Get your fucking mise in order!

Get your fucking Mise in order!

I recently boasted to a bar manager peer of mine: “I’m faster than him.” This was in response to him saying that he races his fastest employee to see who is faster. The bartender in question used to work for me under dive bar circumstances, where speed really matters. The fact of the matter is: drumroll………

I am, at best as fast as that other guy, I’m likely slower.

He is younger, better looking, in better shape with something to prove. He doesn’t do a 4 count of tequila with a 2 count of Cointreau and a fresh lime. He has the fresh lime squeezed before the shift, put in a “store n’ pour” that needs but a 1 count. He has 2 of the same tequila bottles right next to each other, grab the 2 in one hand and then  you only need a 2 count from each hand. Bam, he is already 2 seconds ahead of me.

I’m fast, actually I’m like Rick Deckard fast. I get older and somehow not slower. So, fuck it, Aleko is his name, Aleko can likely make a drink faster than me, maybe even 10 drinks in a row faster but, I haven’t been the weeds in years. I’m as fast as most anybody over the span of shift because of my mise en place, because of my chess master strategy* not really because of my actual speed. That is really what I meant by my boast of, “I’m faster than him.”  I have good habits behind the bar that keep me ahead of the game, my mise en pace is always in order.  Perhaps you aren’t versed in the world on the French kitchen, perhaps I am speaking the crazy talk, but the difference between winning and losing to a chef is the little phrase :”mise en place,” meaning: everything in place.

How important is your mise? I just googled the title of this blog “get your fucking mise in order,” and found this blog containing that exact phrase. I’m going to keep it brief because its really simple, your mise should look exactly the same when you are done making a drink as did it at the beginning of a shift. Finished making the drink? As soon as its in the server’s hand going away you should be washing your strainer and shaker and putting back every bottle you had to move. This is the only way a fast bartender will ever continue to be fast during a shift. Georges Auguste Escoffier (father of French cooking) is credited with formalizing and popularizing the brigade system in the kitchen, the system that makes the Mise en Place (and the chain ‘o command) so important. And while I hate the term “bar chef,” I agree that a bartender must convert to the chef’s religion of the mise en place.

Test it tonight, the biggest difference you’ll see between any whipper-snapper like myself and an old pro bartender is how fast the shaker and strainer are cleaned after use.

And then there is tending bar on a higher level, where drinks are complicated and subtle and time consuming. I have a 40 drink menu that has 104 independent ingredients. Below are 4 photos that contain the following within one step as well as over 100 other bottles, also within one step.

me 4

Clockwise From Noon:Ticket Spike, Cocktail Trays, Garnish Trays, Recycle and Trash Bin, Side Well, Cutting Board, Fruit, Absinthe Fountain

The side well is something I can’t work without. Otherwise you are constant searching and scrounging. The side well at the Zig Zag Cafe, is an epic 5 tiered 15 bottles wide monument to mise en place..

Clockwise from noon: Blu Blazer Mugs, Knife, Muddler, Juice Press, Perlage , Channel Knife, Y Peeler, Julep Strainer, Barspoons, Washing Sink, Fresh Juices, Mixing Glass

Clockwise from noon: Blu Blazer Mugs, Knife, Muddler, Juice Press, Perlage , Channel Knife, Y Peeler, Julep Strainer, Barspoons, Washing Sink, Fresh Juices, Mixing Glass

I forgot to mention the hand soap, that is an essential tool.  Dirty nails have no place behind the bar.

Clockwise: Jiggers, Hawthorne Strainers, Boston Shakers, More Fruit, More Juice, Real Well, Mountain of Ice, Kitchen Torch, Mixing Glasses, Straws, Picks, Fine Strainer, Bullshit Soda Gun

Clockwise: Jiggers, Hawthorne Strainers, Boston Shakers, More Fruit, More Juice, Real Well, Mountain of Ice, Kitchen Torch, Mixing Glasses, Straws, Picks, Fine Strainer, Bullshit Soda Gun

Clockwise:  Lots of Bitters, Micro Planes and hard Herbs, Energy Drink (Coffee) Glassware, House Made Ingredients, Dish Washer, Atomizers

Clockwise: Lots of Bitters, Micro Planes and hard Herbs, Energy Drink (Coffee) Glassware, House Made Ingredients, Dish Washer, Atomizers

Directly behind me would also be block ice, glass pour wine, cocktail glasses, menus, a register, wine glasses and a back up cooler full of jams, syrups, herbs, vermouths and various charged gas things. More specifically all of these things:

Absinthe
Allspice Dram
Amaro Montenegro
Amer Picon
Anejo Tequila
Angostura Bitters
Aperol
Applejack
Apricot Brandy
Aquavit
Bacon Bourbon
Batavia Arrack
Beer
Benedictine
Black Tea
Blanc Vermouth
Blended Scotch
Bourbon
Brandy
Cachaca
Calvados
Camapari
Carpano
Cassis
Chartreuse
Cherry Brandy
Chocolate Bitters
Chocolate Liqueur
Cilantro
Coconut Puree
Coffee Liqueur
Cointreau
Crème de Cacao
Crème de Menthe
Crème de Peache
Cucumber
Cynar
Dark Rum
Drambuie
Dry Gin
Dry Sherry
Dry Vermouth
Egg White
Egg Yolk
Falarnum
Fernet
Galiano
Genever
Ginger
Ginger Beer
Grand Marnier
Grapefruit Juice
Grenadine
Heavy Cream
Infused Scotch
Infused Vermouth
Irish Whiskey
Jalapeno
Kirsch
Kiwi Puree
Lavender Bitters
Lemon Bitters
Lemon Juice
Light Rum
Lillet Blanc
Lime Juice
M.P. Roux
Maraschino
Mint
Nonino
Old Tom Gin
Orange Bitters
Orange Flower Water
Orange Juice
Orgeat
Peach Bitters
Peach Puree
Pear Bandy
Pear foam
Peppered scotch
Pimms
Pineapple Juice
Pisco
Port
Ramazotti
Raspberry Syrup
Red Wine
Reposado Tequila
Rosemarry
Rye
Sage
Salt
Simple
Single Malt Scotch
Sloe Gin
Smoked Simple
Sparkling Wine
Spiced Rum
St Germain
Strega
Sweet Vermouth
Tequila pr mi Amante
Thyme
Vodka
*A chess player is easily measured by how far in advance they could plan moves, I can’t go that far, but like bartending, I’m fucking great when I’ve been drinking. I can beat a guy ranked way above me if we are both in the beer frame.

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7 Responses to Get your fucking mise in order!

  1. First, the linecook blog rocks. It should be required reading for anyone who works in restaurants. Especially anyone who takes their food service career seriously.

    Second, funny, many of the bartenders I know are total chess geeks. I’m more of a Ping Pong player, myself. That is, I spend a lot of time on practice, preparation, and setup, but once I am going, prefer not to engage deeper thought processes.

  2. dominik mj says:

    This is a truly great post!

    I am quite good behind the bar… and I always loved it, to prepare my mise en place. This was always Zen for me…

    But then, I sometimes have the challenge to get everything back in time, when it really gets busy, or if it is not the bar, I know inside out.

    But you can spin it further: IMHO mise en place is the step, which we can improve much further, to make the service faster and better, to offer fresher ingredients and so on. It only needs an open mind and the chance for a change.

  3. tonyharion says:

    Hey Andrew!
    I really like this post. Setup is crucial, and having the tenders adapted to it is also important!

    It´s just ugly to sit in a bar and see a bartender searching for hidden ingredients on a weird set up. Many times, after a while looking for that ingredient he/she turns to you and say “hey, I guess we are out of it”. After two second you, from outside the bar, was spotting that bottle all along and say to him “nope, it´s right there!”. Then comes the phrase: “oooh, there you are” or something ridiculous to make up for him not having a clue of his working environment.

    This is quite embarrassing for the bartender;

    Not only set up will make up a faster professional, it will also make you more professional, or at least wouldn´t make you look like a dumb roach on speed behind the bar.

    I wonder where you keep the glassware… do you tend to chill it in a freezer or ice chill it?

    Cheers,
    Tony

    • caskstrength says:

      I am one on the lucky bartenders who not only was a glass chiller behind him, buts its actually a freezer that gets down to -10 degrees. It holds my block Ice, chilled cocktail glasses and a couple extra rocks glasses were a sazerzac to show up.

  4. dominik mj says:

    I am not really sure, if a glass freezer is so necessary.
    Of course it makes the work easier – but then I am a fan of saving our mother nature. And to put glasses into a freezer, doesn’t really sound sustainable and responsible…

    I like to include the filling up the guest glass to my working routine…

  5. wasabi prime says:

    Bourdain would be proud, that’s for damned sure. Two of his great loves — an organized workspace and liquor.

  6. Pingback: Don’t You Get Tired of Pouring? « Savoy Stomp

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