Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Monday, May 30, 2005

Vice-President of Station 5

Great Doonesbury today, especially for those of us in the "business."


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Dewar's on the rocks, with a splash of pride.

It's a busy Friday night, and one of the more experienced servers, Bob, calls an order of Dewar's and water, x3. Wow, quite a few, I thought, while making the traditional, but not terribly popular, highball. Added more ice after the scotch "melt", and then added the water. I try ever so hard to mix my drinks with love, not to mention that I'm growing weary of pouring wine and Appletinis tonight and appreciate the change-up.

A few minutes later, Bob re-appears with the three highballs. I roll my eyes at him, and he looks almost pleased when informing me that the customers thought they were the weakest scotch-and-waters they had ever tasted. I'm offended, because the customers are challenging my skills, and exaggerating to boot. "Ever" is little more than dramatic puffery when it comes to complaining customers. Feeling confident that I pour an honest shot, I'm tempted to force Bob to ask the customers if they'd prefer to order and pay for a double, but decide against pissing off a harried server in the middle of a hectic Friday. I top the drinks off with a touch of Dewar's, essentially rewarding the customers with free scotch. I even re-ice the cocktails to freshen them up; I've gone above and beyond the call of bartending. I watch Bob carry them away, and I feel a bit puffed-up with pride, unapologetic for the first round.

Bob, the button-pusher, returns about fifteen minutes later, knowing I'm on edge. "They told me to tell the lady bartender that they'll have you trained by the end of your shift," he laughs. Old-timer Bob is loving my perceived shortcomings tonight.

As the party leaves, I make certain to catch the eye of one of the Dewar's drinkers. Unprevoked (mental darts I'm projecting into his torso notwithstanding), he approaches me, and says, or, rather, harrumphs, "Bartender? Weakest scotches I've ever had."

"Sir," I say. "What did you have? Scotches? Scotches and water?" I tried to play dumb and cocky at the same time, but only came across as stuttering and defensive. Bah. Writing about it now, I'm reminded of what the Germans call treppenwitz.

"See, that's the problem! Dewar's on the rocks with a splash. Not Dewar's and water!!"

Let it be known that there is a huge difference between a rocks drink and a highball, and that this was clearly a case of server, rather than bartender, error. It happens. I feel slightly vindicated, but I still think the guy was an asshole.

For the record, the customers left Bob $25.00 even on a $178.00 tab. Free-scotch-drinkin'-server-runnin' cheapass complainers.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

In honor of "The Contender" finale, mix yourselves A Boxer

It's been an uneventful week. Sometimes working in a restaurant/bar is just like everyone else's job. Boring.

Maybe it was Reality TV Finale Week that kept the customers away? While the tasteless Nielsen families were watching the fakey, tear-jerking "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," some of us were watching "The Contender," which provided somewhat-authentic teary moments. And lots of great boxing. The show sort of proved a Movie Rule: If you're going to make a dramatic, sweeping, emotional film about sports, go with boxing! It was amazing how much you ended up caring about these guys at the end of each show. The concept translated well to television, and I think it's one of Mark Burnett's best shows to date. It was also fantastic to see free boxing on prime-time network television again. Too bad NBC's throwing in the towel. (couldn't resist)

Congratulations to the well-read and thoughtful Sergio "The Latin Snake" Mora for his impressive performance. I never thought he had a chance against Peter Manfredo, but Mora's speed and unique style proved superior in the five and seven-round bouts. He proved that boxers can be powerful and intimidating while quoting Oscar Wilde, so you couldn't help being charmed by him. I'm a fan, and I'd like to thank Sergio Mora and the other boxers for renewing my interest in boxing and the more exciting middleweights, in particular. Best of luck to Sergio in the future; I'll be paying attention to your career (work on your power!) Congratulations also to Peter Manfredo Jr., Jesse Brinkley, and especially for the "fan favorite" and third-place winner, Alfonso Gomez.

At any rate, it's entirely puzzling to me that this show didn't attract more viewers. A reality show where, in order to win, you have to beat the living crap out of your opponents! And it didn't hurt that at least 90% of the fighters were hot. Purrrrrr. There are likely people who would pay to watch "Rob and Amber: The Divorce" but never gave "The Contender" a passing glance. Shame on you all. You should all be doomed to a lifetime of nothing but two-hour series starring various members of the Hilton family.

I think "The Contender" is still in repeats on CNBC, if anyone wants to set their Tivo.

And to wrap up Reality Closer Week, I imagine Bo Bice is quite relieved to have lost "American Idol." He's actually got a shot at a rock career now.

Heading into the busy Memorial Day Weekend, I hope to have more bar stories for everyone soon. In the meantime, here's a boxing-themed cocktail recipe, known as the Yellow Boxer to some, although I've always called it The Boxer.

The Boxer Martini

1 1/2 ounces Patron Silver Tequila
1/2 ounce Galliano Liqueur
Splash of Orange Juice
Splash of Sour

Splash of Rose's Lime

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve with a smile. La di Li!

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down
Or cut him 'till he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving
But the fighter still remains
Yes, he still remains
- Simon and Garfunkel, "The Boxer"

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Hi! I'm Jennifer, and I like a Backstreet Boys song.

I'm so ashamed, that I thought the only way to deal with it was in the form of a 12-step style, permanent Google cache. I deserve to be punished. For eternity.

So, I've heard this song on the radio, and probably in a commercial or American Idol (what's the difference), for a week or two, and as cheesy as it is, the music student in me thought it was a pretty song, a nice song, a tortured love song, not bad for a power ballad. Nice bridge. Good harmonies. Well-orchestrated.

I woke up a little late yesterday, curled up on the couch with the TV still on from the evening before. The Ellen DeGeneres show was on, and I woke up to Kevin and Britney's interview. Ellen struggled to get them to talk, and my first thought of the morning is that Kevin and Britney would make horrible dinner party guests. They literally had nothing to say. Not a word. They were the most uninteresting pair imaginable. Britney hasn't changed much from her star-turn in "Fahrenheit 9/11." And Kevin? Well, he really does look like he smells bad, yo.

After the break, Ellen tells me that the Backstreet Boys will perform. I grab a cup of coffee and start to wonder about these guys, thinking that the older, mustached one must be 40 by now.

From the kitchen, I can hear the aforementioned song that I liked playing on the TV, and I run into the living room to see if I can finally figure out who sings it. Imagine my surprise as I watch these five choads singing it live on Ellen's show.

Apparently, the song I like is called "Incomplete" and it's from the forthcoming Backstreet Boys album. Their first in five years, they remind us.

I wasted a decade making fun of these guys. Who's the choad now? I like a Backstreet Boys song, I've lost all musical taste credibility, and I'm entirely humiliated.

I'm going back to U2, the Beatles and Dave Matthews Band. Immediately. Any and all suggestions will be cheerfully accepted.

Voices tell me I should carry on
But I am swimming in an ocean all alone
Baby, my baby
It’s written on your face
You still wonder if we made a big mistake

Seeing the lyrics in print make me feel all the more worthless and insignificant. Gods of Rock, save me?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

For the Love of God, Please Don't Fuck with the Muzak

A very, very quiet Monday night. Steady, but dull.

In the evenings, our little taverna turns into a fine-dining establishment, and naturally, the in-house music needs to change. 50's-60's Oldies and Sappy Love Songs channels work fine for the business-chatty lunch crowd, but at night, the owner prefers Standards or Light Jazz or Italian Classics. It simply sets the mood.

Anyone who works in an Italian type-restaurant likely knows the words to "Di Bocci" by heart. The satellite wizards basically spin ten Italian standards, three Pavarotti songs, and two Italian-language covers of American pop tunes per hour. It's a predictable formula, and I imagine it's the same for Italian restaurants nationwide.

For the record, the staff's favorite is the Italian version of Laura Branigan's "Gloria". I recently learned from Italian Owner that the song was originally recorded by Italian pop singer
Umberto Tozzi, not Laura Branigan. I won't ever share that fact with the staff; it would ruin our fun.

So, Tina, who I've mentioned in previous columns, is our most experienced server, and she pretty much runs the roost. She deserves to, and she's damned good at it. One thing's for certain: It's up to Tina what style of music the customers will be enjoying.

Which brings me to the highlight of a dull Monday: One of our newer servers took it upon herself to change the music from Italian Classics to some kind of Classic Rock channel smack dab in the middle of dinner.

When "White Room" by Cream started blaring through the dining room, Tina turned pale and appeared to be shaking. Watching from my perfect vantage point at the bar, I spit up a little bit of iced tea as she tripped up the stairs, running for the control board.

Only a few customers caught the abrupt switch from "You said no strings could secure you at the station" to "Volare, oh oh oh oh! Cantare, oh oh oh oh," but I was happy to observe them.

When questioned, adorable new girl said, "Well, the other music was just kind of boring. I wasn't really feeling it." I predict Tina will chew the child into bits before week's end.

We could have locked up 45 minutes before close, but of course a couple showed up at the last possible minute, exclaiming, "You're still open?! Honey, we just made it!"


chiesa di campagna
acqua nel deserto
lascio aperto il cuore
scappa senza far rumor
edal lavore dal tuo letto
dai gradini di un altare
ti aspetto Gloria!

- Umberto Tozzi, "Gloria"

Thursday, May 05, 2005

It's 05-05-05! Try This Yummy Chambord Cocktail!

I got a little bored tonight, and started running through Uses For the Oft-Neglected Chambord. It's an historic day, so have a little fun and celebrate 05-05-05!

Raspberry Collins

1 1/2 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
1/2 oz Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
Splash of Bar Lemon/Sour Mix

Build on ice in elegant highball, add more ice after pouring liquor and before pouring bar lemon, shake until foamy

Top with the slightest amount of 7-Up, garnish with fresh raspberries if they're on-hand (as if); otherwise, don't garnish and let the foamy refreshing aroma speak for itself (don't dare place a pedestrian "flag" on this cocktail). Place a cocktail stirrer in the glass, give it a bit of swirly flair, and serve. Accept compliments graciously.


Serve it up with a sugar rim and it's one helluva trendy martini-looking cocktail.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, for my tequila-drinking friends!

One Happy-Silly Day, 5-5-05, any way you shake it.

Just make sure you shake it!!

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Old Friends, and Change.

Last Friday night, my first night back after a short, nature-filled, wonderful escape from the world. It's so hard to come back.

A deep, booming voice snapped me back into reality. Polishing glasses at the very end of the night, I overheard a customer giving his compliments to our gracious, professional host. I would have recognized that voice anywhere.

"Schmitty!!" I yelped, breaking the air of formality. The hangers-on in the dining room look toward the bar as I run toward him. My old bartending partner, back in the nightclub days.

There's a special bond formed in the nightclub world. Pounding music, drunken, underage girls and warlike bartending bring a staff together. You never forget the people you worked with, on the front lines of partying, back when you were incredibly young and still had loads of energy.

We exchanged hugs and breathless recaps. He's left the business for a life in the insurance world, he got a live-in girlfriend, adopted a dog. He'll be fine. Guys as talented with the public as Schmitty will always come out ahead. Oh, it's so great to see your old coworkers, especially the ones you really, really liked and enjoyed, and it makes it all the sweeter when you know they're looking well and doing quite nicely.

I find myself just a bit jealous, salivating over the fantasy of benefits and paid vacation. The things you give up for a glamorous career in bartending.

Luckily, those are the only things I can think of that I've sacrificed for this ever-changing career I've chosen.

And oh as I fade away
They'll all look at me and say, and they'll say
Hey look at him
I'll never live that way
But that's okay
They're just afraid to change.

- Blind Melon, "Change"

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A brief respite!

I took a little bit of time off to recharge and relax!

I've been back at work since Friday night, collecting stories and intrigue, which I'm sure to write about soon.

And tomorrow's my dreaded double... work after vacation, however brief, sucks.