Boothby’s Ten Commandments: IV. Avoid conversations of a religious or political nature.


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.


IV. Avoid conversations of a religious or political nature.

OK, Bars aren’t Libraries and a lively bar is much much more fun than a quiet, sober one.

However, as people who have been drinking are seldom more sensible or measured than when they are sober, it is a pretty good idea to avoid conversations whose subjects have resulted in pogroms, massacres, and genocides. I mean, even if you know the person in front of you is on the same page, you never know about the person to the right or to the left.

Customers can get up to enough mischief on their own, without you stirring the pot.

But when folks are shooting each other over dog sniffs, what is a safe topic?

Even apparently safe conversational gambits like Vodka slagging and the comparative merits of various Absinthes can get some people in a lather, cough, especially if they have a vested interest in same.

I mean, that I’m aware of, most brand reps or shills don’t seem to be carrying handguns, but I do sometimes wonder how that Australian Eucalyptus liqueur got on the back bar.  “Yo, Bruce, you Bloody Seppo, I better see this in your bar or you’ll be nothing but a smudge on my roo bar!”

Best to be on the safe side.

Boothby’s Ten Commandments: III. Always appear pleasant and obliging


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.


III. Always appear pleasant and obliging under all circumstances.

As you probably know, there are a bunch of relatively unrelated skills which bunch up under the title, “Bartender”. Making drinks, keeping track of money, serving food, taking orders, etc.

Probably the most important talent is the knack appear a “pleasant and obliging” host to your guests.

Some times it’s easy, some times it hard. Depends on your mood and the guest you are serving. But ideally, the guest shouldn’t know either way.

I guess that is Boothby’s point of using the phrase, “Always appear pleasant and obliging,” rather than, “always be pleasant and obliging”.

I’ve had a sucky day, I’m broke, my car broke down, my wife just yelled at me for staying out late the night before, the bar back called in sick, and a party of 20 just walked in the door.  I’m about to go down in flames.

As a bartender, those are my problems.  It’s part of the job to leave my problems at the door and do my best to facilitate my guests’ pleasant evenings, no matter the circumstances.  That can be hard.

It can also be challenging to figure out exactly how best to serve your guests.

Some want to be left alone.  Some come in to talk.  Some come in to flirt.  Some come in to make out with their date.  Some come in to get hammered.

It is not my job to judge.

But it is my job to serve them all.

Personally, I have the hardest time with figuring out exactly how and when it is appropriate to break the ice when I can see a guest has some interest in communication beyond ordering their drinks and food.  Most of my coworkers have a quiver full of handy jokes, anecdotes, and trivia to deploy in exactly these sorts of situations.  I’m still working on it.

And the fact of the matter is, there are some people I get along with and some people I don’t.  In normal life, I usually get to avoid hanging out with the people I don’t get along with.  In the service professions, I gotta get past that and “appear pleasant and obliging” to folks I wouldn’t normally be caught dead chatting with.

But, like I said, I’m working on it, because, really I never know.  Sometimes the people I think I’m going to hate serving turn out to be the highlight of the evening.  And, on the other hand, the ones I thought were going to be a pleasure, sometimes turn out to be the biggest pain in the ass of the night.

Not that any of you are really a pain.  You’re all wonderful and fascinating specimens of this human race.  I love you all equally.

Hm.  Getting around to that, one thing that I do think is really important to the job, is the ability to find the glorious, diverse splendor of the human race interesting.  I would think it would be pretty tough to even appear pleasant and obliging, if you didn’t at least have an active interest and curiosity about your fellow man.

Boothby’s Ten Commandments: II. See that your finger nails are always clean


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.


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

While you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover, I’m afraid it is inevitably the first thing it is judged by.

You’ll usually find me dressed in Levi’s Denim, Woolrich flannel, and work boots. I am nowhere the stylish dresser that many Bartenders are. No diamond pins, stylish hats, or pointed shoes typically adorn my twig-like frame.

However, for Savoy Cocktail Book night at Alembic, I usually wear a vest, a nice white shirt, and one of my father’s old silk ties. Semi-ironic, I suppose. But I like to think of the ties as somewhat totemic.

My father was a Funeral Director in the Midwest. His uniform was the dark suit, tie, and wing tips just about every day of his life. He was so much the better “people person” than I am, that I like to think some of his skills might carry over when I am wearing his ties. As if, somehow, the clothes might make the man. Or at least, I might be more cognizant of the sort of “people person” I can or should be, by wearing his ties.

Funny, eh?

I spent most of my youth wearing ripped jeans and untucked flannel shirts, irritating the hell out of my ex-Marine, Funeral Director Father, now here I am ironing shirts and wearing his ties.

It is interesting that Boothby uses some military-like terms in his commandments and.  Classic bartending does often seem to involve the sort of neatness and precision associated with close order drills.

Is it any wonder quality cocktails didn’t get along with the loosey goosey, let it all hang out, keep on truckin’, 1970s?

But to get back to the “finger nails”, my boss at Heaven’s Dog, Erik Adkins, always says, “My hands are my tools,” and, indeed, that is very true. We use them to squeeze twists, handle fruit, measure booze. Grungy fingernails and unkempt hands are as unappealing in a barkeep as they are in a doctor.

This is another 19th Century Commandment still valid for the 21st Century.

Boothby’s Ten Commandments: I. Always be on time


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.

On time.

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.

First, and probably most importantly, if you are late, you’re at the very least inconveniencing your coworkers.  If you’re not on time they will likely have to stay late or do some of your work for you.  Not a great way to win friends and influence people.

So here’s the other thing. When I go to my job at the University, I pretty much know what to expect ahead of time. Usually, most technology changes and meetings are scheduled weeks in advance.  Aside from hardware or HVAC failures there really aren’t many surprises.  Unless you have an early morning meeting, the consequences for being 15 minutes late are relatively minor.  Maybe you try to make it up by staying 15 mins late or coming in early another day.

With food service, you almost never know what is going to happen until you get to work and start your day.

You could get there and have 50 people walk in the door as soon as it is unlocked.  A full bar for all 8 hours of your shift.  Or you could have a good hour before business picks up.

If you’re not prepared to handle the worst the evening will throw at you the moment the door opens, you are just asking for a world of pain and grumpiness.

This is a 19th Century “Commandment” that still makes sense in  the 21st Century.

Savoy Cocktail Book Night, June 2009

One Sunday a month, Alembic Bar is foolish enough to toss out their regular menu and instead hand you a Savoy Cocktail  Book.  Pick a cocktail, any cocktail.  We dare you.

This Sunday, June 21st, is the day. After 6 PM is the time.

Here are some of the ingredients for a punch I am working on:

1 qt Osocalis Brandy
1 pt Appleton V/X
1 pt Coruba
1 pt Batavia Arrack
peel 4 lemons
juice 6 lemons
1/2 pineapple, chopped and crushed
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
5 Cardamom Pods, Crushed
4 teaspoons Lung Ching Dragonwell Tea
1/2 # Florida Crystals
1 quart Straus Family Creamery Whole Milk

C’mon, step right in, the water’s fine.


“If you will dare, I will dare!”

San Francisco Cocktail Week 2009

San Francisco Cocktail Week will be happening starting tomorrow with an opening gala at Le Colonial.

If you’re in the area check the schedule for many exciting events:

Event Schedule

Of particular interest are the series of events they are calling “bar school classes” on Thursday.  Some of these are already sold out, but quite a few still have seats available.

Not to mention, Alembic is doing its monthly “Stomp Through the Savoy” event in conjunction with SF Cocktail Week on Sunday, May 17th.  We’d love to see you there!

Neyah White

This is the Eighth in an ongoing series of bartender features on the Underhill-Lounge.

Previously, I had experimented by asking the bartender at Montgomery Place to make me a Bombay Cocktail No. 2, but this just seemed to result in a grumpy bartender.

To make it less of a shock, I thought I would contact some local bartenders and give them a choice of the dozen or so Savoy Cocktails that might be coming up in the book.

Surprisingly, some actually were game.

When folks ask me which bars to go to in San Francisco, there are several restaurants which I routinely list along with bars. Among them is NOPA in the Western Addition neighborhood near the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park.

Nopa Front Door

When my wife and I lived in another part of San Francisco, one of our favorite restaurants was Chow. We were regulars there from the time it opened until we moved out of the neighborhood. Great, affordable food presented with heart. One of the astounding things to me was how long the staff stick around at Chow. We can still go back in, nearly 6 years later, and still recognize some of the same staff who waited on us.

Nopa Sign

A couple years ago, one of the guys who opened Chow split off to open NOPA. Slightly more expensive food, a bigger space, and a full bar. They were also one of the first restaurants in San Francisco to include a large table off the bar for communal dining.

Sky Bottles

One of the nifty things about Chow is that it is open fairly late. They have carried that even a bit further at NOPA, serving until 1:00 AM. Combine that with a bar, and you know it is going to be popular with the industry crowd.

As far as I can tell, like Chow, NOPA has been an incredibly successful restaurant and bar.

To get back to the bar, I’d run into Neyah White, the bar manager at NOPA, a few times around town. We’d talked. I’d insulted his taste in Absinthe. We talked some more. Eventually we got around to the idea of getting together to make some Savoy Cocktails. Finally, on a Saturday in October our schedules aligned and I met up with him on a Saturday afternoon to get together, chat, and try some Savoy Cocktails.


Neyah White BIO:
Neyah finds himself lucky enough to be a part of the burgeoning cocktail scene in San Francisco. A transplant from the East Coast, he has been serving drinks for 15 years in some of the busiest and most well respected venues on both sides of the Country. In an effort to better understand the tools of his craft, he has spent time visiting distilleries all over the world as well as completing the Whisky Academy at Bruichladdich under the legendary Jim McEwan. This time in Scotland inspired him to use the bounty of ex-wine barrels available to him in Northern California to start enhancing his own Whiskey and Rum. Look for his independently bottled spirits to start showing up in the years to come, they are still sleeping now.
Neyah is currently the bar manager at Nopa in San Francisco where his program is well respected for its array of house produced bitters, tinctures and liqueurs. He is a believer in a passive approach to menu setting where the local farms and orchards determine what is used by season rather than forcing ingredients into drinks. These two aspects combine to produce many one-of-a-kind cocktails that cannot exist anywhere other than the bar at Nopa and that have been featured in the publications like the San Francisco Chronicle, Food and Wine, USAToday, Wine and Spirits, 7×7, Imbibe and Cheers.

When I asked Neyah what cocktails of the dozen I had sent he wanted to make he said, “Let’s make all of them. I’m painting my apartment and am really sore. I could use a break.”

Well, OK then… He even brought along some of his stash of vintage glassware to make the pictures more interesting.


Melon Cocktail

1/8 Lemon Juice. (1/4 oz Lemon Juice)
3/8 Maraschino. (3/4 oz Maraska Maraschino)
1/2 Gin. (1 oz Plymouth Gin)

Shake (stir?) well and strain into cocktail glass.

Like the Allen, another Aviation-esque cocktail. Perfectly fine, but not particularly outstanding.

merry widow

Merry Widow Cocktail

2 Dashes Absinthe. (St. George)
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters.
2 Dashes Benedictine. (1 teaspoon Benedictine)
1/2 French Vermouth. (1 oz French Vermouth)
1/2 Dry Gin. (1 oz Plymouth Gin)

Stir well and strain into cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel on top.

When we initially tasted this, it was just too dry. Neyah remarked,”That Widow is just not very merry!” A bit more benedictine seemed to bring it into somewhat more tasty territory, but to my tastes there was still something conflicting in this combination. Maybe the bitters and the Absinthe?


Mikado Cocktail

2 Dashes Angostura Bitters.
2 Dashes Crème de Noyau. (1/2 teaspoon Luxardo Amaretto)
2 Dashes Orgeat Syrup. (1/2 teaspoon Underhill Homemade Orgeat)
2 Dashes Curacao. (1/2 teaspoon Senior Orange Curacao
1/2 Glass Brandy. (1 oz Lustau Brandy)

Shake (stir!) well and strain into cocktail glass.

A Japanese Cocktail, more or less, and who can argue with that?

Q: It seems the question on everybody’s mind is, have you seen any change in people’s drinking habits due to the recent financial news?

A: We’re still doing good numbers, with busy dinners and the late night industry crowd still coming in (Note: NOPA, like Beretta serves dinner from open until close at 1:00 AM).

It isn’t so much what people are drinking where we’ve noticed a change, as when and who are drinking.

Up until now the bar had been banging from open until close.  We’ve seen a real drop off in happy hour drinkers.  The sort of business crowd who were coming in at 5:30 right after work.  They’re either staying at work longer or just not drinking out as much.


Millionaire Cocktail (No. 1)

The Juice of 1 Lime.
1 Dash Grenadine. (NOPA House Made)
1/3 Sloe Gin. (3/4 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin)
1/3 Apricot Brandy. (3/4 oz Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot)
1/3 Jamaica Rum. (3/4 oz Ron Barcelo Rum)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

The Millionaire, to my mind, is a neglected classic. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any Jamaica Rum and subbed in the Puerto Rican Ron Barcelo. It’s definitely a lighter flavored rum then the Appleton V/X I usually make this with. This allowed the Apricot Brandy to really come to the fore.

Millionaire No 2

Millionaire Cocktail (No. 2)

1 Dash Anisette. (dash or two Sambuca)
The White of 1 Egg.
1/3 Absinthe. (3/4 oz Obsello Absinthe)
2/3 Dry Gin. (3/4 oz Leopold’s Gin)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Whatever you do, don’t leave out the sweetener if you are making this with traditional Absinthe. If you do so, it will likely end up fairly dry. With a healthy dash of Sambuca, we found this an interesting eye-opener type cocktail.


Million Dollar Cocktail

Tablespoonful Pineapple Juice. (Knudsen)
Teaspoonful Grenadine. (NOPA House Made)
The White of 1 Egg.
1/3 Italian Vermouth. (3/4 oz Martini & Rossi Rosso Vermouth)
2/3 Plymouth Gin. (1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin)

Shake well and strain into medium size glass.

Egg white and Italian Vermouth cocktails always look like dishwater to me, so we were pleased to note combining the textures of Egg White and Pineapple presented a very interesting textural element. You almost can’t taste the pineapple, more feeling it. A somewhat tasty and bizarre drink, if not particularly visually appealing.

Q: Spirits and cocktail programs are currently being marketed as what I’d call luxury goods.  To me this is a self limiting strategy.  (Ooops, that wasn’t a question.)

A: A lot of this comes down to the money poured into and the money made by the vodka industry.  It’s not a new thing, I recently wrote a post on a similar theme on the blog (“I declare that I now own the word ‘cool’“).  To me, the Absolut ads from the 1980s are where it started.  It’s just more and more we’re seeing it seep into other spirits and even now bar programs.  I don’t envy young bartenders who are being asked by management to create serious drink programs without experience in the industry.  A lot of these really big corporations will just give you product, if they think it will get them on the back bar.

Minnehaha Cocktail

Minnehaha Cocktail

The Juice of 1/4 Orange. (3/4 oz Fresh Orange Juice)
1/4 French Vermouth. (1/2 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth)
1/4 Italian Vermouth. (1/2 oz Martini & Rossi Rosso Vermouth)
1/2 Dry Gin. (1 oz Martin Miller Gin)
1 dash Absinthe. (St. George)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Aside from the fact that I just made this exact cocktail less than a week ago as the Maurice, it is fascinating how different this version is! I know I cheated last time and used the M&R Bianco Vermouth, but damn is this different. For me, it is the cucumber in the Martin Miller Gin, which really rises to the fore.


Mickie Walker Cocktail.

1 Dash Grenadine. (House Made)
1 Dash Lemon Juice.
1/4 Italian Vermouth. (1/2 oz Martini and Rossi Rosso)
3/4 Scotch Whisky. (John, Mark, and Robbo Smooth, Sweeter One)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Blind, we doubted we could tell this from a Rob Roy, but we both thought we would rather be drinking a Rob Roy.

Mississippi Mule

Mississippi Mule Cocktail

2/3 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Broker’s Gin)
1/6 Lemon Juice. (1/2 of 3/4 oz Lemon Juice)
1/6 Crème de Cassis. (1/2 of 3/4 oz Trenel Creme de Cassis)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

No idea why this is named “Mississippi Mule”. Don’t really see a connection to Mississippi nor does it contain ginger ale. It does appear to come from Harry McElhone’s book, but he is no more forthcoming than the Savoy authors. A fine, if somewhat plain cocktail. To be honest, I think it would be quite a bit better if you built it over ice and topped it up with ginger ale. But that’s just me…

Q: As we were talking, it came up that Neyah had worked for a period for a large corporate chain which shall remain nameless.  It seemed apropos to ask if this background served him well when running a bar program which does as much volume as NOPA does.

A: Absolutely.  Working for them was like a boot camp.  Not only that, but these big corporate programs understand how much of the business is about process rather than simply making drinks.  When I was working for them, I had three shifts behind the bar and then three days for other tasks.  Inventory, ordering, developing processes.

Mr. Manhattan

Mr. Manhattan Cocktail

Crush one lump of sugar in a little water.
Then crush four leaves of fresh green mint. and add –
1 Dash Lemon Juice. (1/2 teaspoon)
4 Dashes Orange Juice. (1/4 oz or so fresh Orange Juice)
1 Glass Gin. (2 oz Bols Genever)

(Muddle sugar cube in Lemon Juice and Orange Juice.  Add mint and gently press.  Add Gin and…)  Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

When we were thinking about this, it occurred to Neyah to try with Bols Genever. To me that totally made sense, given the 19th Century style recipe. Delicious! The winner of the afternoon. Neyah’s comment was, “I wish this had a better name, because I want to put it on the list!”

Modern No 1

Modern Cocktail (No. 1)

1 Dash Orange Bitters. (NOPA House Made)
2 Dashes Jamaica Rum. (Gosling’s Black Seal)
1 Dash Absinthe. (St. George)
2 Dashes Lemon Juice. (1/2 teaspoon or so)
1 Glass Scotch Whisky. (2 oz John, Mark, and Robbo, Rich and Spicy One)
(Dash Simple Syrup)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

We tasted this and it just wasn’t doing it for us. A touch of simple brought out both the richness of the scotch and the flavor of the rum.

Q: Talking about their ingredients at NOPA, I realized how much of what they make in house.  Grenadine, liqueurs, bitters, etc.  I asked how important house made ingredients were to his ideas for the bar at NOPA.

A: Originally it was my conception to have almost all the drink modifiers made in house.  While we make many bitters, syrups and liqueurs in house, I found I couldn’t keep up with the amounts needed for vermouth and some of the others.  I’m especially excited about an orange infusion which I started last year and is about ready.  It was an all season long infusion, where I added seasonal citrus to the batch as we progressed through the citrus season.  Starting with kumquats and clementines and then moving to navels, seville, etc.  I’m hoping to use it both for our house orange bitters and an orange liqueur.

Modern No. 2

Modern Cocktail (No. 2)

1 Dash Orange Bitters. (NOPA House Made)
1 Dash Absinthe. (St. George)
1 Dash Grenadine. (NOPA House Made)
1/3 Scotch Whisky. (3/4 oz John, Mark, and Robbo, Rich and Spicy One)
2/3 Sloe Gin. (1 1/2 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

We both thought this a fine, tasty cocktail. Definitely worth the try, if you have Sloe Gin and Scotch in the house.

Original Cocktail:
Dented Bently:
1 oz. Calvados
1 oz. Dubonnet
1/4 oz. Nocino

Stir gently with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Like the Slanted Door, NOPA is an incredibly busy restaurant. On a busy night the restaurant will do over 500 covers. One of the amazing things to me, when I go in, is how many mixed drinks I see out at tables. Their version of the Old Cuban seems to be at nearly every other table in the restaurant. Yet they hold the bar and service staff to an incredibly high standard. All fresh squeezed juice. Many homemade ingredients, High quality spirits, Jigger pouring, etc. Like the Slanted Door, NOPA is proof that, if the commitment is there from the staff and management, a high volume restaurant can successfully run a drink program without sacrificing quality.

For me, I can think of no higher praise for Mr. White, and the the drink program at NOPA, than to say, while there are many restaurants and bars in San Francisco, there are few I will as unreservedly recommend for cocktails as NOPA.

Also, the Pork Chop is one of the best I’ve ever had.

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.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

The first Savoy Cocktail Book night of 2009 will be taking place this Sunday, January 25th, at Alembic Bar in the Upper Haight neighborhood of San Francisco.

On these nights, Alembic puts away its regular menu and (mostly) only makes drinks from Harry Craddock’s classic, “Savoy Cocktail Book”.

Stop bye any time after 4 PM, or so, and treat yourself to a Liberty or some other similarly celebratory themed cocktail.  Or just ask for a delicious Magnolia beer and chat with us as we attempt to hone our page turning and alphabetical skills.

Hope to see you there!

As always, for up-to-date information on events at Alembic, check out their blog: Alembic Bar

Practical Exercises Three


Sunday afternoon, December 14th, at around 3:30, I arrived at Alembic, toting Orgeat, Vergano Lulli Americano, Bitter Truth Repeal Day Bitters, and Marteau Absinthe.

I had really hoped I would also be bringing Cocchi Americano for the Kina Lillet drinks, but another hiccup in the label approval process prevented it from entering the country. I have my fingers crossed for some time next year, but am not holding my breath. It’s about time to make my own “Kina Lillet”, I believe.

Packed and RTG

As usual, I overpacked equipment. Well, better safe than sorry. Some bars require you to bring your own stuff. Not Alembic. I blame Darcy for my overpacking urges. (See his articles: Bar Tools & Equipment 1, Bar Tools & Equipment 2.)

I tracked down bar manager Daniel Hyatt. We chatted for a bit. He introduced me to the other people working. He told me to check out where stuff was behind the bar while he took care of some other things, and went to find the Savoy Cocktail Books.

He came back down from the office with both arms full of Savoy Cocktail Books. We put away the regular menus and handed out Savoy Cocktail Books.

The crazy part about Alembic’s Savoy Cocktail Book Night is that they aren’t just making a few well selected cocktails from the book.

Customers are literally allowed to pick any cocktail out of the 900 or so recipes in the book.

We got to mixing…


One of the toughest things about your first day at any job is you don’t really know where anything is. All I can say is thank you to the staff at Alembic for putting up with me spending the evening asking where things were.

The night was pretty much a blur of measuring, shaking, and stirring. It was one of our first cold rainy nights, so it wasn’t super busy, but fairly steady. Quite a few friends came out in support. Super duper Jane Tunks, Humu and Trott, Dinah and Joe from, Ciaran from the Book Club, fellow drink blogger Alex. Mrs. Underhill even came in a bit later. I was really happy for her to come in, as she hadn’t had a chance to come out when I was working at Flora. We even had a few curious industry folks out.


For me, one problem is I don’t usually feel like eating at 4:00 PM. But then around 7, I start to feel pretty hungry and out of it. Of course, 7 PM is the worst time to feel hungry and out of it, as you’re heading right into the heart of the beast. There’s usually no chance to get away for a snack until 9 or 10 PM at the earliest. Need to work on a strategy for that.

I also, need to work on strategies for building several drinks at once. It’s tougher when you’re not going from memory and have to flip through the book for most recipes. But if you build two or three, then shake/stir, it would probably be faster than just one at a time.

I think my favorite quote of the evening came when we got an order for a Dirty Martini. One of the other bartenders grabbed the ticket, chuckled, and told me, “Vermouth is my revenge on dirty Martini Drinkers. 2-1? How about 1-1?”

The other odd thing you discover is that when given that much choice, people do not go with safe choices. Instead they seem to pick the odd things that stick out to them.

We made all of these on Sunday:

Prairie Hen Cocktail
2 Dashes Vinegar.
1 Teaspoonful Worcestershire Sauce.
1 Egg
2 Dashes Tabasco Sauce.
A little Pepper and Salt.
Do not break the Egg.

For breakfast, I could see, but at 7 PM?

Silver Stallion Cocktail
1/2 Vanilla Ice Cream.
1/2 Gin.
Fill with Silver Fizz, q.v. p. 200.

Wow, uh, I don’t know what to say about someone ordering this. I really had a hard time not making fun of the gentleman in question. Especially since he had repeatedly told me he and his companions were on a quest to find “single women” and asked me for advice on appropriate venues for said quest. I’m not a super expert on strategies for attracting single women or appropriate venues, but think ditching the ice cream drink would be near the top of my list…

The Nose-Dive Cocktail
Take one hooker of Gin, place in it an olive, then deposit the glass carefully in the bottom of an ordinary tumbler. Fill the said tumbler with Water, Ginger Ale, or What Have You, until almost to the top of the small glass, then down the whole thing quickly. That is, everything but the small glass. Note: This Cocktail is very among pilots on American Flying Fields.

I guess I only have myself to blame for this one, eh?

Pineapple Julep
(6 People)
Take a large glass jug and fill it 1/4 full of crushed ice.
ice. Pour in the juice of two oranges a glass of Raspberry Vinegar, a glass of Maraschino, a glass and a half of Gin, and a bottle of Sparkling Moselle or Saumur. Pull a pineapple to pieces with a silver fork and place the pieces in the jug. Stir the mixture, add a little fruit for appearances’s sake, and serve.

There’s probably a pretty good drink in this version of the pineapple julep. Maybe with Raspberry Shrub instead of Raspberry Vinegar? I’m going to have to work on it.

My tech job pays the bills, but lately I haven’t felt like I’ve been getting much back out of it. Occasionally, there’s some satisfaction of solving a problem or learning something new. However, you get called on the carpet when things are broken, but seldom get praise or respect for doing something well or keeping things running peacefully.

A lot of times recently I’ve been feeling like a grumpy scowl and it’s related creases are being permanently etched into my face as I trundle with the rest of the commute zombies from one form of public transportation to the other.

The weeks that I’ve been bartending, though, I feel a spark of happiness and some satisfaction at a job well done. I know there are Dirty Martinis, Jack and Cokes, Long Island Iced Teas, and many difficult customers ahead to depress me.

But, for now, I’m enjoying the buzz.

Which brings me around to the other part of working in restaurants I really miss. The Camaraderie. I’ve never really been good enough at any sport to have much fun playing on teams. You know, the 12th game in a row you only get to go on the field when your team is ahead by 20, and it gets a bit depressing. Or if the only reason you get to be the pitcher is because your Dad is the coach.

When I started cooking, I found that not only could I stand on my own merit, but strangely, I was good enough at it, to be a respected part of the team.

In bartending, I’ve only begun to learn the game. At only my third, (or fifth depending on how you count,) time behind the bar, we’re still in the first plays of the first quarter. Maybe I’ll be benched by half time. Can’t say just yet, but I’ve got a good feeling.

The whole night was a blast, and yep, we’ll be doing it again next month. Stay tuned.

*Photos by Mrs. Underhill.