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Introducting the World’s Worst Bartender

July 25, 2013

Back a few years ago, while I was in the midst of a forced convalescence (read: period of unemployment), I had the opportunity to work as a bartender at a friend’s restaurant located in suburban Philly.

Let me assure you, I was a very, very poor bartender. I know, I know, they only put the stars on Monday and Wednesday day bar, but seriously, the only things I felt like I could accomplish well was stocking the cold box and cutting the fruit (lemons, limes, oranges, etc.) for garnish. (I was damn good at keeping that stuff stocked.

I entered this job only knowing how to pour a beer. The first few weeks I was there, during the hazing period, my friend, the owner, used to periodically yell down the bar at me when others were hanging out, saying “Get me a Singapore Sling!” or “Get me a banana daiquiri!” Every time, my reply would be, “What kind of beer is in that?”

I had a little way of getting around problems of people ordering mixed drinks. On my iPhone I kept a “Mr. Boston’s Bar Guide” app, which had the recipes for most common cocktails. When one was ordered, I’d say “Sure thing,” then bend down behind the bar, as if I were getting a glass or ice, or anything else that would allow me the opportunity to get my phone out, look up the recipe, and then make the drink on the fly.

I had a regular I’ll refer to as Buster. He liked Long Island iced teas. He liked them a lot. I got very good at making them, since they basically contain everything, in a glass, with ice and a splash of cola. In fact, I think that’s the only mixed drink  that I feel like I could still make today. (I also learned that the trick to a martini is to not use any vermouth, and make a big production of shaking the shit out of it. Americans don’t know what vermouth tastes like, don’t particularly like the taste, and expect an ice cold glass of vodka when ordering a martini. The bigger the production when  shaking, the more the customers seemed to enjoy it.)

One thing my bartending escapades did allow me was the opportunity to deal with a lot of different people, talking to people I never would have, or would have chosen to, and how to deal with unpleasant people. One of my tricks, while talking to someone who was very unpleasant, was to say “Hmm, I never thought of it like that before,” and then excusing myself to go into the kitchen. The unpleasant individuals would be sated, because they felt like they were listened to, and I had my exit from the conversation.

When I got a long-term freelancing gig at Comcast, I was able to say fare-thee-well to the bar, where Meg and I are still known to make a periodic appearance. I still have friends there (although, as I’d noticed before, the clientele turns over about every nine months or so, so on a recent dining experience, we only recognized a couple people). Amazingly, it looks like they’ve been able to keep things running, even without the world’s worst bartender.


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