Bartenders are Cool

Well, you know, I suppose not all bartenders are cool, but I just have to pause and mention how great and supportive the men and women who work behind the bar in San Francisco (and elsewhere) have been regarding my little obsession with the Savoy Cocktail Book.

I mean, really, I’m just another cocktail nerd with a blog.

Mrs. Underhill, who really has more experience with bartenders and their late night world than I do, always tells me, look out for these guys, don’t take it seriously. Whatever happens, don’t take it personally.

And, fair enough.

I don’t really live in that world.

But here’s a funny story…

I grew up as an adopted child in the Midwest. For whatever reason, my adoptive Mom never allowed us in the kitchen to cook or even really do dishes. We didn’t go to bars or really know any bartenders.

A few years later, while at college, I found myself working in kitchens, doing dishes, and eventually cooking.

I really enjoyed cooking and did it for a number of years. After cooking, I discovered I had talent for technical problem solving, i.e. QA, and found a career in Information Technology.

Many years later, last Christmas actually, through a bizarre series of coincidences, I met my genetic Father.

As it turned out my real parents met while my genetic Dad was working as a bartender. They didn’t really know each other. Really. My genetic Dad doesn’t remember my Mom at all. After they split, my genetic Dad later worked as an engineer and problem solver for an automotive company in the Midwest. When that fizzled, he started working in food service, and has been working in it for the last 30 years.

At over 70 he is still helping a friend of the family open a cafe in northern Wisconsin.

I’m sorry if this is giving my adoptive parents, who I love, short shrift, but what the fuck does this all mean?

Am I not too old to be worrying about this sort of shit?

Why am I here, finding the very career which literally spawned me, interesting?

And to bring this all the way around…

While I have had nothing but good experiences with San Francisco bartenders, it seems like my Dad, at least back then, might have been one of those bartenders Mrs. Underhill always warns me about.

Crazylandia Ten

Earlier in the week, I had sent a note to a friend, Trott, asking if he or anyone he knew might be interested in dropping by to act as “guinea pigs” for a little drink mixing experiment. I figured I should give making these drinks for other people a shot.

Trott brought along the lovely Humuhumu, upping the ante a bit. When I sent him the drink list, he assured me I would be making a Queen’s Park Swizzle.

Unfortunately, after a bout with food poisoning, Humuhumu was not up to too much imibibing. Nonetheless, we ordered pizza, Nepalese food, and had a good evening of it. Of course I did see them again on Saturday, at which point they asked for the same again, so I guess it didn’t go too badly! In fact, I think I may have Trott addicted to the Carter Beats the Devil.

Speaking of making drinks for people, one of the things which worried me most about bartending was the service aspect of the job. I’d mentioned to E. that I was a bit nervous about the job.

But then I thought about it a bit…

Earlier in this series of posts, I’ve mentioned that my first job in food service was at a Brat und Brau. My first actual job there was taking orders at the counter. I would take the orders, accept the cash, and then the patrons’ food would be delivered to their tables. At the end of my first, or maybe second, night it was noticed that the till was off by a ridiculous magnitude. Now, a little would be OK, as I was just starting out, and never have been that great at handling money. But this was a couple hundred dollars! Needless to say, I was quickly moved off of the till. However I have always suspected, even then, that the manager was using my green status to steal from the till. Sorry dude, wherever you may be, but there is no way I was that far off. In any case, I was a sincere, hard worker, so was given a job doing set up and prep. The job payed the same, was less stressful, and I was better at it. No big deal. The experience, however, soured me a bit on working with money and customers.

On the other hand, the next time I did work with money and customers was at the coffee shop. If it wasn’t that busy, we would work both the cash register and the espresso drinks. Now that I think about it, this is probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to bartending and I remember quite enjoying it. We had some regulars who we got to know. They would come in to chat and make small talk. We’d make them their order or ring it up without them really having to tell us what they wanted. It was nice. And I remember no unfortunate accidents or incidents involving my till being off by a ridiculous magnitude.

I mean, sure, the drugs bartenders and espresso jerks serve are a bit different. At the coffee shop, you don’t usually have to eject a customer because they are getting too jittery or wired!

Still, the jobs aren’t altogether different, and I remember it being the highlight, (other than meeting Mrs. Underhill,) of that period of my life. So maybe I do make too much of that first experience at Brat und Brau.