girl went from incompetent, unfriendly bartender to irrational cunt in 3 seconds.  
            We get out of there and go to the kinder, gentler Enid’s across the street.
            I vow not only to never set foot in ‘Bar Matchless’ again, but to talk shit on the bar as much as I can to as many people as I can. And I even know the owner, Larry, and he’s cool as fuck. But not cool enough, I suppose, to actually hire nice bartenders.    
            The last thing any working man needs is to deal with bullshit bartenders and/or service.    
            It’s not as crime to smile.
            It’s not a crime to inquire how someone is doing (but you wouldn’t believe that here in Williamsburg).
            It’s not a crime to want a beer.
            Life is hard.
            A barroom should not be.

            CHEAP ASS DRINKS

            The same 7 dollar tip has been being passed around for as long as service has been around.
            One hand washes the other.
            We work for tips, then head on out to another service establishment to hand over those same tips to another person who works for tips.
            It’s the life blood of this service world.
            We don’t want some 15 dollar cocktail. We don’t need the fancy service. We want to save as much of our cash money as we can when we get off our shifts. There’s only one good thing about getting paid by check: That money stays out of your drunk-ass pocket. ‘Cause when you get paid cash that day, it’s gonna get spent.
            I now know every ‘friendly’ source here in the neighborhood where I may find some financial protection. Each night I can find a quiet and inexpensive reprieve from our working day, and I take my people along with me. Because there is no worse feeling than working a whole shift and waking up in the morning to find all of the money you made is gone. It’s like working for free.
            And if you’ve been paying any kind of attention, working in the service world is not free, and takes more blood out of you than a vampire in an Anne Rice novel.

            All in all, the majority of service people are cool. Actually, most service people will be some of the most interesting people you will ever meet. We didn’t get into this business for our health. Most of us are artists, entrepreneurs, undiscovered rock stars, world travelers and family men and women. We have three jobs and still do our hobbies and interests despite our beat-down nature after making sure you have enough napkins, extra blue cheese and that buy-back shot we owed you.
            We are the life blood of the economy. There are over 20 million people working in the food and beverage industry in America.
            Chances are, you’ve already served today by one of us. Let's hope you tipped well. We need that for later.

            First off, big ups to Brent Hutchinson, who cordially invited me and my cronies to his bar “78 Below” in the Upper West Side. I appreciate the invite. We’ll be coming in soon enough Brent, what are you shifts?
            Note to other bartenders, far and wide, please write in. Your voice will be heard. The Bartender Knows always takes requests.
            Secondly, I must thank my Mother for shedding light on last week’s mystery of what “Florida Water” really is. Ponce De Leon, huh? I need some of that stuff.
            And finally, be prepared: The Bartender Knows pod cast is coming soon.
            Details shortly, and yes, I’ll be having guests.

            ‘Till next time!