The voices started a couple of years ago. The voices got louder and began to swell. Now, it’s a roar. The guest is angry. Pitchfork and torches angry. Bartenders have become self involved, mean-spirited, talk too much, snobby snob, fancy panted mixologists… or bar chefs… or cocktail artists. Polite conversation and warm welcome has been replaced with diatribes on ice dilution and the hauteness of hollywood princesses. Hubris and arrogance have replaced hospitality. What have we created in the blind pursuit of our craft and at the expense of the guest? Excuse me Dr. Frankenstein, but your monster is loose.
The following was posted recently by Sean Kenyon, a Rasputin bearded, third generation bartender out of Denver:
“I was recently enjoying a drink at a cocktail bar. The guest next to me, who was probably in his early 50’s, asked the bartender if they had Jello shots. To which the bartender snottily replied “ABSOLUTELY not” (a simple no would have sufficed). Undeterred, the guest then ordered 8 mixed shots for him and his group of 7 women in their 40’s and 50’s. The bartender’s response to that request? Eight shots consisting of a mix of Green Chartreuse, Lemon Hart 151 & lime juice. Two overproof spirits & citrus? Was he punishing them for daring to order mixed shots or Jello shots? Not one person finished any of those shots (there was a lot of funny faces made) and the smarmy barkeep gladly charged them full price for all. This is a classic example of the bad direction that our craft is headed. The bartender let his ego get in the way of making his guests happy, and was more concerned about his needs than his guests. Shame.”
Disturbing. A fireable offense. But not surprising. The guest has become the enemy; it used to be Front of House vs. Kitchen. I had a conversation last month with a Chef/Owner friend of mine about the animosity towards the guest and this is what he had to say:
“I don’t know what has changed; when servers and bartenders are in the kitchen, all they do is bitch about the guest. They hate them. Didn’t they know that there was going to be assholes in the restaurant tonight when they got into car to come to work? Professionals do, they still welcome them and give great service.”
Which brings me to how I see bartenders treat their colleagues. With disrespect. With animosity. Mixologists above Flair. Flair above Mules. Everybody above Beertenders. Even large market vs. small market. Here is what a colleague said to me over the weekend:
“Tales of the Cocktail felt different this year. I was disappointed at the attitude of bartenders I met from the East Coast, West Coast, and bigger markets like Houston and Miami. They acted as though I wasn’t relevant.”
This from a bartender who was an invited speaker at Tales. And whose bar has been nominated for an award at Tales the past two years in a row for its cocktail program. And who has a book coming out this fall. He marked it up to working in a mid-size market and the hubris of those who choose to work in major markets. He might not be too far off base. This is what one of my friends told me after he returned from a major cocktail competition this summer:
“Jane [name changed to protect the arrogant] told me I really needed to get out of Cleveland if I’m going to make a name for myself in this business.”
Wow. Really? I hope “Jane” realizes that we bartenders are sort of like poets; those who “have made a name” for themselves in our business are only famous to us, the rest of the world doesn’t care. Except for the guest. And they’re at the castle gates Dr. Frankenstein, and they’re pissed.
Author’s note: The article Shameful Bartending: How Hubris & Arrogance is Replacing Hospitality has taken on a life of its own, much like Frankenstein’s monster . Thousands of people all over the world have read it and many felt the need to share it with their friends. I hope more of you choose to share Angels Among Devils. It’s more important.