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

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sour Patch Martini

This drink is intended to taste like the "Sour Patch Kids" candy. I never heard of it, either. I've always thought of sweet, sticky cocktails in Jolly Ranchers terms, so I suppose I'm old-school like that.

Still, this is a delicious potable, and I realize that alcohol aficionados will view it as proof-weak, but, trust me... I drank at least four of them until the recipe was tweaked (hic) to perfection.

There are a few versions out there, but I think it needed a vodka base. Too much liqueur could hurt a person. You've got to have something substantial in there, and vodka is the first mixer-alcohol that any bartender worth her salt would reach for, to clear any gaps in "kick" quotient.

Let's start with the Tall Drink version, it's easiest, and it teaches you the gist of the drink so that you can adjust it into a martini. Also, the Tall Drink is more delicious:
  • Build on ice, in Tall Glass (pint or decorative)
  • 1 oz Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Southern Comfort
  • 1/2 oz Midori Melon Liqueur
  • 1/2 oz Amaretto
  • Splash of Sour Mix/Bar Lemon
  • Re-ice if necessary
  • Shake generously
  • Add Cranberry Juice
  • Stir for color and presentation
  • Garnish with traditional flag (orange and cherry)

Now, if you want to turn this into a martini, served up, you'll have to bring the pours down a notch. Add the sour and cranberry as a slight splash. Garnish with a lemon twist artfully placed inside the cocktail, instead of a flag, when making the martini version.

In fact, if you really want to make it special, and you've got the time, serve it with a sugar rim (spread sugar around a margarita sombrero, or, spread a packet of sugar onto a beverage napkin, squeeze a lemon and twirl around the glass; twist the edge of the martini glass into the sugar until well-coated).

It's amazing, the way SoCo is so malleable, isn't it? It's the root of the "make-alcohol-taste-like-candy" magic. Southern Comfort gets no love. It should.

And, as if you haven't noticed, I've got a hard-on for Midori.

Enjoy, and Cheers!

She turned away, what was she looking at?
She was a sour girl the day that she met me
Hey, what are you looking at?
She was a happy girl the day that she left me

- Stone Temple Pilots, "Sour Girl"

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lieutenant Dan Has Left The Building.

Thank you, and good night.

Good ol'
Lieutenant Dan came in at his usual time, I handed him his predictable Bud bottle, and we proceeded to speak to each other in rudimentary German. It's just this thing we do. He was stationed in Germany, and I get a kick out of practicing my German.

Despite our
past differences, Dan has grown on me over the months; he's grown on the entire staff. Stu, our floor manager, looks at his watch every night, at the same time, and exclaims "Lieutenant Dan!" as he walks in. Yes, oh yes, the stuff of sitcoms.

So it hurts me when Lt. Dan tells me he's leaving for El Paso in the morning. His last night in our presence. He says it so casually that I ignore him at first, kind of the way I usually do, and then the words hit me, but only as an echo.

Stu looks as though he's been punched when I finally get it, and power-whisper to him, "It's Lt. Dan's last night!!!"

I whip back around and demand that I buy Dan a drink. His ruddy face blushes over. He's strictly a Bud guy, but I insist on hard stuff. Good, expensive, hard stuff. Two of 'em, damn it. Hell, Lt. Dan, as many as you want. It's your Farewell Party!

He settles on a dirty Sapphire martini, rocks. He sheepishly asks for bleu cheese stuffed olives, and I cheerfully assemble them, where I'd refuse/complain to most anyone else. I announce to every server passing by that Lt. Dan is leaving, and they all stop to high-five and hug him.

Finally, Lt. Dan looks at me and says, "Auf Wiedersehen." He shows his toothy smile for the first time since I've known him.

"Bis zum nächsten mal!" I reply (bad accent), and run around the bar to hug him, and wish him good travels, and ask that when he speaks of me, he speaks well. He agrees, and I tell him I'll do the same. I feel guilty about the whole blog thing, for a second or two.

A few of us are misty-eyed when he walks out the door. Strange, and wonderful, the way you get attached to people you barely know or understand.

It's good to be their barkeep, if only for a short time.

Cheers, Lieutenant Dan. Godspeed.

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got till it's gone
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot

- Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi"

Friday, October 21, 2005

Extra Cherries!

It's an insanely busy Thursday night, piling up at the bar, we're short a server, and the floor manager has a wicked hangover. Bad all the way around.

I love nights like this. Busy nights challenge my skill and temperament. I take pride in being an excellent bartender, and I like to be tested.

I fail the moment I establish the test. Our head server, Bob, orders one Beam Manhattan, two cherries, rocks. I pour two Beam Mahattans, one cherry each, rocks. I move some cherries around, and pass the leftover to our floor manager. He fucking needs it, and he swigs it like a sailor.

Four stools remaining, smack in the middle of the bar. 45-minute wait for dinner. A family of four settles into the seats. Mom, dad, daughter, maybe 9, and son, about 12.

I don't mind kids. I mix the meanest Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers in town, extra cherries! I find it fascinating that parents teach their children to order drinks, something outside of Pepsi and Sprite, all grown-up, really, essentially training them how to sit at a bar, be comfortable, and order. I imagine them in a public service announcement. "My Anti-Drug? Kiddie Cocktails!!!"

More importantly, it's great, the way kids can get so excited about cherries.

Three-deep at the bar by now, with the four-top family occupying my prime real estate, ordering Iced Teas and Shirley Temples, free refills. I find it only mildly irritating, because I'm busy, I'm at the edge of the weeds, I'm having a blast, and my shift is flying by.

Until we get really busy. And the elder child breaks out in song.

"He is the King of Kings! He is the Lord of Lords! His name is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Ohhh, He is the King!"

It's adorable, in a wholesome way, until you figure in the four well-suited males behind him, sipping Grey Goose martinis and looking incredibly uncomfortable. And the cute ladies at the end of the bar, enjoying Tanq-and-Tonnies, eyeballing his mother. Then, you have servers, slammed with tables, looking at me as if I should somehow make him stop.

And... again. I can't describe how loud and piercing his voice was.

"He is the King of Kings! He is the Lord of Lords! His name is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Ohhh, He is the King!"

I'm telling you, I couldn't make this stuff up, the kid sang that song for fifteen solid minutes, at the top of his juvenile lungs, while his parents guzzled their bottomless iced teas, oblivious, intent only on plowing through Splenda packets.

By the thirteenth stanza, I had the harmonies worked out in my head, a nice figure in a diminished 7th. The well-suited gentlemen practically bribe the hostess for a table.

Now, he was a sweet child, and he could have been singing "Hit Me Baby One More Time" for all I care, but what exactly is up with parents who surrender all responsibility for their children the very moment in which they put them in the public eye? I'll never understand that.

And, for the record, songs about Jesus, sung in a bar, are buzz-killers. It really doesn't matter how cherubic your child appears.


You just have to take the good with the child Jesus-singers. Toward the end of the night, the hottest Australian male ever born ordered a Chianti Classico and a Penne Campagnola to go. It was a pleasure just to gaze upon him, and I thank him for replacing, "Oh! He Is The King!" with sundry INXS and Crowded House songs in my mental soundtrack. I made flirtatious, lame cultural jokes with him, about hemispheric weather differences, for example, while trying to pour him a second Chianti, but he left abruptly with his utensils and plastic bag, and likely doesn't even know I exist.

Hello Daddy, hello Mom
I'm your ch-ch-ch-ch-ch cherry bomb
Hello world, I'm your wild girl
I'm your ch-ch-ch-ch-ch cherry bomb

- The Runaways, "Cherry Bomb"

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Return of The Latin Snake

I interrupt this blog to bring you an important boxing update.

Tonight, at 11:00 pm EDT, ESPN will air the live rematch between Sergio "The Latin Snake" Mora and Peter "The Pride of Providence" Manfredo, Jr. These were the last two boxers standing in NBC's boxing reality show "The Contender," which nobody watched but me.

It's free boxing, which is increasingly rare, featuring a great undercard.

The Contender - Live Tonight! (fighnews.com)

Turn it on, right after the baseball game.

Sergio! Sergio! Sergio!

I'm off to tend my bar, and hopefully something outrageous will happen that I can write about later.

Friday, October 14, 2005

You Get All Kinds.

I thought about this for two days. I thought about not ever authoring this post, because the entire event is offensive, and stereotypical, in every possible way.

But, it's been nagging at me, not telling the story, since this is my diary about bartending, and to leave it out would be to omit the harsher realities of the job.

You just get all kinds.

A slow weekend night. Guy walks in, shorts, muscle shirt. First bar customer all night, and first time I've seen him. "Can I get a Crown and 7?" he asks. Thick, immediately apparent deep-Southern accent. He's polite.

After a few minutes, a four-top walks in, reservation, waiting on two more. Three men and one woman, all in decent suits.

I ask Guy if wants another drink. "Lots of suits and ties in here," he announces, loudly. Makes me want to say, "You realize that I heard that, and that you said it out loud, don't you?" Instead, I form a weak smile, he nods, and I fetch the Crown Royal.

Cocktail half-gone, he gets more talkative. He's friendly. His drawl gets more pronounced by the sip. He's missing his front white tooth... the kind of character details that can't go unnoticed. He's in town for a few weeks, working on a local project. A journeyman, staying at a kitchenette-motel down the road. His nomadic life is interesting to me, and I ask him where he's from, and where he's going.

From Selma, Alabama, originally, but he's settled in Jacksonville, Florida. I find common ground, and congratulate his bastard Jaguars for their victory over my revered and holy Bengals. He doesn't like Ohio one bit. "It's different up here, y'all aren't friendly, and I don't know anybody." He says he doesn't have a car, and wants to take a taxi somewhere fun. I recommend a short taxi ride a few exits north, where there's an entertainment district, movie theater, and bars.

"Would you find a lot of niggers up there?" he asks, sincerely. At least, that's what I'm 99.9% positive that I heard. I'm so shocked, that I'm questioning my own ears.

I turn away, and then turn back. I might have laughed out loud, but I do know for certain that everything just went into slow motion.

"I'm sorry...?" I say. I kind of stuttered, actually. I'm burning inside, I'm feeling incredibly offended and shocked, but I'm an Ohioan, he's a customer, and I have these instinctive manners. I damn them.

He starts to say it again, and then stops himself. He looks down at the bar and then away. The attractive woman in the suit has heard the exchange, and is now staring at me intently. I catch her eye as I try not to look at him.

It's the most awkward, uncomfortable moment I can remember in years of slinging drinks.

I'm polishing a wine glass, and I pull it close to myself as I move closer to him. I take a low, scolding tone. "Look, that's just not something you say... that's... I don't know, you just don't use that word around here." I likely wagged my finger at him, but I couldn't say for certain.

Here's the thing that makes me reluctant to write this post... I just always imagined I'd be so much more eloquent and forceful when confronted with racism. I thought I'd be like the heroine in a movie, so brave and backlit.

Instead, I was apologetic where I didn't need to be, and motherly, and ineffective.

He slurps down his drink, and to my surprise, he orders another.

The four-top suits are joined by their party, and anxiously request to be seated. They transfer their tab.

An uncomfortable silence passes, with me thinking, that was just awful, that whole thing. I can barely look at him.

When he finally pays and gets up to leave, he waves, smiles and hollers, "See you in a few days!"

Thirty two teeth in a jawbone
Alabama cryin for none
Before I have to hit him
I hope he's got the sense to run
Reason those poor girls love him
Promise them anything
Reason they believe him
He wears a big diamond ring

- Grateful Dead, "Alabama Getaway"

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Woot!!! Goodbye, Yankees!

Angels 5, Yankees 3.

God, I love October.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Three Simple Rules, or, Here's How To Get A Drink At A Busy Bar

People were spending money last weekend like it was the end of the world.

I suspect it may be like that for awhile... traditionally, October-December is known as "Bar Season." It still came earlier than I expected. That'll teach me not to pay attention to bleak economic news.

When expecting good bar service on a busy evening, and when in competition with like-minded persons, here are some guidelines, from a bartender's perspective on the busiest, hottest of nights:

1. Don't Stagger-Order.

You: I'll take a 7-and-7, a Bud, a dry house gin martini up, olives, and an ice water.

Me: (Imagine a cartoon-cloud with a bartender, grabbing and mixing furiously, in the middle) Here you go. That'll be $17.00.

You: And, I'll also take a Lemon Drop Martini, a Margarita, with salt, a house Chianti, and a Peroni. With a glass.

Here's the thing... I've been doing this for far longer than you've been ordering drinks, and I can remember everything you tell me. From the beginning.

Sure, I'll serve your first order, I have no choice. But watch me, and my coworkers, look over your head when you come back to the bar for Round 2.

No way are you going to put us in the weeds like that again.

Give it to me all at once. I've got a big brain. My memory is more capable than you'd think. In fact, I'd be a shitty bartender if I couldn't remember at least 12 drinks thrown to me at once. Trust me to get it right. Try it, just once. C'mon.

2. Get your friends to agree on ONE SHOT.

Me: Hi! What's your poison?

You: Ummm... One Lemon Drop, One Jäger, One Jäger Bomb, Two Sex-On-The-Beach, One Purple Hooter, and an ice water. Only, can you put the ice-water in a highball glass and put a lime on it, so she can pretend like she's really drinking?

Me: Yeh. (rolling eyes)

OK, Junior Drinkers. I know you're particular. But you're going to want another shot after that one, and probably real soon, too. You've blown it on your first busy-bartender round, and earned a (possibly undeserved) reputation as a Junior-Orderer. Organize your friends behind ONE SHOT. I suggest the Kamikaze. It goes down easy, it's a classic, it's cheap, and we made plenty of 'em up before-hand. We also have Store-n-Pour's full of Red-Headed Sluts. Go for it. Besides, you're buying, you poor bastard, so you may as well choose the one shot you're all going to collectively puke up later. How about 6 shots of Rumpleminze? At least your vomit will be minty-fresh.

3. Know what you want to order.

Sure, you've been standing there for at least five minutes, jockeying for position while waiting to make eye-contact with me. Use that time to decide.

You, to your buddy: It's been, like, ten minutes, and I'm thirsty.

Me: Hi! Your turn!

You: Miller Lite, shot of Beam, Coke back, please.

Your buddy: Ummmm..... Uhhhhhh.....

Me: (blowing you off, going to next person waiting down the bar) What can I get for you?

Don't let your indecisive best friend embarrass you at the bar. Ask him what he wants, instruct him to go away and hover over the last-available high-top, and place his order. It's quite simple, really.

I'm just sayin', is all.

Talk To The Tip Jar.

You: Can I get a drink?

Me: When it's your turn.

You: (waving a 20-spot) It's all yours, if you get me next.

Me, skipping the logical, first-come, first-served, "fair" order:

Sir, how can I help you, and what can I get for you, sir? And next time you need a drink, sir, just come to me.