Fernet and cigarettes in five-minute sessions,
Liquor before beer and other boozy lessons,
Expensive sunglasses hiding dark eye rings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
It seems so easy to talk about what is hard about working in the bar and restaurant industry. We all know that hours are long. You don’t get health insurance. You don’ get holidays off. People look down on you. But put away the smallest violin in the world that is playing bartender’s get no love in b minor. Let me tell you about some of the fabulous things that as a bartender, you will have a whole new love for. These are things that as a people, all of us drink slingers love.
Breakfast is the best meal of the day and brunch is the best meal of the week. As a bartender, if you wanted, you could have 7 brunches a week that is a lot of champagne and cantaloupe. Furthermore, brunch is an art, I’ve been focusing on it for about 8 years and I’m just starting to really figure out brunch. One must pick out the menu’s good bits from the crap, know what bar can make you an 11 am mojito and who plays the least annoying music over brunch. I have on several occasions had classic rock play at 10 am that is bullshit. I want Iron and Wine with brunch not Led Zeppelin, which is clearly after noon music.
But when a bartender goes to brunch, they must encounter some other bullshit, the sun. HOW CAN THE SUN BE OUT WHEN I AM STILL SLEEPY? Is the cry of every bartender, I have taken two precautions, I moved to Seattle and I have a huge sunglass collection. I think if there is a bartender that has less that 4 pairs of sunglasses it is because they have one pair that costs as much as a month’s rent.
Further shade from the devil sun is the hat. I own 6 hats to go through the entire year’s seasons and fashions and I am a man with a full head of fluffy hair. I’d wager those of us that are more senior have double the hats. Even the lady tenders got a lot of hats; it isn’t limited to guys pretending to be Bogey.
And on the note of fashion, bartenders are a curious lot, once I was described as having a “steam punk,” esthetic. I can spot a bartender walking down the street, not because of just the hat, sunglasses and pants swollen with cash but also because of the shoes. People in the liquor biz all wear nice shoes. People that spend 12 hour shifts on their feet with water dripping on them know that those shoes need to be comfy and the shoes they wear the next day are going to be a cut above.
This is a profession that also leads easily to certain vices. The most legal and least sinful of these vices are easily called cigarettes, cheap beer, cab rides and cream cheese hog dogs. All of these are bad, and we know they are bad. The cigarette is hands down the easiest way to get a break under any circumstances, simply because other people that are addicted understand the need. A bartender could stand before a jury of his/her peers and say, “your honor, I had to murder that toddler, the little shit drooled on my last smoke, ” “not guilty.” The verdict would surely be. Bartenders are the first profession to understand what a quality beer is, and the first to pound a can of beer after work. Even more so, I myself am connoissuer of cheap beer, I can’t drink a PBR, but I love a Session, an Oly or the east coast fav: a Yuenling. Sometimes to need to grab that beer, look at it in the mouth and say, “ I’m John Belushi and you are, well you are still a beer and I’m going to kill you.” Try not to cut your mouth on the can. Cabs cost way too much. As a cyclist, I used to hate cabs, as they are reckless and likely to kill you. Then I started hanging out with cabbies and learning the joy of getting home dry, warm and fast. It’s worth the extra dough, and outside of golf carts, cabs are the only way to be drunk in transit. Cream cheese dogs are responsible for 10% of all fat related deaths, but the risk is worth it. I am not important, but Kagittan, the guy who runs the hot dog stand down the street, he puts me in the front of the line and gives me the good stuff. I’ve got friends in low places.
After a Miller High Life and a cream cheese hot dog you are going to have a tummy that rightly says to you: “Why are you trying to poison me, I shall growl at you.” You must reply, “tummy, I hear your distress and I shall soothe you with the most bitter of all bitter drams, the bartender’s shot, the un official drink of Argentina, San Francisco and hangovers the world over, tummy here is a shot of Fernet Branca.” To further personify body parts, tongue then says “AHHH, Fuck you, bbarrrgghhh, eh, its minty.” And then the stomach is happy. Digestif bitters are popular everywhere in the world but these United States. Fernets, are generally grape bases infuse and fortified liqueurs. Of all the Fernets, the Fernet Branca, is by far the fiercest of which I am aware. The first time you drink it, it tastes of mint, pine needles and gasoline, and somehow, someday it will begin to also taste of a soft wool sweater wrapped around your stomach.
You get home, tired, full of animal fat and Italian liqueur, this is hardly the time for scholarly pursuits. I recreationally read Hamlet, but after a long shift there are only cartoons on adult swim. Something about severe exhaustion and a mild buzz make cartoons that much better. But in these twilight hours, one must find ones limits, for laughing to hard when full of pork and booze can cause a “sofa mess,” and that would create a poor association with great things like Fernet and light beer. And then you’d also have to walk to brunch on an empty stomach.