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You will find me, in the dog park at 5pm, with whiskey in hand, reading. I do this more often than I think because I was recently identified by a neighbor as the guy that does just this. On my days off, this is what I do, and I do it with jollity. My fellow dog walkers are tired, having just finished the 8 cubed hours. Me? I’ve slept til 11, gotten coffee, surfed the net for an hour or three, blogged some drivel and read a book. And on top of that, frequently without speaking to another person. This puts you in an odd place when others look at you, generally relaxed and be-whiskied (but not drunk) at 5pm. And I like it this way. Being a bartender forces me into a world where I have to be someone else. And when not on stage, I want to be alone, with my dog and a book, and people call you weird. And they are right to do so but I’m also happy. Because my job works for me I eat 4 course lunches and ride my bike happily about, and get amazing perks that are too many and too decadent to list here. But there are many pitfalls that destroy people that choose this work. What follows are the demons that bar men and women face every shift. It is because of succumbing to these temptations that our profession is though of so poorly when we walk our dogs with whiskey (though more oft, Campari soda) in hand.
Monogamy – (the lack thereof)
Frankly any bartender, male or female, regardless of appearance and without the need of any truly sleazy means, can indeed get laid every night with little effort. This is not a good thing. Well, it is for a couple times, a good thing, maybe the first year on the job, but after that serves nothing more than ego. The best quote I heard about a bartender slut was “he has gutters on his bed.” Were you to be one of the 8 single bartenders on earth (sorry to shatter the dream) you would find yourself having great ease at getting O.P.P. (YEAH I SAID THAT!).
The problem is that this will lead you down 2 often intersecting roads, 1. You will become this arrogant in dress and action even when not being behind the bar and 2. You will be known as the slut. There is nothing wrong with being a slut, if you are a slut, own it. But being known as a slut makes all of your actions and interactions subject to suspicion of ulterior sexy motives. Also, this can lead you down the road of awful fashion. I see lady tenders that won’t work without a necklace buried just so in mountainous cleavage and dude tenders that put every drink they serve in dangerous proximity of being dusted with chest hair.
If you are coupled, you must be prepared to always be offered no strings sex (which doesn’t exist*) from anyone you might desire. If you are doing your job right, you will appear in power, and despite what any magazine says, that is the most desirable sexy times trait, followed closely by money, abs, personality and distantly: humor. More times than I can count I’ve kicked a couple of bi-curious entwined girls in a make out competition out of the bar at closing time. You know why? Girlfriend. If you can’t not cheat you can’t do this job.
The company you keep – (bartenders, barbacks, cooks, cabbies, dealers, dishwashers, doormen and drunks)
It is important to know that you will always be equated to those around you. For example, I have for years both worked in a dive bar and in fine dining. ** When in the piss soaked dive, it’s pretty hard to convince people that you are good enough to make them a whiskey sour with an egg white let alone trust you enough to not poison them. To the contrary, with only the slightest nudge, I sell $35 shots of bourbon to insipid dullards when I wear a tie to work. Even I, am judged by my surroundings, and those who fill space near me.
If you have someone whom is a drug dealer hanging out in your bar, you then become a drug dealer. I’m the first to say that I don’t care about people smoking weed, but I’m the last person that’s going to lose his liquor license and go to jail because I won’t tell a dude to get the fuck out. If your cooks come out of the kitchen to get a shot of jager, then that’s whom you are. When the rush hits, put the shot in a coffee mug and send it through the service window, keep them in the kitchen. Cabbies are kind of the opposite, they don’t affect your reputation but they are also in your family and need to be treated with respect. Always look out for a cabbie’s safety and upholstery. There is nothing wrong with sending a drunk out for a little walk to sober up before getting into a cab. This is the tip of the iceberg of the un-savory Bukowski-esque shit you’ll have to deal with. And other people know you have to put up with such a lack of refinement, and will think of you this way. My point is you are the people around you for better or worse, all you can do to change them is to be a monolith of integrity. Or get a new job.
Weed shows up, and frankly I feel like 70% of America probably smokes weed. Nonetheless, weed will still get you arrested and your bar shut down. I get tipped weed often, its best to just pass it back, saying “not inside.” I have seen a bartender get arrested mid-shift for having a little roach what wouldn’t get a high school freshman buzzed.
Smoking is much more of a problem. I love smoking, but I have yet to ever smoke at work. I light up my cigar at closing time to let people know that the night is over. Also (earmuffs on kids) it makes me look cooler than I am. But all bartenders smoked, just some are trying to quit, some quit, and some are slaves that can’t work without it. It is however good form to have a pack on you, “bar smokes,” as we call them. People like a fag with their vices. Multiple entendre.
Coke. Goddamn it, bartenders do a lot of coke. Simple advice on this one: don’t. I didn’t exaggerate before, yes one time I saw a guy get arrested on the job for a roach, but for coke I won’t exaggerate either when I say, “I can’t begin to count the amount of bartenders that I know that were fired for coke problems.” So don’t start, which is also hard to say because the reason bartenders have such a hard time with coke is the long hours, oh yeah, and the proximity to coke dealers. Which brings me back to what I said before, dealers can’t hang with you if you are working, and dealers are the hardest people to throw out of a bar, even more so if you let them stay for a while before you 86 them. When you see one guy with a series of other people go to the bathroom over and over all night, you know what is going on. My advice,*** lay it on the line, don’t get the cops involved, ask them respectfully to leave. I also don’t order cocktails from bartenders that have a while ring-around-the-nosey.
Booze is the drug you deal and should try not to abuse inn general and definitely not while on the clock. If you can’t not drink and work, you can’t work. If you can’t look at some one stone fucking sober and throw them out you can’t work. If you get drunk and try to count money you’ll find that you can’t. Do I drink at work? Yes I do. Do I get drunk at work? Never. I will sip a miss-poured glass of wine, do a shot with a birthday party or taste new cocktails and ingredients I’m working on, but never all in the same night and never to any point that affects my judgment. Though there are many great bartenders that don’t drink a drop, you can’t be a practicing alcoholic bartender.
Vince Vaughn said it best in the shitty movie “Be Cool” when he said “Nice ass honey, better have a personality by the time you are 30.”
So you’ve decided to be a bartender? Cool, you’ll get paid, likely triple what any of your just graduated college friends will get paid, and likely for a few years. But what will you do in the meantime? I know a lot of bartenders who have yet to write the next great American novel and even more who are in a string of awesome but commercially un-viable bands. I’m not saying give up; you should chase your dream. But I also agree with you mother when I say, “have something to fall back on.” If a record company hasn’t been paying your rent you are probably still a bartender and maybe you should start getting better or working on your exit strategy. For women, this is the worst. A mediocre man tender can work almost indefinitely, swimming in a pool of sadness with water wings of failure. A lady tender however has until she is 30 or close by that to either get good or be pushed aside. The contrast is that awful lady tenders with make literally obscene money until gravity gets involved. It is not uncommon for a lady tender (who is fast) to make over $400 in a shift doing minimal work. But eventually, someone will want to know the appellation of the wine, the region of the scotch or send back a martini made with vodka, deriding you asking for gin stirred. This too, will happen to the fellas, but they get more time as they can talk about sports and at present men run the world.
I once asked a fellow bigwig bartender. “What do you want to be doing when you are 50?” “Bartenders live to be 50?” he asked. This industry is filled with older, unchangeable, not caring mediocre employees. And tending bar is not like working for the government, you can’t just show up. Even if you worked as a rep and got benefits, there is the startling truth: nobody works with reps that are idiots. Eventually, you will have to try, and hopefully you will never stop learning, otherwise, you will fail in this industry. What is your 5-year plan? Denny’s always needs a bartender.
After hours is awesome and its one of the best perks you get until health insurance and people just handing you money. Afterhours also frequently get you fired. For those who don’t know, after hours is what we call it when us bartenders pull the shades and have anything from a shot of whiskey and a heartfelt talk to a bacchanalian orgy after the customers leave. The biggest advice on after hours is: know who everyone is. You can’t call the cops to something that is illegal so minimize your risks. Other tips include:
-Lock the fucking door or you’ll get robbed
-Only drink the cheap stuff
-Clean up after yourself
-Don’t fuck people you work with, excuse me, “with whom you work”
-When in doubt leave, cash for what you drank
-Don’t sleep in the bar
-Make sure no body walking by can see you are in there, i.e. cops or robbers
Eventually, get everyone out and don’t lie about being there. Your boss (I) knows you were there and your boss (me for example) trusts you not to mess up too bad. Use self-control.
Seeing the sunrise is so beautiful every time I see it, the light is gentle and sad. I try to avoid the sunrise as much as possible because I can’t sleep after seeing it.
*But very fine fishing line sex does exist
**Because one pays but kills your sole and the other one has really good food
***Don’t fucking sue me if it doesn’t work for you, it has worked for me in the past
When I first read “Craft of the Cocktail” by Dale DeGroff, I fell in love with his “bar tools” page. It’s a peacock tail arsenal of all of the essential bar tools, since then, I’ve come to own several of everything on those pages. But what really makes the shift happen is the picture above. People I’ve worked with will vouch for it, I have all of these things on my person all of the shift. I know this is the equivalent of a dungeon and dragon graph paper inventory.
From Left-ish to right-ish
1. Butane lighter, will shoot flames upside down, looks cool perfect for flame zesting
2. Crappy bic lighter, the lighter I loan people that need a lighter, frequently I carry matches from Hazelwood or Carta de Oxaca in Ballard
3. Business card holder, filled with business cards.
4. Cell phone, a pizza, the cops or a cab, you’ll need to call.
5. Waiter’s wine key, I like the 2 stage because I find it works for more bottles. The ratio of futuristic wine key look is inversely proportionate to how well it works.
6. Square ring, this ring has 2 purposes, it charms homosexuals, and I open beer bottles with it.
7. Pocket watch, I’ve carried one for years, bartenders can’t wear wrist watches.
8. Speed opener, I keep this in my back pocket and use it to practice “beer iaido.” Unless I’m working in a schmance place, then it opens “sparkling water.”
9. Mints. I talk to people all day and I love coffee, truffle oil and garlic, so do most people.
10. The round ring that I use to open beer bottles when I use my right hand.
11. The crappy bic pen that I have behind my ear that loan to guys that need to get a number fast.
12. The two good pens I use to write
13. I small pocket knife, indispensable everyday, all day. Today I used it to dig a piece of glass out of my thumb.
14. A bar rag, dry hands, quick clean up, always be prepared.
This is also why I where a vest in the winter or a guayabera in the summer. Both are as functional as fly fishing vests, yet look infinitely more normal if not just cool.
Lastly, I always where boots when I work. The soles don’t slip, they are immune to water, broken glass and foot crushed by keg resistant. There is no better way to traverse a floor of flip flop clad assholes. I have also held a door shut with one boot while a disgruntled patron tried to beat the opposite side in with a bar stool. Boots protected me from broken glass and shards of wood. I have a pair for any kind of shift I’d work. Every time I get caught in shoes, I’m a bit uneasy. The boots bellow are a year and a half old, but they are my most Brock Sampson. Pictured with matching belt because, hey, c’mon don’t be bush league.
So I was in a conversation with what will continue to be an unnamed bartender from a very exclusive French joint, and he was explaining the high-end fuck buddies that he cultivates through his position. Less than 2 sentences later, he slammed his fist on the table and said, “Why do people shoot Chartreuse? It is to be sipped, slowly, and appreciated after a meal.” I bring this up to illustrate that Chartreuse is mysterious and frequently confusing.
Another mysterious thing about chartreuse are the myths perpetuated about it, why would people spurt random things about it while holding a bottle that says otherwise, to make a rule right now, read any and every bottle before you drink it. Info you’ll find on the bottle (listing only the true things): Chartruese is an intensely herbal 110 proof liqueurs made near Grenoble France from 130 herbs according to a recipe from 1605. In America it is sold in 4 varieties a green, a yellow, which is sweeter and milder, and an aged version of each bottle that is called V.E.P. The secret recipe is never known by more than 3 monks at a time and is protected by their vow of silence.
There is much more information on the bottle, but that information is incomplete or misleading. First I’ll list the bottlings before I explain the rest. There are 5 bottlings, 1 of which is not imported into America.
1: Green Chartreuse 110 proof
2: Yellow Chartreuse 80 proof
3: Green Chartreuse VEP (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé)
4: Yellow Chartreuse VEP (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé)
5: Elixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse 142 proof
The elixir is not sold in America and is basically green in its original non-bottle strength form. Sometimes people say there are 2 chartreuses sometimes 4, what’s important: there are 5 different bottlings.
Next, monks do not make Chartreuse; it was, for centuries, by now it’s made by what we call “factories.” After centuries of production by monks, demand is too great for them to keep up with. The recipe however, is still blended secretly by monks. 1605, that’s also kind of true, the monks were gifted the marshal of King Henri IV, Francois d’Estrees. This elixir for long life wasn’t perfected and put into production until 1737. So it’s not really 400 years old. Bother Brother Gérome Maubec was the brother who made this public. 1838 brought Yellow Chartreuse to the market; its sweet flavor is very similar to that of Licore Strega. Chartreuse’s production has twice been halted, in 1793 and 1903. This was because of the French revolution and later the government seized their land and exiled the monks to Spain where they continued production until they were allowed back in 1935. It is said during this time, the monks’ brandy reserves, (dating back to Napoleon) were all destroyed. But it’s all roses and sunshine for the brothers now, even with no add campaign outside of death proof by Quentin Tarantino, Chartreuse is selling better than ever.
That’s probably enough fact checking. To make Chartreuse make more sense, some of the generally assumed ingredients are: sweet flag, orange peel, peppermint oil, hyssop, balm, angelica, tonka bean, wormwood, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and mace. Though some of those ingredients are considered poisonous, the monks did indeed consider this an elixir for long life. I have had an opportunity to take a bug tug off of the tiny bottle of chartreuse elixir, unlike almost all liquor I’ve tasted of that proof the flavor is distinct and moreover life changing. Honestly, it felt like god was using a pepper grinder at the base of my skull, I began to sweat immediately and lights were created halos around non-moving objects. I can’t recommend this enough.
As for the general flavors for chartreuse it’s the opposite of what you would call diplomatic. However, it enhances many flavors, it pairs very well with coffee, chocolate and stone fruits. It’s also a test; I have overheard many bartenders say, “No, you don’t mix chartreuse.” I have heard this said of single malt scotch, anejo tequila, fernet branca, or anything confusing or difficult to understand. This is a cop out; there are only three reasons to not mix anything, 1. If you can’t afford it, if you can’t handle fucking up a $400 sidecar, don’t. Which leads to 2. If you don’t have the skill, and then very rare 3. If you are mixing with something that will never be available again. It bet you can wake a great Bobby Burns with Port Ellen scotch, but that distillery doesn’t exist anymore, you may not mix with it. That’s the test, can you mix? Or do you not even try?
Here are a few Cocktails for you
The earliest I have it is the Savoy Cocktail Book 1930, Unaccredited
.75 Yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir and strain into a cocktail glass
The Last Word- Detroit Athletic Cub, Before 1951
Shake and strain
And one from me
Penelope’s Pit stop
1.5 El Tesoro Platinum Tequila
.5 Yellow Chartreuse
.5 lemon juice
.25 of a muddled pear
At present, eggs aren’t part of standard bar service, but by the time I finish this book they could be. After leaving tales of the cocktail, I feel that it’s a good time to get people hyped on drinking chickens.
I was introduced to egg whites in cocktails by reading the gentleman’s companion. Unfortunately, I worked in college and did not spring break in peru and chile. Though I have found that schwhag swilling spring breakers have brought this classic cocktail back to north America. If I can thank date raping backwards cap wearing frat boys for anything, it would be that. But you know who else I’ll thank? Old people, old people remember when drinkers trusted bartenders, to well, make go drinks. Still, egg whites are complicated to get people to drink as well as to just mix with. That being said, the biggest obstacle, bigger than any technique, is getting over fear. The fear has a name, Mr Salmonela J. Vomits and Pukes.
You are going to die. It’s important to understand that to be a healthy normal person. You are going to die, but its not going to be from drinking egg whites. Here are the facts on salmonela, you just aren’t going to get it from eggs, the odds are way off, I’ll take all bets. One in twenty thousand eggs contain the so feared bacteria, making the odd of your exposure extremely low, once per every 42 years of egg consuming. Furthermore, just because an egg contains this bacteria doesn’t mean that it will be contracted. And if you are really worried, ask the health department, they will likely tell you that bean sprouts and green peppers are the biggest culprits. Most bacteria that would be on an egg is indeed on the shell, a simple dunk in hot water or spritz with vodka kills most things. And furthermore, 8% alcohol kills salmonella, if you make a drink with that little booze you can just fuck right off. And on top of that a ph of less than 5 kills salmonella, I understand almost all fruit fits into that category.
To address freshness, American eggs are packed with 2 dates, the Jullian date (numbers I through 365 showing which day food was processed) and the sell by date. The sell by date is 48 days from the pack date, for the freshest date go for eggs that are less than 28 days old. For the freshest eggs, get a chicken. Don’t get a rooster, roosters are for baristas or soccer moms or anyone else who likes to get up at the crack of dawn. For me, I could get a rooster once a week and kill it every week for annoying me. Visit a farm: learn to hate roosters.
To address “grossness,” first off, I triple dog dare you to read the ingredients on any of your favorite foods. If you’ve read the “Jungle” or “Fast Food Nation,” you’ll know what I mean. But wait, whats that? You shop at whole foods and only use all natural products? Well, people are slipping you eggwhites everyday like lies about the tooth fairy to children. Custard, merengues, crème brulee, eggs benedict, gomme syrup sour mix, these all have uncooked egg bits, and with the exception of the last one, are all delicious.
But the real point here isn’t food safety or poultry slamming (that’s Ira Glass’ job),the point is the drinking. I’ve always said that eggs adds a texture and a mouth feel that carry flavours throughout the mouth very well. Then I saw a woman suck the prairie oyster cocktail off a dude’s stomach and I realized that she was more accurate when called egg cocktails “sexy.” Hot and sexy or traditional and lost arts (all?) egg cocktails are amazing and need to be experienced. Many recipes you’ll find for egg whites are from the moldy old tomes with bizarre measurements. Dave Wondrich points out in the book Imbibe! that eggs like modern people are bigger than they used to be. But frequently so are drinks. Most modern drinks are going to be twice the size of their fore fathers. Being that a useful egg white is flavourless all you really need to be cautious of is not using so much that it dilutes other flavours.
The drink recipes you’ll encounter in the old tomes will fall into categories, mostly noted in the name of the drink, such was the style at the time. If you ask me, I’ll rant a while and say that cocktails are intimidating because “the family” isn’t in the title anymore. That being said, you’ll find sours,: a spirit that has a sweetener, lemon and or lime and an egg white, shaken, strained and up. Yes, a whiskey sour, an ameretto sour and a pisco sour are all supposed to have egg whites. You’ll read about flips: a whole egg, shaken and stained. Perhaps you remember egg nog, with cream. Or heard of a fizz: when you have a white and add carbonation. The Ramos Gin Fizz being the most popular, like drinking a cloud, you haven’t made it right unless you almost pass out after shaking it as hard as you can. I understand platoons of young me were hired to shake them in the past, up to 12 guys, one minute each per drink. And if you’re from the british isles perhaps a possett: egg yolks, (insert booze of choice) cream and spices super heated with a red hot cherry poker. People still drink them at Scottish weddings but they were very popular 400 years ago.
But these days, you’ll be doing mostly flips and sours. There is veritably an egg revolution in cocktail bars, each bar having there own technique. Rather than list them all (which I can’t) I’ll offer the 3 techniques that I’ve found the most useful.
1 and 2: The dry shake. If you shake a drink with normal ice from a freezer or regular ice machine, you’ll find that you can melt half of its volume in a couple minutes. Meaning: yes, you shake a drink hard, but the longer you do it, the greater the potential to serve watery booze and that’s no way to win friends. The dry shake I’ve best seen executed two ways, measuring all ingredients and placing the spring from a hawthorne strainer in the shaker, shake vigorously then add ice, shake quickly and done. Easier is to get a frother, a battery powered dirnk mixer that will blend the eggs in the glass, then add ice and shake. Sadly, I have done the “john Henry challenge” with the frother and, I have lost. But, its cooler to do it by hand.
3. On a molecular level, alcohol and acid (fruit or vinegar) break an egg down and sugar emulsifies it. So, when time is not an issue, add the egg to the booze and acid, shake or froth, this will break down the egg’s molecular structure. Then add sugar and mix again, this puts it all back together in a tidy fluffy cloud of joy. The new mixture is less likely to separate.
Oh, and 3.5: When cleaning up after egg drinks, use cold water. Hot water will “scramble” the eggs right on the glass.
Some cocktails for you
Ramos Gin Fizz- Henry C Ramos 1888
1 lemon juice
.5 simple syrup
1 egg white
1 dash orange flower water
shake and strain into a Collins glass and top with soda
White Lady – (a sour) – Harry MacElhone 1919
I egg white
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass
Lord of Carlisle’s Sack-Posset-Sir Kenelm Digby 1671
Take a pottle of Cream, and boil in it a little whole Cinnamon, and three or four flakes of Mace. To this proportion of Cream put in eighteen yolks of eggs, and eight of the whites; a pint of Sack; beat your eggs very well, and then mingle them with your Sack. Put in three quarters of a pound of Sugar into the Wine and Eggs, with a Nutmeg grated, and a little beaten Cinnamon; set the Bason on the fire with the Wine and Eggs, and let it be hot. Then put in the Cream boiling from the fire, pour it on high, but stir it not; cover it with a dish, and when it is settlede, strew on the top a little fine Sugar mingled with three grains of Ambergreece, and one grain of Musk, and serve it up.
Well, there is more than one, but not many more. Think of it as half and half drinks, 2 thirds to 1 third, equal thirds, equal forth’s and “other.” You’ll find to make drinks “good” or “not all taste the same” you’ll need to tweak these ratios a bit, but start with simple ratios to understand how flavors work together. Shortly there after, you’ll be subbing sugar for St Germain and adding dashes of bitters to everything. For this example I’ll say “sugar” to mean simple syrup or sweetening agent. Follow these examples:
Two Fourths to a couple others
Caiphrinia 2 oz Cachaca 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar
Daquiri 2 oz Rum 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar
Papa Doble 2 oz Rum 1 oz Grapefruit 1 oz Maraschino
Margarita 2 oz Tequila 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar
Bartender’s Magarita 2 oz Tequila 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar splash Cran
Cosmo 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar splash Cran
Kamakaze 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar
Lemondrop 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Lemon 1 oz Sugar
Aviation 2 oz Gin 1 oz Lemon 1 oz Maraschino
Bay Breeze 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Cran 1 oz Pineapple
Madras 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Cran 1 oz Orange
Sea Breeze 2oz Vodka 1 oz Cran 1 oz Grapefruit
Half and Half
Greyhound 2 oz Vodka 2 oz Grapefruit
Salty Dog 2 oz Vodka 2 oz Grapefruit salt rim
Chihuahua 2 oz Tequila 2 oz Grapefruit
Salty Chihuahua 2 oz Tequila 2 oz Grapefruit salt rim
Paloma 2 oz Tequila 2 oz Grapefruit top with soda salt rim
2 Thirds to 1 Third
Manhattan 2 oz Rye 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 2 dashes bitters
Rob Roy 2 oz Scotch 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 2 dashes bitters
God Father 2 oz Scotch 1 oz Amaretto
God Mother 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Amaretto
Vesper 2 oz Gin 1 oz Vodka Splash Lillet
This is just a basic bartender’s short list, its much more important to note that these are really just ideas on how drinks evolve and how changing one ingredient makes a new drink. I would also like this table to show “list of 5,000 new cocktails,” books as utter bullshit. Seattle local hero chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas would sell you his cookbook, but that doesn’t give you the skill to execute on all recipes nor secure the bank loan to open 6 or 7 restaurants. Do buy, these “5,000 new cocktail” books for ideas, and because they are indeed pretty, but mostly they are only for reference and ideas. There are too many variables and too little information in these books. Take the Manhattan, one of the best right? If you answered no, you might consider how odd it is that you have an incorrect opinion.
The Manhattan is a ratio of 60-85% bourbon, rye or whiskey, to 40-15% sweet vermouth to 1-4 dashes of bitters. If that’s not enough of a variable in ratios, consider the rich complexity of rye, to the earthen smoke and maturity of bourbon or the caramel sweetness of a Canadian blend to a dry Irish whiskey. The quantity of vermouth matters but lets not forget, they have more brands than I could list here. When it comes to bitters, everything changes, normally you’d get Angostura, but it’s not unusual to get a different brand of aromatic bitters, orange bitters and sometimes Peychauds. Then there is my fave: a Bookers (126 proof cask strength bourbon) Manhattan with heavy Punt e Mes (very grape-y sweet vermouth) and 3 dashes of Angostura bitters.
To flog a horse be it not already dead: take Pernod, an 80 proof anisette liquor that is an aperitif in not America but commonly used as an absinthe substitute in old timey recipes. Though not dissimilar in flavor, characteristics and ingredients, it is half the proof and is nowhere near the pervasive flavor of absinthe. The use of more Pernod just results in anis like watery mélange. Brands and ingredients matter but what matters more if the end result of the flavor. Unfortunately there is only one way to insure that drinks taste right, or that the recipe needs to be tweaked for the brands being used: taste the drink. The pro way and the sanitary way to do this is to dip a straw into the drink, then put your finger on the top of the straw to taste a sample. Any bartender worth a damn does this all shift long if not to every drink. I use a straw if some one asks me to taste any drink even at a party. Why? Because I have no intentions of getting herpes whilst answering the question, “does this taste funny to you?” I hope you aren’t laughing.
What you should have learned:
Most recipes follow very simple formulas
Change those formulas to achieve the specific desired results
Recipe books are pretty, slick packages of ideas, not rule (including these)
The tasting straw is one of the most useful bar tools
The Manhattan is the best drink
I stopped into work before my shift, and saw the tall blonde sexy lady bartender foil to me dressed as my equal. Be that the written nonsense line of a man that has two manhattans (the best cocktail) before he begins writing? Yes, to you I say don’t boss me. I am sad to say I am currently dressed in, as is my co worker in what I have come to call Cruise classic, and she the lady version thereof. That is to say the way that Tom Cuise dressed in the movie cocktail. The black collared shirt with black pant, or for the more casual, black and jeans is the classic bartender look. I remember seeing a national enquirer headline once that read “ Angelina to brad, -you dress like a bartender.],” I thought, “awesome.”
But I digress. Steve Martin said it best when he quoted one of his mentors (who was no doubtibly quoting one of his) when he said, “dress better than they do.” Steve understands that a performer is whom you are coming to see, if they wanted to stay home in sweats they would, they are here for the performer. So, give them some bait. I take this a bit further and say, dress like the real you. Me? When I work at a nightclub, I wear Cruise classic. When I’m in fine dining I wear cufflinks and a tie, and when I’m in between I dress as a friend’s father so insultingly but memorably put it “as a river boat gambler.” To that I say, own it. It is paramount to be prepared for every shift down to being comfortable in your clothes. I wear a pocket watch across my vest and handlebar moustache on my face; this works for me and makes me, “that guy.”
What to remember:
Look better than they do
Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.