Boothby’s Ten Commandments: X.

Boothby

As I mentioned before, Anchor Distilling recently reprinted the 1891 edition of “Cocktail Boothby’s American Bar-Tender“.

As someone who is somewhat involved in the bartender trade, I always enjoy going through old books and reading the advice that appears. Usually, I am amazed at how little has changed. How valid pieces of advice contained in a book from 1891 can be 118 years later.

So I thought I would go through Boothby’s “Ten Commandments” for bartenders one by one and see which ones still make sense for the 21st Century.

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.

I know it is unappealing to customers to see a used place setting or drink before they sit down, but this quote reminded me of a passage that Philip Duff recently wrote on Joerg Meyer’s blog:

Philip Duff left DOOR 74 in Amsterdam

7. It Is Cool To Be A Waiter
I have defined myself as a bartender for twenty years.I am perhaps the world’s worst waiter, and would have to be serving alongside Stevie Wonder to be come anywhere but last in a Waiting League Table. In my athletic and carefree youth, I recoiled from the idea of waitering with as much shock and horror as a Pope would when, unwrapping his Christmas presents in front of the prelates, it turns out that prankster Richard Dawkins has sent him a dual-speed Sybian machine and a tub of Vaseline. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit of a fundamentalist. “Once a waiter, never a bartender!” we used to snigger back in the day. But in the course of hosting and waitering in my bar, I learned to love it. It is a different set-up to bartending: as a bartender, you just stand there and guests come to you. It fascinated me to be able to welcome people, seat them, serve them and look after them. It was so much easier to make them happy, I discovered. I still suck mightily at the technique of waitering, you understand – mere mention of my tray skills is enough to give the remaining door 74 staff the haunted look of Vietnam veterans hearing the whop-whop-whop of helicopter rotors – but I love taking care of people in a way that goes beyond drinks.

As someone who only ever worked back of house in restaurants, it’s a bit of a trip for me to actually have to talk to people about the food and wine we serve in our restaurant. I mean not only talk to people but act as a (pathetically bad) waiter. Under the right circumstances I can geek out about cocktails and spirits until the cows come home, but to actually get the whole gestalt of a bar/restaurant thing is a challenge. Answer questions like, “What wine is the best choice with this dish?” or, “What dishes would you recommend?”

I read Michael Procopio’s Food for the Thoughtless and Vanessa Vachit-Vadakian’s blog good things come to those who wait.  I try to parse the lessons from those resources and others to improve my hospitality skills.

Some nights at the bar, I feel like I learn more from the wait staff about service, than about cocktails.

I was talking to a friend about it and he had the exactly right insight.

No matter how important a lot of people want to try to make bartending seem, star bartenders and all that bullshit, at the most basic, it is a minimum wage service job.  Period.

If you can’t hang with that, or if you don’t get any satisfaction out of SERVING customers, well, maybe this is the wrong career for you.

Serious.

Boothby’s Ten Commandments: IX.

Boothby

As I mentioned before, Anchor Distilling recently reprinted the 1891 edition of “Cocktail Boothby’s American Bar-Tender“.

As someone who is somewhat involved in the bartender trade, I always enjoy going through old books and reading the advice that appears. Usually, I am amazed at how little has changed. How valid pieces of advice contained in a book from 1891 can be 118 years later.

So I thought I would go through Boothby’s “Ten Commandments” for bartenders one by one and see which ones still make sense for the 21st Century.

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.

If there is any one thing, especially, that previously working as a line cook helped me with as a bartender, it is exactly this.

The idea of getting your station set up exactly the same every night, everything in reach, supplies topped up, and keeping it clean and in order for the length of your shift.

Fancy cooks use the French term “mise en place” or just “mise” for this, which means, more or less, “everything in its place”.

Ideally, you’d be able to close your eyes and make the drinks without much of a problem.

Look, as a bartender, you have to juggle a lot of things in your head. The drink orders from the dining room, the people standing in front of you, customers’ money, customers’ drinks, customers’ food orders, the last thing the wait staff asked you for. All that stuff you have to keep straight.

If you can take one thing out of your head, so you don’t have to think about it, don’t have to look for that bottle during a busy shift, you should do it. Setting up your station adequately and keeping it organized is the best way to do that.

Andrew Bohrer explained this much more “poetically” in his post, Get Your Fucking Mise in Order.

House Manhattan (Well Shaken!)

If you know me at all, you know my favorite cocktails are Manhattans and variations thereupon.

Generally, the Manhattan is the first drink I ask for from a bartender I don’t know.  If they can manage to get something tasty in a glass involving bitters, whiskey, and a decent portion of fresh sweet vermouth I feel like maybe I can trust their judgement.

I also take great pride in the beautiful, clear, cold Manhattans I make for customers.  I think they are as good a Manhattan as you will get, anywhere in the world.

I even bring my personal Yarai mixing glasses to work and chill them in our glass freezers, for a little extra silkiness in stirred drinks like Manhattans and Martinis.

I was working the service well the other night and an order came back, “2 House Manhattan, Well Shaken”.

I flagged down the server and asked, “Really? Are you sure they don’t mean well stirred?” She said, “No, they said they wanted them Well Shaken.”

OK then.  I loaded the Manhattans up in two of my tins and shook the living hell out of them.

Poured the frothy, cloudy, monstrosities into cocktail glasses, garnished them with a lemon twist, and sent them out.

About a half an hour later, another ticket came back, “2 House Manhattans, Well Shaken”.

Again loaded up two of my tins and shook the living hell out of them.

I smiled and mentioned to the server, “You know, every time I do this, I die a little inside.” She laughed, nervously, unclear if I was joking.

A half an hour later, another ticket came back, “2 House Manhattans, Well Shaken”.

“I’m just trying to keep you in shape,” the server remarked.  I said, “Just as long as it is two at a time, I do need to practice shaking two drinks at once.”

I know some bartenders would have gotten all upset about making shaken Manhattans, maybe refused to do it, or tried to talk the customers out of it.  Unfortunately, it was for a table in the dining room, so I had no chance to interact with them.  But even if it was at the bar, look, we sold three rounds of House Manhattans to paying, happy customers.  If they’d been at the bar and I tried to get all up in their faces about shaken Manhattans not being “proper”, they might have ordered one drink and walked out.

If you first earn the customers trust, you have a chance of changing their mind as the evening progresses.  In my experience, if you first force your ideas onto them, they will have one drink, pretend to like it, pay, and leave.

I know some bars and tenders have the luxury of choosing who they want to serve.  They have lines of eager cocktail enthusiasts and trendy scenesters waiting behind a velvet rope, hanging on their every pronouncement and genius cocktail.

Lucky for them, I guess.

For me, I work in a restaurant, where just about anyone can get a reservation, walk in, and order a drink.  We don’t check your cocktailian references before serving you.

Sazerac Cocktail (Presidio Social Club)

Bonus Sazerac!

I challenged myself to post 28 Sazeracs in 28 days for the month of February, but I’m not quite done. We’ve got a few bonus Sazeracs coming up that didn’t fit into the month of February.

I’ll try some different spirits, try some out at bars, and have some friends make them for me.

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Sazerac Cocktail.
1 Lump of Sugar.
1 Dash Angostura or Peychana Bitters.
1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whisky. (Pikesville Rye)

Stir well and strain into another glass that has been cooled and rinsed with 1 dash Absinthe (Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe) and squeeze lemon peel on top.

I’ve known Mr. Tim Stookey for a few years now and he has always impressed me as a gracious host and stylish dresser. A couple months ago we both worked a cocktail catering event and shared a bar. Tim worked the early shift, and I closed down the night. When he was leaving, he left his nice cast aluminum ice scoop, not wanting me to be left with a pressed stainless number. I thanked him, and promised I would get it back to him as soon as I could.

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Unfortunately, the bar he works at, Presidio Social Club, is a bit out of the way for us unless we are attending a concert at the Palace of Fine Arts, so “as soon as possible” stretched into a couple months.  Fortunately, in recent months we’ve been to the Palace of Fine Arts to see a couple concerts, Tinariwen and Dodos, enabling us to stop by, enjoy some dinner, drinks, chat with Mr. Stookey and finally return his ice scoop.

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Clearly a Sazerac or two was in order at the Presidio Social Club’s gorgeous long marble bar!

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And a fine, delicious Sazerac it was, classic proportions with an unusual Rye Choice, Pikesville, and a great absinthe!

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Mrs. Flannestad enjoying a non-Sazerac favorite of hers, The Last Word Cocktail.  Tim actually introduced her to the Last Word several years ago, and it has become her go to choice for just about any occasion.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Organic Sazerac Cocktail (Gather)

Sazerac Cocktail 25 out of 28.

I have challenged myself to post 28 Sazeracs in 28 days for the month of February.

I’ll try some different spirits, try some out at bars, and have some friends make them for me. Hopefully, if I can get my act together we’ll have some video.

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Sazerac Cocktail.
1 Lump of Sugar. (Florida Crystals Organic Sugar Syrup)
1 Dash Angostura or Peychana Bitters. (Organic Blood Orange and Hibiscus “tincture”)
1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whisky. (Espirito Organic California Brandy)

Stir well and strain into another glass that has been cooled, add 1 dash Absinthe (Anise, fennel, and wormwood tincture) and squeeze lemon peel on top.

I first heard read the words of Mr. Alex Smith on the forum pages of the Chanticleer Society.  At the time he was working at the Thirsty Bear and it sounded like he was doing some interesting things.  I sent him a, “Hey there!” note and suggested that it would be fun to stop by. Some time went by. Of course I didn’t make it to Thirsty Bear before he had departed that venue.

Alex’s BIO: i was born into a rich family, given up for adoption and eventually adopted into a poor family. this unfortunate turn of events pretty much set the tone for the rest of my life. for someone who sees suffering and disappointment as much an everyday part of life as air or water, i seem to manage just fine. i usually wake up happy and go to sleep happy; it’s just the time in between that tends to get to me.

i was diagnosed as an idiot savant at an early age, managed to complete high school despite my extracurricular interests and fell in love with alcohol soon thereafter. i started to use cocktails as an outlet for my artistic creation a few years ago, channeling my frustrations through the sieve of my mental affliction.

currently, i find myself managing Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco and tending bar at Gather in Berkeley. my dog has cancer, my mother is insane & i am deeply in love with a talented & beautiful young woman who pretty much doesn’t want me in her life. some people sing the blues… i make cocktails.

then i drink ‘em.

my contribution to Erik’s great Sazerac project of 2010 is an all-organic/biodynamic version. 2 oz of Espirito biodynamic brandy, few dashes of blood orange tincture, . 25 oz organic simple syrup (1:1) and a rinse of “absinthe” tincture. finished with a squeeze of lemon zest which was then tossed away.

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Recently, I heard he was working at a new organic and sustainable restaurant in Berkeley called “Gather” and also Smuggler’s Cove here in San Francisco. The schedule worked out better for us to meet at Gather this time around.

What the? All organic? How? Where? Let’s take a look at some of the “about” information from Gather:

Transparency. Got a question about where something came from or why it’s in a dish? Ask the host for a copy of “The Source Book”— an index that traces the lifecycle of every ingredient served at Gather. From spices and oils to animals and vegetables, we’ve researched how it got to us and where it went along the way. Same goes for the materials used in our restaurant. Every ingredient, material, and action we put forth has been thoughtfully considered.

Wow! How do you start a bar program at a place like this? I have almost no idea where most of the ingredients in 90% of the spirits I work with come from. Talking to Alex, they have chosen to use exclusively organic spirits and liqueurs for the bar. But wait, is there an organic vermouth? Nope. Orange Liqueur? Nope. Green Chartreuse? Nope. Whiskey? Nope. Ack! The basic staples of drink mixing, which we all take for granted, and they have access to none of them. Ouch! What they don’t have, they are trying to come up with. Hardcore.  Kind of reminds me of all the old bar manuals I have read, where they include instructions for making just about anything, including the “Spirits”.

Well, fortunately, there are organic sugar, organic California Brandy, and organic flavoring tinctures. So it was sort of an Orangey Sazerac. Ballpark, anyway, and quite tasty.

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And, uh, damn it! I didn’t take a picture of the Sazerac!  Exactly another reason I need Mrs. Flannestad’s help in these endeavors.  Get caught up in chatting and/or drinking and forget to document the drink I am there to try.

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I did, however, remember to take a picture of the “Pegu Club” Tina made for me using Cap Rock Gin, Organic Orange Liqueur, organic Lime juice, and flavoring “tinctures”.  Nicely refreshing and tasty!  I also tried the vegan “charcuterie” which I quite enjoyed.  Looking forward to getting back to Gather again, to see more of what they are up to with the other things on the menu.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Sazerac Cocktail (range)

Sazerac Cocktail 22 out of 28.

I have challenged myself to post 28 Sazeracs in 28 days for the month of February.

I’ll try some different spirits, try some out at bars, and have some friends make them for me. Hopefully, if I can get my act together we’ll have some video.

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Sazerac Cocktail.
1 Lump of Sugar.
1 Dash Angostura or Peychana Bitters.
1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whisky. (Sazerac 18 Rye Whiskey)

Stir well and strain into another glass that has been cooled, add l dash Absinthe and squeeze lemon peel on top.

It used to make me really nervous when I would have to serve other bartenders. Feeling like, you know, they were judging me, or I would fail horribly and let them down.

Then one Savoy Night at Alembic, Brooke Arthur hijacked the bar for her birthday party. Wall to wall bartenders. Strangely, no one made fun of me.

At that point, I kind of realized that bartenders are good to serve because they know what you are going through. They are usually sympathetic and supportive.

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Anyway, Brooke is an awesome bartender, who has been super supportive of my little adventures in bartending.  You can usually find her at the Mission District restaurant range. After Absinthe Bar and Brasserie opened, there was a bit of a delay before other restaurants began to realize the value of spending some effort on a cocktail program. Range was among the second wave of restaurants to learn from Absinthe’s example and put some “ooomph” into their cocktail program. Also, the food is very tasty.

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Stopping by range for a Sazerac, Brooke chose to make it with the Sazerac 18 Rye Whiskey (2006, I believe). Like Brian at Jardiniere, she went through the whole old fashioned sugar muddling procedure. It’s interesting, I guess what I find with the muddled sugar Sazeracs, is that really very little of the sugar dissolves, making them very lightly sweetened versions of the drink. This actually works quite well when you want to feature a high end Whiskey, like the Sazerac 18.

Anyway, here’s a good Black and White Photo of Brooke. Wish I’d taken it, but sadly, I did not.  When I asked what classic or original cocktail she is currently obsessing over, she said The Brooklyn, which is usually made as follows:

Brooklyn Cocktail

1 Dash Amer Picon (1/2 barspoon Torani Amer)
1 Dash Maraschino (1/2 barspoon Luxardo Maraschino)
2/3 Canadian Club Whisky (1 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey)
1/3 French Vermouth (3/4 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth)

Shake (stir, please) well and strain into cocktail glass.

I have to admit, I find the Brooklyn a bit odd. I can’t think of many other Dry, Aromatic Cocktails made with Brown Spirits. It seems profoundly out of sync with the usual tendency towards sweet, rich, aromatic brown drinks, but in a good way.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Boothby’s Ten Commandments: VIII. Keep the floor behind the bar as dry as possible.

Boothby

As I mentioned before, Anchor Distilling recently reprinted the 1891 edition of “Cocktail Boothby’s American Bar-Tender“.

As someone who is somewhat involved in the bartender trade, I always enjoy going through old books and reading the advice that appears. Usually, I am amazed at how little has changed. How valid pieces of advice contained in a book from 1891 can be 118 years later.

So I thought I would go through Boothby’s “Ten Commandments” for bartenders one by one and see which ones still make sense for the 21st Century.

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.

I don’t know if it is recent world disasters, or the topic, but I’ve been having a very hard time getting inspired to write about bar floors.

Keeping the floor dry is certainly a sensible thing to do, above all for safety reasons.

Most bars I’ve worked in either use a wood slat lattice over the floor or the kitchen mats pictured above.

Both help, to a certain extent, to prevent slips and help with fatigue. They also allow one to be less concerned about the inevitable spills.

I can’t speak to whether these cushions help prevent “rheumatism,” “neuralgia,” or “other serious complaints”. I really haven’t been bartending long, or serious, enough to develop any “serious complaints” as a result. I mean, I do have my shares of aches and pains, but most are related to back, shoulders, elbow, and wrists. Back from a lifting injury in High School. Shoulders from 10 years as a line cook. Elbow from a bike accident a few years ago. Wrists from 15 years in Information Technology.

Personally, I find a daily regimen of stretching and exercise does the most to keep these “complaints” from becoming more “serious”.

And Michele says donating to Partners in Health is a good way to help.

Stand With Haiti

Stand With Haiti

Boothby’s Ten Commandments: VII. Wear a comfortable shoe with a heavy sole.

Boothby

As I mentioned before, Anchor Distilling recently reprinted the 1891 edition of “Cocktail Boothby’s American Bar-Tender“.

As someone who is somewhat involved in the bartender trade, I always enjoy going through old books and reading the advice that appears. Usually, I am amazed at how little has changed. How valid pieces of advice contained in a book from 1891 can be 118 years later.

So I thought I would go through Boothby’s “Ten Commandments” for bartenders one by one and see which ones still make sense for the 21st Century.

boots.

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.

First let me stress one thing: Bartenders, like cooks and waitstaff, stand for almost the entire duration of their work day/night.  If you’re lucky, you might get to lean against a post out back for a while, or, maybe, if you’re especially fortunate, sit down for long enough to scarf some food.

You will be bending over grabbing bottles, lifting buckets of ice, carrying cases of liquor, kegs of beer, or reaching up to grab bottles from the back bar.

All of this is especially tough on your back, especially lower back.

One of the most important things you can do to help yourself, and your back’s future, is to invest in quality footwear.

Different bartenders seem to have different philosophies of footwear. Almost all service requirements say they should be black. Beyond that, important features include a no slip sole and some decent amount of arch support. Waterproof is also not a horrible idea, as you’ll probably spill some liquids on them during the course of the evening.

Some people wear clogs, some people athletic type shoes.  Others low work shoes.  I, thankfully, have never seen a bartender wearing Batali inspired Crocs. I would probably have to slap them upside the head.

Personally, I go with the Red Wing Gentleman Traveler Boot. Red Wing boots are well made and durable. If you keep them cleaned and oiled, they should last you more than a few years, if not decades.  As they don’t have the most super arch support, I have added some cushiony insoles I got from an athletic shoe store.

Not sure about the whole “hosiery” thing, but thick, black, cotton blend work socks from WigWam are my choice.

Boothby’s Ten Commandments: VI. Sell all the liquor you can, but use as little as possible yourself.

Boothby

As I mentioned before, Anchor Distilling recently reprinted the 1891 edition of “Cocktail Boothby’s American Bar-Tender“.

As someone who is somewhat involved in the bartender trade, I always enjoy going through old books and reading the advice that appears. Usually, I am amazed at how little has changed. How valid pieces of advice contained in a book from 1891 can be 118 years later.

So I thought I would go through Boothby’s “Ten Commandments” for bartenders one by one and see which ones still make sense for the 21st Century.

Fernet.

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

Boy, this is a complicated one.

First, a few points.

As dealers in delicious alcoholic beverages, most bartenders, as a sort of career responsibility, do have a fine appreciation for booze.

From a management, loss prevention, perspective, the Boothby quote is entirely intuitive.

The more booze you sell, and the less your staff drinks, the better your bottom line.

On the other hand, there is a certain psychic toll to bartending.

Most people cannot maintain the appearance of liking everyone they talk to without a cost.

It isn’t possible. Different people handle it differently, but for many, a little alcoholic lubrication isn’t a bad idea.

Not to mention, as a manager, if you are too much of a stickler about booze consumption, your staff will just sneak and steal.

On the other hand, a drunk or surly bartender is never appealing to the guest.

Maybe there are some semi-psychic individuals who can appear perfectly sober, manage money, and the patrons in their venues while three sheets to the wind.  I’m not one of them, or, more accurately, not comfortable with going down that path.

Then there are the other personal issues.

Sadly, or happily, I am a light weight in several senses. First, I’m pretty darn skinny with almost no appreciable body fat, giving me a pathetic tolerance to almost any volume of alcoholic beverage.  Second, my body is not particularly fantastic at processing alcoholic beverages back into non-intoxicating substances.

What does all that mean?

While some of my compatriots may be able to imbibe while retaining their composure, I cannot. If I am to appear a professional of any sort, I cannot drink (much) while working.  Important to recognize your limitations, I think.

Savoy Anniversary

Wow! Who would have thunk it? A year of Savoy Nights at Alembic Bar have come and gone.

Not to mention, a year of bartending on a semi-regular basis.

As Danny Louie put it a few Sundays ago, “I bet you’ve learned a lot!”

Gah!  Sometimes I think I’ve learned so much I don’t remember a thing.  Recipes, service standards, names, drink preferences, POS operation, etc. have claimed a big section of my brain.

The major things that have defined this year have been bartending and Michele and I adopting our dog.

Beyond that, much has been business as usual.

Since my birthday, in October, I have been struggling a bit, cough, as a “man of a certain age”, wondering where this is all going, and what I was hoping to accomplish. Getting myself in a bit of a lather, thinking about what I’m actually getting out of any of this cocktail junk and what I “deserve”. I need to let go of that way of thinking, as it is nothing but destructive.

I think I’ve gotten past that in the last few days, and am back to my typically midwestern way of looking at life, “things could be worse.”

I’m pleased with the direction the photos have taken on the blog and want to get more involved with photography in general. It was something I had put on a back burner in my life a while ago. Put a bookmark in that part of my life. I’m enjoying re-examining the photos I take with a more critical eye, instead of just taking snap shots of cocktails.

Maybe I’ll even bring the camera to the next Savoy Night at Alembic!

Oh, speaking of, the next Savoy Night at Alembic will be December 20th. We’re still ironing out exact details on what cool things we’re going to make, but hopefully we’ll have a couple punches and maybe some hot drinks.

Stop by, say hi, and order some cocktails from guys in goofy suits.

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Forward Into the Past!