Should Bartenders Just Drink Cocktails

A couple weeks ago a friend, Jennifer Seidman, posted the following on facebook:

“I think its time all bartenders come out of the closet and admit we don’t drink cocktails. Truth.”

On the other hand, a while back there was a Class Magazine Interview with Sasha Petraske.

Sasha Petraske: I’m No Genius

(If you have an interest in modern bars and cocktails, I recommend reading the whole article linked above.)

Along with other things, the following quote seems to have generated a lot of controversy among the cocktail and bartender crowds.

“And he’ll always expect his staff’s passion for cocktails to be more than skin-deep. ‘Cocktail bartenders should drink cocktails. If you prefer a beer, you are a hypocrite and are morally wrong. You probably make bad cocktails too. It’s like being an acupuncturist and going to see a western doctor when you get sick.’”

Provocative statement, eh, from the person who opened (or helped to open) Milk & Honey, Little Branch, White Star, The Varnish, Dutch Kills, and Weather Up.

The two statements, though, seem to represent such opposite views, that they got me thinking.

First, I think Mr. Petraske’s use of the words “hypocrite” and “morally wrong” are sheer hyperbole, designed to fuel the Sasha Petraske hype machine.

In my opinion, words or phrases like “hypocrite” and “morally wrong”, should be reserved issues of some consequence in the world, not referring to whether a bartender has a beer or a cocktail after work.

Second, many bartenders don’t drink AT ALL. Either because they are recovering, or for health and/or cultural reasons. I should say, “Many GREAT bartenders I know and RESPECT, don’t drink AT ALL.” I am not sure what Mr Petraske would say about these people; but historically, it is interesting to note, that many of the bartenders who have actually managed to publish cocktail or bar books later in their lives, were the ones who did not drink.

Third, Bartenders, even ‘cocktail bartenders’, serve more than cocktails at bars. It behooves us to be familiar with Beers, Wines, Spirits, Soft-Drinks, coffee, tea, etc., not just Cocktails. We have to have opinions on everything we serve, not just the cocktails.

Thus, If a bar or restaurant has an interesting wine or beer that I’ve been dying to try, I might drink that instead of availing myself of their cocktails.

Not to mention, if I’m having food, I’m going to pick an appropriate beverage to complement my meal, not blanket order cocktails with everything.

On the other hand, if you’re going to seriously make cocktails for a living, and want the rest of us to take your cocktails seriously, you REALLY should be familiar with the flavor profile of most of the classic cocktails AND you should be familiar with what your compatriots in the field are currently making. You should be able to rock a Mojito, a Manhattan, a Negroni, A Martini, a South-Side, etc. and they should taste like those drinks are supposed to taste like.

Far too often, especially when tasting cocktails for competitions, I’ve wondered if some of the competitors have even tasted the spirit they are mixing with, let alone been familiar with the flavor profile of classic cocktails. More often than not, these cocktails will just taste like soft-drinks, gazpacho, or chilled fruit soup with a shot a booze. Not a cocktail at all.

Finally, after finishing a long shift of bartending, cocktail making, and then finally cleaning the bar, a lot of times the last thing you want is to make, or drink, another god damned cocktail.

Something far simpler is appealing. That IS the truth.

What’s in Your Bartender Bag?

If you are working as a bartender, getting to work and discovering there aren’t enough mixing tins, strainers, or spoons sucks.

Thus, many people invest in their own tools.

Following the example of the lovely folks at Ford Mixology Lab, I will show you what I take to work when I am bartending:

1 Small Cutting Board
Cocktail Recipe Book
Paring Knife
Wine Key
(I should have a pen)
2 Bar spoons
1 Disk Style Bar Spoon
1 Pug Muddler
1 Small Sieve
3 AG Hawthorne Strainers
4 18 oz Naranja Tins
4 28 oz Naranja Tins
2 Yarai Mixing Glasses
(We usually have plenty of measuring jiggers where I currently work, so I don’t bother to bring them. If I was working a catering gig or somewhere I wasn’t familiar, I would bring a set of measuring jiggers.)

(RE?) Experience The Eighties

If you read Robert Simonson’s articles at his blog Off The Presses (make it simple but significant) you may have read his recent notice for a special cocktail night at temporary cocktail bar Fatty Johnson’s:

The Seventies Live Through Cocktails at Fatty Johnson’s

On Feb. 16, Brian Miller and Toby Cecchini, two of the more talented bartenders in New York, deigned to employ their nimble fingers in the creation of such cocktail world bête noires as the Alabama Slammer and Appletini, and other creations of the 1970s and 1980s—the era considered to be the nadir of cocktail culture of drinks historians. On Facebook, they christened this evening “The Night the Cocktail Died.” The menu at Fatty Johnson’s read “Goose and Maverick Present Lipstick on Pigs.” (“Top Gun” did not play on the bar’s television sets. Rather we were treated to a swath of Chevy Chase films.) Cecchini, whose early work at Odeon was partly responsible for the popularity of the Cosmopolitan, showed particular good humor by including that “Sex and the City” staple on the list.

Unfortunately, many of us live on the West Coast, so stopping by a Brooklyn bar last week was probably out of the question. Well, unless you are a globe trotting cocktail consultant, bartender, journalist, or brand ambassador, but my envy causes me to digress.

Fortunately, the bartenders of Heaven’s Dog will be coming to the rescue.

If you have a craving for a (vegan!) pink daiquiri jello shot or a house made Alabama Slammer, this Saturday, Feb 26, 2011, is the night.

White Reeboks and pegged pants will be de rigueur and BMX bike, robot, or break dancing optional.

Personally, I am going to be wearing exactly what I did in the Eighties: Flannel Shirt, Jeans, and running shoes. Oh, wait…

Besides, I bet the drinks will be better at Heaven’s Dog than they were at “The Night the Cocktail Died”.

The menu:

COCKTAILS AND DREAMS

HEAVENS DOG SAULTES THE 80’S AND THE DRINKS YOU LOVE TO HATE

 

 

SLOW COMFORTABLE SCREW

House SoCo (Peach infused Old Bardstown Bourbon), Plymouth Sloe gin, Plymouth gin, organic orange juice

 

PINK DAQUIRI JELLO SHOTS

Dedicated to our favorite 80’s bartender Thad Vogler. Lime, El Dorado rum, Peychaud’s bitters

TEQUILA SUNRISE

There was a time when Kurt Russel and the Tequila Sunrise reigned supreme.

Herencia Tequila, organic orange juice, lime, cassis

 

BIRTHDAY CAKE SHOTS

Madagascar vanilla bean infused vodka, Frangelico, sugared lemon

 

LONG ISLAND ICE TEA

A four bottle free pour of all of the white spirits, lemon, sugar, cola

 

KAMAKAZI

Vodka, lime, Cointreau (sub gin and bitters on request)

 

PINK SQUIRREL

Jennifer’s pink crème de noyeau and crème de cacao shaken with cream

FROZEN STRAWBERRY MARGARITA

Now we finally have an answer to “what kind of margarita’s do you have” why organic strawberries with lime and Herencia blanco of course.

Ice Capades

I’ve admired Andrew Bohrer’s writing on his website Cask Strength for a couple years now.

Last year, I finally got to meet the man when we both participated in the B.A.R. Advanced seminars and testing when it was held in San Francisco.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been to Seattle for a few years, so had yet to experience his stylings behind the bar.

When Amanda Womack, of Cask Store, mentioned that they were going to bring him down for a special event at Bourbon and Branch, I was pretty psyched that I would finally get to taste some of Andrew’s drinks.

When I further received a note from Andrew, asking if he thought Heaven’s Dog would be able to help him score some clear ice for ice spheres in one of his drinks, I quickly sent a note to Erik Adkins. He was as into the idea as I was.

Two 300 pound blocks of Sculpture grade ice.

Really, there’s a bar called Heaven’s Dog back there.  I don’t know why you don’t stop by more often, we have really good cocktails…

At this point, Erik A. said, “I just realized I can’t leave this ice out here unattended, because someone will probably pee on it.”

Andrew scores the ice, so we can cut it in even slices.

Chainsaw Tuesday.

Scoring the slices for further cutting.

The press was even in attendance!  Local clear ice savant Camper English takes notes for his article Ice Meets Chainsaw. Check out the action videos of middle aged wanna be bartenders risking life and limb sawing ice with a chainsaw.

Andrew was also cool enough to give us a little seminar on cutting ice for spheres, cubes, and “diamonds”.

If you get up to Seattle, please do visit Andrew at his current place of business, Mistral Kitchen. I hear the cocktails and food are outstanding.

Bartender Benefit

Just a reminder that tonight is the benefit for Tony Devencenzi at Enrico‘s.

Details from the press release:

San Francisco Bartenders Unite to Help Tony Devencenzi
Fundraiser at Enrico’s on January 5th Raises the Issue of
Affordable Health Insurance as well as the dedicated bond the bar community has for one another!

San Francisco, CA–December 29, 2008—The United States Bartenders Guild, San Francisco Chapter (SF USBG) and friends and family of Tony Devencenzi have united to put together a benefit to raise funds to defray Tony’s rising medical costs. An affable barman at The Clock Bar, Tony was struck by a car on Sunday December 14, 2008. He is in stable condition and is expected to recover entirely over time; however, his lack of health insurance and loss of work time only equates to escalating bills.

The SF USBG established a Bartender Relief Fund earlier this year to help uninsured bartenders in times of need.

“In the past couple of years we have seen a few of our colleagues suffer traumatic situations with no insurance and loss of work,” stated USBG Vice President H. Joseph Ehrmann. “Sadly, we did not expect to use the funds we have raised so soon after establishing the fund. The need for affordable health insurance is once again brought to light amongst career bartenders.”

The benefit will be on this Monday, January 5, 2009 at Enrico’s Sidewalk Café from 6:30-11:30 p.m. Enrico’s has generously donated the space and food for the event. Donations are welcome at the door, $10 raffle tickets will be sold onsite and a silent auction will begin at 6:30 and end at 10:30 p.m. Key raffle and auction items include magnums of wine, top notch spirits, cocktail book as well as, restaurant gift certificates and a night of Chef Joey Altman cooking at one’s home…and much much more!

Live Music by The Backstreet Burner Blues band with headliner Joey Altman from 8:30-10:00 p.m.

The bars will be staffed by some of the best in the Bay—donating 100% of all tips and proceeds to the fund. Additionally, bars across the city have set up Tips for Tony jars including Levende Lounge and Clock Bar.

All donations can be made out to USBG and mailed to the USBG at 95 Fairmont Dr., Daly City, Ca 94015 or email the USBG at NorCalUSBG(a)gmail.com with the amount you would like to donate via credit card.

About the USBG:
The U.S.B.G. is an association of bartenders who come together to share their common interest: the craft of mixology.
Our Guild is made up of exceptional bartenders who take great pride in the cocktails we serve. At every opportunity we use only the freshest ingredients and quality spirits to craft a well-balanced, professional product.

For more information, go to Celebration for Tony on Facebook or email darizzo(a)gmail.com.

Help a Bartender in Need

Local bartender Tony Devencenzi was recently struck by a car while walking in San Francisco.

He was hospitalized at San Francisco General Hospital and his condition required emergency surgery.  He is expected to make a full recovery, but unfortunately, at the time, he was without insurance coverage.

The San Francisco chapter of the United States Bartender Guild, through it’s recently organized Bartender Relief Fund, is organizing a benefit on his behalf.

It will be held on January 5th at Enrico’s in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco begining at 6:30 PM until 11:30.  There will be live music, raffle, silent auction and drink specials.

All Proceeds will to Tony through the USBG Relief Fund, a 501c3 Charity. Checks can be made out to the USBG and are tax-deductible.

For more info or to make a donation contact Debbie Rizzo.

Debbie Rizzo
Drink PR
darizzo(a)gmail.com