Vermouth de Chambery

I was recently reading through David Embury’s “Fine Art of Mixing Drinks“, specifically the sections on Vermouth.

One of the more amusing, and interesting, sections I ran across was in regards to his disapproval of the new popularity of clear Dry Vermouth from the Chambery region of France, especially as it compares to his favorites, Noilly Prat Orignal Dry and the mysterious Lillet Vermouth.

“I cannot leave the subject of current brands of French vermouth without comment on Boissiere (pronounced bwa -see-air), made by Ets. Chambery-Comoz of Chambery France, “Inventors of the White Vermouth.” Actually, while there are others better it is not a bad vermouth. The trouble is that, however horrified the manufacturers may be at this result, it has been a godsend to gyp bars. A 3-1 or even 2-to1 Martini made with Boissiere will be lighter in color than a 7-1 made with most other vermouths. Unfortunately all too many untrained drinkers judge the dryness of their Martinis, not by the flavor, but by color. Who, then, can blame the bar, in business primarily for profit, for copping an extra dime by taking advantage of their lack of sophistication and educated taste? Other vermouth manufacturers are now copying this trick and, to my taste, have completely ruined their products thereby.”

So, in 1948, here we have David A. Embury, King Cocktail Nerd if there ever was one, decrying the lack of color and flavor in Dry Vermouth.

Fast Forward 60 years, or so, and the supreme cocktail nerds of our time have the exact same reaction of horror when Noilly Prat decides to standardize their vermouth formula and reintroduce color and flavor into the Dry Vermouth they sell in the United States.

You really can’t ever win…

Don’t Your Arms Get Tired?

Early evenings at Heaven’s Dog, especially when there is a show on at the Orpheum, we get a lot of families in to the restaurant.

The other night the restaurant was booked, so a family of 6 sat in front of me at the bar.

The young man who sat directly in front of me, probably about 8 years old, seemed to be completely fascinated by my activities making cocktails. I made some small talk with him, and eventually he asked the following question and made an observation which I thought was just the cutest, most innocent comment ever.

“Don’t your arms get tired? Because, I know when I’ve been skipping stones all day on the lake, my arms are tired the next day.”

Don’t You Get Tired of Pouring?

The other night, one of our regular guests asked me, “Don’t you get tired of pouring things?” which kind of amused me.

But it also reminded me, I never did a round up of the writeups I did for ‘Cocktail’ Boothby’s “Ten Commandments for Bartenders” a couple years ago.

So after working as a bartender 3 nights a week for the last 9 months or so, has it afforded me any added perspective for these ‘Commandments’?

Boothby’s Ten Commandments for Bartenders

I. Always be on time to relieve the other watch. It is a good plan to make a practice of arriving a few minutes early so as to arrange your toilet and step to your station on time.

I stand by everything I said in the previous post, but will also add, you should not only be on time, but also have eaten before your shift. Seems a little odd to say you should eat before going to work at a restaurant, but the fact of the matter is, if the restaurant is busy, you may not get to take your break until nearly close. There is nothing uglier than the freak out caused by a lot of caffeine and a little booze on an empty stomach.

II. See that your finger nails are always clean and your person presents a tidy appearance.

Nothing new to add here, bartending is a minor adjunct to the performing arts, your appearance and carriage is as important as your ability to make drinks.

III. Always appear pleasant and obliging under all circumstances.

When I arrived one night, my boss called me to say that the other person who normally worked couldn’t make it. I would be on my own for the course of the evening. His comment was, “You’ll probably go down in flames, but the most important thing is to go down in flames gracefully.” The ability to keep your composure and grace under just about any situation is one of the most important skills you need to develop as a bartender. If you lose that, you lose the people on the other side of the bar.

IV. Avoid conversations of a religious or political nature.

As a performer, you don’t always get to choose your own lines. Something I might say to my wife, or language I might use with my friends may not be appropriate, or may even be offensive, to some random person who has come in to the bar for a drink. Gauge your situation and choose your words carefully. As a bartender you are setting the tone for the room.

V. When going off watch always dry and polish all the glassware and tools which you have used on your watch, and see that everything is in its proper place, so that your relief can work to advantage as soon as he arrives at his post.

You are part of a team, even if you never see the person who works the next day. Show them the respect they deserve by doing your job completely.

VI. Sell all the liquor you can, but use as little as possible yourself.

Different bars have different rules and cultures regarding drinking on the job. In some states, it is even illegal to have drunk within hours of going to work, let alone on the job. In San Francisco, there is no such law, so we are left to make our own choices. One of my coworkers said, “I don’t like to drink while I’m working, it messes with my time management skills,” which totally makes sense to me. If you are serious about the job, you need to know your limits and stick to your own rules.

VII. If you are troubled with sore feet, bathe them regularly. Avoid patched or ragged hosiery, and wear a comfortable shoe with a heavy sole. Light soles, low cut shoes or slippers should never be worn behind a bar.

I’ve gone through a bunch of different shoe and sock choices since I wrote this up originally. The above still makes sense, you definitely need a shoe with good arch support and a non-slip sole to be on your feet for 8 hours a day several days a week. I’m currently wearing Red Wing 607 6″ Boots and Woolrich 10-Mile Over-The-Calf socks.

VIII. Keep the floor behind the bar as dry as possible. It not only looks better, but you will find your health greatly improved by following this rule. Many bartenders contract rheumatism, neuralgia and many other serious complaints through carelessness in this report.

As far as health goes, still not sure about the wet floor, but you do need to keep yourself flexible and in pretty decent shape to avoid injury. Lower Back, Shoulders, Elbows, and Wrists are definitely the pain points. Keep those muscles flexible and in shape.

IX. After using a bottle or tool always replace it before doing anything else. Make this a rule that should never be broken; and, when you are rushed with business, you will never be compelled to hunt for this or that, but you will always know just where it is.

I still don’t have much to add to Andrew Bohrer’s eloquent post, “Get your fucking mise in order!” Go read it again.

X. After a party has finished drinking, remove the glassware from the bar as soon as possible, and dry and polish the bar top immediately, never allowing a particle of moisture to remain. This is a very important rule.

Again, I don’t have much to add to my previous post, but this quote from Philip Duff sums up much of what I have learned in the last 6 months, “I love taking care of people in a way that goes beyond drinks.” ‘Nuff said.

Life in the Service Industry

“What? You actually want to work more in bars!? I used to work in bars, and those were some strange years. You must work in a nice bar.”

You know, it’s funny, when I ran the idea of giving up tech for working in bars past various friends, it was the people who actually worked in bars who tended to be more circumspect.

The people who I work with in Tech were mostly all, “Dude! You could be bartending for a living!? And you’re not doing it!? Live the dream, bartenders are cool!”

Whereas, those who currently worked in bars, or had worked in them in the past, were more like, “Well, it would be great for the bartending community and our restaurant if you did work here, but think about how it will work out with your wife and your schedules.” Or, “I liked making cocktails, but by the end of the week, I just couldn’t deal with the customer service aspect of the job.” Or, “It’s one thing to work once in a while, like you’ve been doing, but entirely another to do it for a living. Not so glamorous mopping vomit, clearing clogged toilets, and scouring the graffiti off the mirrors.”

Life in the Service Industry

A representative from a large liquor company was in to our fine establishment the other night.

Among the products he was presenting to us was Pink Pigeon Rum.

One of my coworkers was playing with the odd pink rubber ring around the neck of the bottle.

“So what is this rubber ring on the Pink Pigeon bottle? A Live Strong Bracelet?”

“No, it’s a cock ring.”

“…”

“Do you want to hear the story?”

Well, what bartender can resist a good story?

The story of Pink Pigeon Rum, as relayed to us by the company representative:

Berry Brothers and Rudd were negotiating for a lot of well aged rum from a small island in the South Pacific. However, when they arrived on the Island, they discovered the stocks of the aged rum were lower than expected, not enough to bring a product to market.

This prompted the representative from Berry Brothers & Rudd to have one of the sorts of sociopathic hissy fits which our society allows in entitled executives, but discourages in the underprivileged.

“*(#()@P!!! What else do you have on this Godforsaken rock that would make my trip worthwhile? The only other thing I know of from this island is the $*#(@&! Dodo and it’s &$#*@&! extinct!!”

The representative from the island, mistaking the executive’s venom for an interest in local fauna replied, “No sir, not just Dodo, we also have the Pink Pigeon, which is only nearly extinct. It is pink, like flamingos, from eating shrimp. But it is nearly extinct because the boy pigeons don’t like to mate with the girl pigeons. Girl pigeons are hens, what is your word for boy pigeon?”

“We call them cocks.”

“Ah, yes, so every time we find a cock which does like the hens, we put a ring on it. A cock ring.”

So, apparently, this exchange not only entertained the executive enough to create a vanilla flavored, spiced rum named “Pink Pigeon”, but he also decided it would be extremely amusing to put a Cock Ring on the neck of every bottle of the Rum.

I will leave it to you to decide as to whether they should also have included a packet of condoms with every bottle.

It was the best of times…

With apologies to Charles Dickens.

It was the best of times…

Technology jobs booming like no other industry, Heather Perlberg, Bloomberg News

“Among U.S. technology companies with a market value of more than $100 million, almost 50 increased employment by more than half in the most recently reported two-year period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Some small and midsize businesses boosted payrolls by almost fivefold, underscoring the resilient demand for Internet services, software and electronics.”

…It was the worst of times…


Old Techies Never Die; They Just Can’t Get Hired as an Industry Moves On, By AARON GLANTZ

“While Web-based companies like Facebook and Google are scouring the world for new talent to hire, older technology workers often find that their skills are no longer valued…Kris Stadelman, director of NOVA, the local work force investment board, which released a survey of human resource directors at 251 Bay Area technology companies last July, said that in her experience, candidates began to be screened out once they reached 40.”

Dog

“Dog,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The dog trots freely in the street
and sees reality
and the things he sees
are bigger than himself
and the things he sees
are his reality
Drunks in doorways
Moons on trees
The dog trots freely thru the street
and the things he sees
are smaller than himself
Fish on newsprint
Ants in holes
Chickens in Chinatown windows
their heads a block away
The dog trots freely in the street
and the things he smells
smell something like himself
The dog trots freely in the street
past puddles and babies
cats and cigars
poolrooms and policemen
He doesn't hate cops
He merely has no use for them
and he goes past them
and past the dead cows hung up whole
in front of the San Francisco Meat Market
He would rather eat a tender cow
than a tough policeman
though either might do
And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
and past Coit's Tower
and past Congressman Doyle of the Unamerican Committee
He's afraid of Coit's Tower
but he's not afraid of Congressman Doyle
although what he hears is very discouraging
very depressing
very absurd
to a sad young dog like himself
to a serious dog like himself
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant
to him
The dog trots freely in the street
and has his own dog's life to live
and to think about
and to reflect upon
touching and tasting and testing everything
investigating everything
without benefit of perjury
a real realist
with a real tale to tell
and a real tail to tell it with
a real live
	   barking
		  democratic dog
engaged in real
		free enterprise
with something to say
		         about ontology
something to say
		about reality
			        and how to see it
					      and how to hear it
with his head cocked sideways
			        at streetcorners
as if he is just about to have
			  his picture taken
				              for Victor Records
		         listening for
				His Master's Voice
	and looking
		       like a living questionmark
				       into the
			               great gramophone
			           of puzzling existence
           with its wondrous hollow horn
	      which always seems
               just about to spout forth
			         some Victorious answer
				     to everything

 


Document URL: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/dog.html
Last modified: Wednesday, 18-Jul-2007 16:25:37 EDT

A Dog’s Life

You may recall, in 2009, I started working behind the bar on a semi-regular basis. Guest bartending at Alembic Bar once a month for our Savoy Cocktail Book nights, and occasionally working at Heaven’s Dog, either as a fill in bartender or on Sunday nights.

As the end of 2011 approached, some regular bartending shifts at Heaven’s Dog opened up, and I talked to the bar manager about covering them.

I could either pass on the opportunity, or take a chance on finding out what it was like to work more nights a week as a bartender.

So, in November and December, in addition to my full time job at UCSF and Savoy Nights at Alembic, I started working three nights a week at Heaven’s Dog, going straight from one job to the other.

On one hand, this was a crazy amount to work, basically 9AM until Midnight 3 nights a week, but on the other, even Mrs. Flannestad noticed that I seemed to be “happier”, if tired-er. Well, not to mention, in the food service world, these aren’t even crazy hours; many of the cooks, barbacks, and dishwashers in the restaurant easily bested me for hours worked for those two months.

As December wore on, though, it was starting to get apparent that I couldn’t keep doing this indefinitely, and if I wasn’t careful, the hours were going to take a toll on my health and my relationship with Mrs. Flannestad.

In my head, I looked towards the UCSF Winter break as my finish line, and started mentioning to Mrs. Flannestad the idea of doing one thing or the other, but especially bartending.

I’ve done lots of different things in my life. I’ve worked as a line cook, I’ve delivered coffee, I worked as a janitor, worked as a dish washer, tested video games, maintained computers, etc. For over the last 15 years, I’ve worked in the Information Technology field, which is a long time for any job in my life. Maybe it was time to try something different. Find inspiration elsewhere.

I have always loved food and drink, maybe that was the way to go.

We came to a decision, and I gave notice at UCSF, my last day would be the last day before the Winter Break.

Visit family for the holiday, come back, maybe work part time for a month or two while I regroup and gather my thoughts, but hopefully make a living in restaurants once again.

Of course, nothing is quite that simple, when I gave notice at UCSF, they countered with an offer to stay on temporarily at half time in the New Year.

As I hadn’t yet organized full time hours as a bartender, it seemed like a safe bet to take.

That’s where I am now, I’ve completed my first month as a part time tech worker and part time bartender.

As far as I can tell, I’ve got a couple more months of this, feet in both worlds, before I absolutely have to start looking for new opportunities, but I’m excited. A new year, a new start, interesting new challenges.

As Mrs. Flannestad said to me, “This is the first time, in a long time, that I can remember you actually being excited about a job.”

Here’s to interesting times!

Life in the Service Industry

“Is this someone influenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers or someone who influenced them?”

It’s Funkadelic, the title song from their album “Cosmic Slop”, so I’m going to go with “Influencer”.

—-

“I want to get a Corgi and name it ‘Stein’.”

“Stein”? Why Stein, some German thing?

“There’s this Anime, “Cowboy Bebop”, which has a Corgi named ‘Ein’ in it, named after Albert Einstein. Then I want to name my child ‘Albert’. Do you think that is too weird?”

Well, weird names are kind of in these days… “Cowboy Bebop” was a great series. Movie was a little disappointing, but you know.

“Yeah, if you hadn’t had enough by the time you got the movie, it wouldn’t have been perfect.”

Unnamed Brooklyn Variation (That Other Thing)

2 oz Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Cardamaro
1 generous teaspoon Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with grapefruit twist.

Controversial Ice Cutting

So apparently, cutting ice with a big knife is controversial. I’ve gotten more comments about that video than pretty much any other post I’ve done.

Anyway, here are some video demos of the techniques. Camper English took them while Andrew Bohrer was visiting San Francisco.

Sculpting Ice Cubes with a Knife:

Shaving Ice with a Knife:

Sculpting an Ice Ball with a Knife:

And, oh yeah, some old guy cutting an ice block with a chainsaw:

For more information, and further videos, check Camper’s post on Alcademics:

Ice Meets Chainsaw