Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey.

This “help wanted” ad has long been attributed to Ernest Shackleton, Antarctic explorer, and it has been claimed that he received over five thousand responses to it.  Though it’s a brilliant bit of copy, it’s been fairly well established that it was just that; the ad never really ran and was written many years after Shackleton’s famed expedition. No matter, at the heart of it is a help wanted ad that spells out the real nature of a job. What are you telling prospective employees about your business and the type of employee you wish to hire?

What we choose to write and the attention we pay to detail when writing an ad will determine the caliber of employee attracted to an interview. In fact, the interview process starts with the ad; and it’s not you determining the skill and potential of an employee, but the prospective employee determining if your business has the skill and potential for them to make a living working for you.

Below is an ad that ran in my market recently and also very clearly lets a prospective employee know exactly what they’re in for if they sign on board.

This posting is for a bartender for our bars in xxxxx, xxxxx, xxxxx and xxxxx. This is a bar that has been here for a long time and is going to be going through a ownership change. This bartender must be able to manage a busy bar and help grow there shifts. We are willing to train but you must be willing to learn and have a great personality. We would like locals to apply to bring in new people to help us grow. We will help you plan your shifts so they always have something going on to keep it new for our customers. Please reply by text only xxx-xxx-xxxx with a picture and some of your experiance. I will text back to set up a time for a interview… Thank you

“Iceberg off the port bow!” Sirens and warning light should go off when you read the above ad. This bar is destined to interview the employees it deserves and I would hazard to guess that any bartender taking this job is in for “low wages, bitter cold, and long hours of complete darkness” and any chance for success is very “doubtful”.

 

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Angels Among Devils

“Sometimes I have wondered whether life wouldn’t be much more amusing if we were all devils, no nonsense about angels and being good.”  – Dr. Petorois, The Bride of Frankenstein.

Author’s note: The article Shameful Bartending: How Hubris & Arrogance is Replacing Hospitality took on a life of its own in the past 24 hours. Many people all over the world read it and many felt the need to share it with their friends. I hope more of you choose to share this article. It’s more important. 

And just when the night’s darkness seemed about to swallow Hospitality, there appeared a light. And there was a great klaxon of horns. And in the sky there appeared angels. Here were the bartenders who would slay the monster. Hubris and Arrogance fled from their light. And the swords of the angels were Kindness and Service.

Can I get an “Amen”?

Yesterday’s sermon preached hellfire and damnation about bartenders. Today’s sermon is the other part of the story, the proverbial flip side about bartenders who make a difference; the angels out there who volunteer their time and skill to help others. The bartenders who are changing their communities and the world through selflessness and service. Here’s how they’re getting to Heaven:

Bartenders Saving Pretty Faces. In August Uros Miljkovic, a New York bartender and barback was seriously injured while traveling. Though he has some supplemental insurance, it does not cover the expenses for the surgery he had on August 30th to repair major fractures to his left cheek bone and nose. His colleagues at Employees Only and Macao Trading Co. began a fundraiser for him, Save Uros’ Face, through Gofundme.com to raise $15,000 to cover his medical expenses. That was seventy-two hours ago; over 2/3rds of the money has been raised already.

Bartenders being Jesus. Except in Reverse. “When the idea came to me to start Wine to Water the only real job experience I had was tending bar,” said Hendley, “I dreamed of building an organization that fought water related death and disease using different methods than anyone else. So, I started raising money to fight this water epidemic that best way I knew how, by pouring wine and playing music.” 

In 2003, Doc Hendly dreamed up the concept of his organization while bartending and playing music in nightclubs around Raleigh, NC. In February 2004, the first fundraiser was held for what would one day be Wine To Water and by August of that same year Hendley was living in Darfur, Sudan installing water systems for victims of the government supported genocide. The organization has now brought safe, clean drinking water to villages and communities in thirteen countries and has directly affected the day to day lives of ten’s of thousands.

Bartenders get into the Pool. The Barman’s Fund is a motley assortment of bartenders in New York City who pledge one shift a month for charitable organizations.  Usually at the first of the month, they pick a shift and donate every last dollar they make on that shift.  They pool the money and look for folks who need it.  They contact non-profits and get ‘wish lists’ sometimes, other times they find a need and foot the bill.  They keep their causes non-political and their gifts as tangible as possible and have a damn fine time doing it all.  Founded in April by Brian Floyd, they have donated over $70,000.  They have chapters in New York City and New Orleans.  Holly Williams runs and adminsters the fund in NOLA.

Bartenders Protecting Heritage. We have a Museum for That. MOTAC: Throughout its two-century-old history, the cocktail has influenced music, theater, art, film, and politics around the world. The Museum of the American Cocktail is a nonprofit organization that celebrates this true American cultural icon. Founded by Dale DeGroff, and several of the world’s most passionate cocktail authorities and historians, the Museum of the American Cocktail seeks to advance the profession and increase consumer knowledge of mixology while stressing the importance of responsible drinking. Their mission is to create a self-sustaining museum and tourist attraction that celebrates and preserves a rich aspect of American culture, while providing educational resources for professionals and the public in the fine art of crafting the cocktail through a series of mixology seminars conducted by the world’s foremost authorities on cocktail history and American cocktails. They also aim to broaden career opportunities in the spirits industry and encourage more participation from women and members of under-represented groups in the field.

Bartenders in the Dark. Dinner in the Dark, behind co-creators Brian Okin and Jeff Jarrett, brings together Cleveland’s chefs and food lovers to share their passion and compassion. Once a month they host a six course dinner created by six local chefs. The participating chefs and the menu for the evening is not revealed until the guests arrive, keeping them ‘in the dark’. Ticket proceeds benefit a local charity chosen by the participating chefs. The Cleveland Chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild proudly partners with DITD every month and donates their time and talent to create the welcome cocktail for guests for each dinner.

Let us Pray:

To whom it may concern, we thank you for the gifts of beer, wine, and spirits. And we are grateful that you gave us the talent to serve people and continue to help us each day to ensure their happiness when they are under our tavern’s roof. And though we try not to hate our self involved, mean-spirited, talk too much, snobby snob, fancy panted brethren and we try to teach them the way of hospitality, we would have no problem if you smote them from time to time.

In Jerry’s name we pray,

Amen.

 

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Shameful Bartending: How Hubris & Arrogance is Replacing Hospitality

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.”

OBEYDisturbing. 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. 

 

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Perspective: Is Modern Mixology Worth the Hype?

Is Modern Mixology Worth the Hype? This was the question posed by Forbes.com’s blog contributor Jerry Prendergast last Saturday. It got me thinking. Really hard. Then I reached for the calculator.

Guess what. I got scary numbers too. I took Mr. Prendergast’s suppositions and determined the profit per serving. I costed all goods at my market cost, determined the cost of 1 hour labor at $8.00, and figured cost of labor in creating ingredients creating a prime cost for each beverage. Here’s the break down :

Glass of Chardonnay ($8.00 wholesale bottle), 6 oz pour, return per serving $5.94, return per hour $356.40

Guinness Draught, 16 oz pour, return per serving $4.67, return per hour $186.80

Grey Goose Martini, 3 oz recipe, return per serving $5.42, return per hour $162.60

Midnight Mary #3, per recipe, return per serving $8.00, return per hour $80.00

Now, before we continue I wanted to speak to the Midnight Mary #3. This isn’t your average signature drink. This isn’t your average bartender. This isn’t your average bar. This drink is from Charles Joly of Aviary. Yeah, that place. The place where cocktail dreams do come true. Where amazing drinks cost mostly between $14 and $19. I’m pretty sure Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas have profitability figured out at Aviary.

I see Mr. Prendergast’s point in drinks per hour, however the supposition lives in a vacuum when we look at profitability through the lens of one bartender’s efficiency in one category of drink. The reality is that a bartender is going to produce a broad range of  beverages; bottled & draught beer (low dollar return, high volume) and highballs (high dollar return, high volume) accounting for most sales. Which begs the question, are we looking at the numbers we should be looking at? Let’s change perspective. Which of the above items would you rather sell? Don’t start sweating percentages, cost percentages be damned, your bank accepts dollars not percentages. Even my 7-year-old knows which drink makes more money.

So is it worth the hype? It depends on your bar. Can you sell a twelve dollar drink? Is the average guest’s expectation of how much time it takes to make a drink align with how quick the bartender can make a drink? Are you stupid enough to load your entire cocktail list with drinks that take four minutes to make? This is what it boils down to: luxury/craft cocktails can have higher than normal costs associated with prime cost but always command higher prices and in return produce higher profits per serving. If my guests are only going to have two or three drinks during a visit I want them drinking cocktails. Ensuring these drinks can be produced at a reasonable pace is a matter of steps of service, mise en place, and the hospitality skills of your staff.

If you did not take the time to read the comments on Mr. Prendergast’s article, you should. He answers all criticisms with grace and diplomacy.  Most comments were made by guests who understand the time it take to create a proper cocktail. Mr. Prendergast understands this also. Think about McDonald’s vs. Morton’s when it comes to protein. The difference in serving time might be nearly thirty minutes. You have to have the patience to wait an extra two to three minutes for an often unique drink experience or at least a properly made cocktail. If you don’t, there’s a nightclub right down the street that would be happy to serve you a Marshmallow vodka and soda with a Jager Bomb side in sixty seconds flat, as long as it’s not five deep at the bar…

Our Bartender is Better than Your Bartender

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We are a fellowship of bartenders who are passionate about and dedicated to the history, craft, and enjoyment of spirits, wine, and beer. As a professional organization, we are committed to the development of our members through education. We provide members with career development through accreditation programs and networking. Our members are given the opportunity to showcase their skills and creativity through local, national, and international cocktail competitions.

Yesterday I accused your local bartender of having the same skill set as my seven-year old child; that was mean. True, but mean. What I don’t know about your local drink slinger, and which is truly the most important thing, is do they love to serve? Do they embrace hospitality? Do they have a strong work ethic? This is the hallmark of a professional. The minutiae of gin production, the historical relevance of the julep strainer, or the perceived difference in acidity in fresh pressed lime juice vs. four-hour old lime juice can be taught; teaching hospitality and work ethic is a bit tougher.

Bartender, mule, mixologist, bar wench, son of a bitch. I’ve been called all of them. I personally prefer ‘barkeep’ as I am a career path bartender who, besides mixing drinks and pouring beers, am also responsible for cleaning, profitability, and product. I ‘keep’ the bar. In that last 200 years we have seen our profession move from a valid, respected career to a transient position for college students. However, the pendulum is swinging. The explosion of American interest in food is fueling a revolution in beverages. And those of us who feed our families by serving libations are grateful that our dedication, passion, and respect is being recognized as relevant. Did you know that the esteemed James Beard Foundation recognizes beverage professionals as well as chefs?

Like any profession, we can be pretty ‘catty’. Mixologists look down on flair bartenders as ‘jugglers’. Mules think mixologists are too full of themselves and are slow behind the bar. All male bartenders dislike bar wenches because we don’t have certain physical attributes that earn them more tips. The mixologists concentrate on spirits, history, and esoteric ingredients while white table-cloth bartenders are aghast when colleagues don’t know the difference between Chat. d’Yquem and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. And don’t get me started on the beer geeks and their insane ramblings on yeast strain and West Coast hops. As a co-founder and current Vice President of the Cleveland Chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild my goal is to bring all of these bartenders together for the betterment of our guests and our profession.

We in Cleveland are considered a medium size market and because of that, we are often passed over by large spirit, wine, and beer companies when marketing dollars are to be spent. Really Pernod-Ricard? Is spending $100,000 in NYC really going to move the needle on Absolut sales? Try spending $10,000 here educating bartenders and the public and see your sales move appreciably. Don’t think our bartenders can hang with San Fran, Chicago, and Miami? This is what we’ve accomplished recently here in Cleveland, let alone Cinci & C-bus :

Eric Ho, Melt – National winner of Tanqueray’s Gin & Tonic Contest

Rob Turek, Barley House – Numerous national flair titles, National finalist Woodford Reserve Manhattan Contest, Third place in the world TGI Fridays Cocktail Contest.

Joseph DeLuca – two time National finalist for Nightclub and Bar Magazine ‘Shake it Up’, National finalist for USBG/Bacardi National Cocktail Championship.

Nathan Burdette, Crop – National finalist Diageo World Cup

Matt Stipe, Market Garden – National finalist Don Q Rum Contest

Lynn Vozar – Ohio Tequila Festival Margarita Winner

Halle Bruno, Rosewood Cafe – Top five National finish in Domaine d Canton Cocktail Contest

Darko Marankovic, Rosewood Cafe – National finalist for GQ Most Inspired Bartender Contest

And this is the short list. Yeah, we can hold our own with major markets.

If you are a supplier or broker reading this, show us some love. If you are a bartender who wants to excel at your craft, join us. If you are a enthusiast and guest in our restaurants, come see us. We’re great at what we do and will treat you to a great hospitality experience. I’m sorry if I offended you or your local bartender by suggesting that their skills needed work; I want all bartenders to be better than Max, my seven year old.

Well that’s enough ranting for today. Hey Max, stir me up a Manhattan and don’t be shy with the vermouth…

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.”

Obey.

“The first rule to be observed by any man [or woman] acting as a bartender in our business, is to treat all customers with the utmost politeness & respect.”

– Harry Johnson, New and Improved Bartender’s Manual, 1882

So Tales of the Cocktail 2012 has come and gone. My head is much clearer after being removed a thousand miles and two weeks from Grand Dame NOLA and its time to reflect on what I learned.

This year I approached seminars differently than in the past. Though I’m a geek, I attended no hour and a half seminars  on bitters manufacturing, no attentive listening to a round table discuss dilution rates of Kold Draft ice vs. hand carved ice spheres, and I stayed away from lectures about foams, liquid nitrogen, and vaporized cocktails. This year I wanted to learn about hospitality and the bartender. It was time, after 22 years behind the pine, to get back to the basics and remember why I love this industry so that I can better teach the next generation.

Its very telling that the world’s most important gathering of career path bartenders now needs to include hospitality training in its broad selection of seminars. Why? Because we have a problem. We have taught young bartenders in the greatest detail about the spirits they pour. We have encouraged them to commit to memory hundreds of pre-Prohibition drinks. Ferran Andria & Grant Achatz have showed them how to think differently about presentation. And somewhere in the excitement of the cocktail revolution we have forgotten to teach them how to be bartenders. We have somehow forgotten to mention that we serve people, not drinks.

I was interviewed several weeks ago about what it means to be a bartender and the current state of affairs behind the bar in my market. The interviewer asked me what the most important thing about being a good bartender was and I immediately answered – “A love of serving people and honest hospitality”. It was the right answer, I’ve been parroting it for two decades. But it bothered me. Is this how I conduct myself behind the bar? Not as well as I should. How often do I actually impress this basic tenet of service upon the scores of bartenders and servers I teach every year? Not enough. Am I spending too much time teaching barrel maturation theory to part time bar mules instead of  saying “Make eye contact, smile, and be nice.”? Yes, I am.

I had to fly to New Orleans and spend money on seminars to remind me who I’m supposed to be behind the bar and what I’m supposed to be teaching.

I’ll pick this thread up over the next several weeks and talk more about what I relearned from those who never forget what hospitality really means : Bridget Albert, Tony Abou-Ganim, Allen Katz, Tobin Ellis, Angus Winchester, Sean Fitner, and Leo Robitschek.