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.”

A Dog in San Francisco

Our dog Monty is pretty good with 75% of dogs and 99% of people.

However, there are just some people whom he doesn’t like, he’ll lunge and snarl. For the record, largely stocky Hispanic men and old people in dark clothes and hats.

I assume this is some artifact of his life in shelters, a bad experience he hasn’t yet learned to overcome, but it means we can’t leave him tied up outside a business or restaurant, as many other people do with their dogs.

If we’re out walking I have to get something at our local grocery store, I’ll some times carry him in with me, even though he isn’t a registered “service animal”.

The last time I did this, a gentleman commented, “In my next life, I want to be a dog in San Francisco, and you can be my owner.”

Yeah, Monty does have it pretty good.

From Feb 1, 2012

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.

Life in the Service Industry

Server A: “I finally got my best friend to send me my albums.”

You mean vinyl albums or CDs.

Server A: “Yeah, vinyl albums. I have a bunch more at home, but she sent about 40. It was surprisingly cheap to send them as media mail.”

Cool!

Server A: “Yeah, I don’t buy CDs any more. If I can’t find it on torrent, I’ll maybe buy it from apple, but I haven’t bought a CD in a long time. Plus, when you buy vinyl, they usually give you the digital version for free.”

Nice! Yeah, I got a turntable for Michele for Christmas. I have a really excellent turntable I’ve had since college, but it’s belt drive, so you have to track down new belts every couple years. It’s just gotten harder to find the belts over the years.

Server B: “I buy vinyl and have a Crosley turntable, but I don’t really use it too much. I just mostly listen to digital.”

Life in the Service Industry

What do you think of my new black shirts? I kind of like them, but they’re a little odd in the yoke to iron.

“Iron? What is this IRON you speak of? I don’t iron my shirts, I just hang them in the bathroom while I take a shower.”

Huh, good idea, I’ll have to try that. It’s just I don’t like to tumble dry my cotton clothes. I find they wear longer if I line dry them after washing. Then they’re too wrinkly to not iron them.

“Laundry?! I hate doing laundry! I just drop my clothes off at Laundry Locker in the Lower Haight, it’s a dollar fifty a pound for wash and fold, a dollar a pound if you sign up for a laundry plan.”

Clearly, I have a lot to learn about life in the service industry.

What’s Up, Winter 2011

I guess you might have noticed that the Savoy Stomp has been slightly stalled of late.

The long and short of it is I have been a bit too busy to find much time for leisurely making, photographing, and writing about drinks.

Full time job, Bartending shifts at Heaven’s Dog, Holidays, Travel. They’ve all contributed to a slight stagnation of content creation for the blog.

And to be honest, I don’t imagine there will be much else happening until 2012.

On the plus side, there really are very few Savoy drinks left to make. A couple more Fixes, Juleps, Smashes, Punches, and Cups and we’re DONE. Kaputt. Outta here.

What happens after that, with the Savoy Project and the blog, I really don’t know.

We’ll just have to see what develops.

As far as Savoy Cocktails go, you can always get your real world Savoy fix at Alembic Bar the last Sunday of the Month, when we hold Savoy Cocktail book Night.

Though, do note, as the last Sunday falls on December 25 this month, we’ll be holding it a week early, on Sunday, December 18.

And if Savoy Cocktails aren’t your thing, you can find me at Heaven’s Dog on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, when I can make cocktails with ingredients which weren’t included in the Savoy Cocktail Book.

Hope to see you around!

Omakase

From the wikipedia entry about “Omakase“:

“Omakase is a Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it to you” and it comes from the word for “entrust”.

“The expression is used at sushi restaurants to leave the selection to the chef. It differs from ordering à la carte. The chef will generally present a series of plates, beginning with the lightest fare and proceeding to heaviest, richest dishes. The phrase is not exclusive to service of raw fish with rice, and can incorporate grilling and simmering as well. Customers ordering omakase style expect the chef to be innovative and surprising in the selection of dishes, and the meal can be likened to an artistic performance by the chef. Ordering omakase can be a gamble; however, the customer typically receives the highest quality fish the restaurant currently has in stock at a price cheaper than if it was ordered à la carte. From the restaurant’s perspective, a large number of customers ordering omakase can help in planning for food costs.”

The other day, while I was working with him at Alembic, Danny Louie asked me what bartenders I admired in San Francisco.

I went through the litany of respected bartenders I admire in San Francisco and why.

But later, I was thinking about it, and another candidate for my favorite tender of a bar doesn’t make drinks at all.

Tim Archuleta and his wife run Ichi Sushi in my San Francisco neighborhood.

Tim runs his Sushi Bar more like a neighborhood Sushi Tavern, greeting guests as the come in. Asking them about their families or dogs. Keeping track of the progress of the various diners’ meals at his sushi bar. Pacing people’s meals so they don’t get too full or wait too long. All the while, cutting and serving some of the freshest sushi I’ve ever tasted.

I really admire the spirit he brings to the restaurant and to his guests.

Every time we go in, I usually just say chef’s choice and tell him how much we’d like to eat and what we are in the mood for.

It’s really fun, the way he paces the meal, starting with lighter fare, throwing in a few cooked dishes, and finishing again with lighter, almost dessert sushi.

Watching him work has made me think about how to properly pace and what order to serve people drinks. What drink is best first, what to follow with, what to finish with. If a guest asks you what to pair a dish with, what do you tell them?

Some of the best experiences I’ve had being served by a bartender have been at the Slanted Door, when my wife and I are lucky enough to be served by Mr. Erik Adkins*.

Like Omakase, we give him a framework of what we are interested in, how hungry, do we have food allergies, do we like oysters, etc, and he fills it out with what food is currently best at the restaurant and pairs it with wine, beer and spirits. His knowledge of both the food and drink is amazing but it is his apparent joy at serving us, as guests, with the best he has to offer, which is truly inspirational.

I don’t really have a moral to this story, other than to to point out the self evident: As bartenders, it is important to be aware of the larger context of the guests’ experiences.

I REALLY enjoy making great cocktails and impressing guests with them, but sometimes you have to put away the desire to impress a guest with your cocktail making skill and respect the trust they have put in you, whatever that means, on that on that night, for that particular guest, at that exact moment.

*I will note that I do work for Mr. Adkins at Heaven’s Dog. This is in no way meant to suck up to him, he already gave me a job afterall, just an honest expression of my admiration for his talents as a host and bartender.

Savoy Cocktail Book Night

This Sunday, November 27th, marks the third year of our monthly event at Alembic Bar, Savoy Cocktail Book Night.

I have a vague memory of being at Alembic Bar with my wife, mentioning to Daniel Hyatt that they should reinstate the discontinued Savoy Cocktail Book Nights. Having him tell me, if they did hold the Savoy Cocktail Book Nights again, I should be involved.

I remember thinking, maybe I shouldn’t sound too enthusiastic, maintain a bit of distance, so as not to scare him with my enthusiasm. One of my favorite bars, Savoy Cocktails… Is this the “Make a Wish Foundation”?

“Yeah, that might be OK, let me check my schedule.”

Here we are, three years later, I suppose I should have learned some lessons.

Man, it’s still hard. Of all the bartending things I do, the mental effort of looking up all those cocktails in a night is one of the hardest exercises I do. I always find myself way more tired on Monday morning than I really should be for being as busy (or not) as we were and only staying up until midnight or 1 the night before.

People pick weird cocktails, for the sake of being weird. That’s the only thing I can figure, as to why the Green Dragon or Snowball continue to be ordered month after month.

There are some really good cocktails in the book and I enjoy pointing people in their direction. The Dandy, The Elk’s Own, The Rattlesnake, the Imperial, Jabberwock etc. There are quite a few fairly obscure and unjustly ignored cocktails in the book, and it is just fun to turn people on to them.

Anyway, I am grateful every month for the time I get to spend with the fantastic staff at Alembic, and especially, for the chance Daniel Hyatt has given me to spread the gospel of these cocktails using his bar as a podium.

Stop by after 6 PM on Nov 27. Cool drinks, great bar, fantastic staff. And, yes, if you really want a Southern Exposure or Pisco Sour, we can make those too…