What it really takes to be a Bartender

Gaz Reagan, cocktail writer, teacher, and mentor who wears eye liner a la Clockwork Orange and whose mouth would make Satan blush posted the following this morning saving me some writing.

The following quotation is taken from Why Prohibition! A book written by Charles Stelzle, and published by George H. Doran Company in 1918. The book is very pro-prohibition, but this excerpt, taken from a passage that begins “But what about the bartenders—what will become of them when the saloons are closed?” inadvertently shines a wonderful light on the character of bartenders in general :

“A member of the Bartenders’ Union recently wrote an article on ‘How to Be a Bartender,’ for the Mixer and Server, the official journal of his union. He said that several books have been published on ‘How to Mix Fancy Drinks,’ but in his fourteen years’ experience as a bartender he had never yet seen a book on ‘How to Be a Bartender.’

“Evidently this bartender believes that the ability to mix fancy drinks isn’t the most important part of a bartender’s job. Here are some of the things which he calls essential if the bartender is to be successful :

“First: [A bartender] must be immaculately dean, both so far as his linen is concerned and also as to his person * * * The old maxim that ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ is certainly true in the case of the bartender. It is one of his principal assets in applying for and holding a job.

“Second: Next to cleanliness comes good common sense. The bartender must be able to size up any situation clearly at a glance. He sizes up the customer, the place he works in, its possibilities, the improvements he would make, and so on; and if he is interested in the success of the business he can find abundant time to make suggestions to his employer that may be appreciated.

“Third: The bartender should upon securing a position, learn where every cordial and bottle is to be found; look the cigars carefully over, so that he can pick out any brand of cigar in the case or bottle of liquor without hesitation.

“Fourth: He must not ‘butt into’ the conversation of his customer. He should always remember that it is the customer who is spending the money, and the employer wants the customer, and cares nothing for the opinions of the ‘man behind’ in politics or anything else.

“Fifth: He must be polite, answering all questions to the best of his ability. He should thoroughly learn the city in which he is employed in order to properly direct strangers, many of whom drop into saloons for information rather than ask a stranger on the street. In short the successful bartender must be a general information bureau, a doctor, lawyer and several other things too numerous to mention, not required by any other man in any walk of life. All of which requires time and study to make him proficient.”