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

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I'm Just Destroyed About Nick and Jessica

The Newlyweds Are Dunzo For Rizzle!

It's a sad Thanksgiving for all of Cincinnati, and her native son, Nick Lachey. Although I poke fun at him, liberally, I wish him well, and thank him for sparing us any further "Nick and Jessica Christmas Specials".

'Twas the Friday after Thanksgiving, and the bar remained steady and festive. The lone glitch of the evening was re-making a horrible Cosmopolitan that our floor manager served while I was busy stocking wine. The server came to me, after the drink was served, describing the sour face his customer made upon first sip. What is it about floor managers that they can't wait three minutes for the professional to mix the drink? They're obsessed about cost, but I'm always coming behind them, throwing away, re-making and comping their crap cocktails. Cost??!! Feh, I say. Give the people the quality drinks they deserve, from the get-go, even if they have to wait for the bartender to come back from her smoke break.

In other Ohio holiday news... Winterfest is back, for the first time since the '90s, in all its cheesy glory! I want to go, for old time's sake. But only if they still have hot nuts, German-style, and spiced wine.

Here's hoping everyone had a cheerful, warm, drunken (with warmth and cheer) Thanksgiving. I offer a traditional potable to enjoy throughout the season.

Thanksgiving Cocktail

1 oz Gin
1 oz Apricot Brandy
5-8 drops Dry Vermouth
Splash of Sour Mix/Bar Lemon

Build on ice in a highball glass. Shake generously, and serve with orange zest and a cherry.

How about unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How about not equating death with stopping
Thank you, India
Thank you, providence
Thank you, disillusionment
Thank you, nothingness
Thank you, clarity
Thank you, thank you silence

- Alanis Morissette, "Thank You"

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Monday Before Hell Breaks Loose

It's ten minutes until closing time, I'm putting the grenadine away, and in walks a guy in a suit, half-crocked.

Now, here's the thing. All bartenders and servers and line cooks and bussers are irritated by the guy that walks in ten minutes before closing on a slow, slow night. It's really not his fault, and he's surely unaware, but it's always a good idea to show up closer to a half-hour before closing on a weekday. There's nothing more frustrating to a restaurant staff than the couple that walks in, one minute until lock-up, saying "Wow! We just made it!!!"

You have no idea how much it sucks to set your whole line up again. Sure, you say, we shouldn't have started cleaning as early as we did. But, we did, because we foolishly anticipated an early night, and we blame you for coming in late and making us set up our whole damned line again, whether that's fair to you or not.


He coughs before ordering. That's one of the tell-tale signs of someone past their limit. Or, someone with a cold, I suppose. But he slurs when he says, "Stoli and tonic."

I serve him. I ask if he wants to see a menu.

"What's good for dessert?" he asks. I suggest some cannoli to go with his Stoli, only because it rhymes, and I'm tired, and I really want to go home, and I'm relieved he didn't want to see a menu.

He scarfs the Stoli, and the cannoli, and pays in cash, rapidly. No stories about his divorce, or how much money he makes, or how fantastic he is. I'm impressed. Tips well, too. Walks out of the door about five minutes after we've locked them.

I can't remember the last time an end-of-night customer came and went so quickly, and I think it's important that I document the experience. It's a rarity, and he deserves a mention.

I appreciate the calm before the storm. It's the Monday before Thanksgiving, and the bar business is about to blast off. It's good to get a little rest before the holiday debauchery is ablaze.

Sweepin the floors, open up the doors
Yeah, turn on the lights, getting ready for the night
Nobody's romancing, 'cause its too early for dancing
But here comes the music ...

- Jack Johnson, "Rodeo Clowns"

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


'Twas the week before Colts-Bengals, and Indy Bill steps up to the bar. Haven't seen him in awhile, and of course we make a friendly bet. It's the most nervous I've been about a Bengals game all season.

Bill settles into his seafood special when one of our newer regulars, Chicago Bob, comes in. It's important in my business to remember a name, and we get a lot of traveling businessmen, so I've found it easiest to mentally attach a patron's name to his geographic base... so, new guy became Chicago Bob.

Chicago Bob is a fun guy, and everyone at the restaurant enjoys him immediately. He hits on the waitresses, he complains about the size of our rocks glasses, and he's got a great accent. He watches me while I pour, and heckles other customers when they order foo-foo cocktails or wine. He toasts to Indy Bill. When he's halfway through his mussels, he proclaims how awful they are. He's a character. He proves that there's a good, funny way to be a wise guy, and what a lost art it is.

We love him.

He's also a pet food salesman. Tonight, he drops off three packages of his newest product, popcorn for dogs! It comes in a few varieties, and he gives us samples of cheese, filet mignon, and bacon flavor. It's microwavable, just like the people kind. Let's be honest... it is the people kind, since it's entirely unnatural for dogs to heat kernels of corn until they explode, but, it's marketed as "healthy for dogs", and, since dogs don't know guilt, it's packaged with names like "bacon flavor." Still, it's an interesting (free) concept, and I drop the packets off at the window so the servers can take the treats home to their furry babies.

A half-hour later, I'm walking through the kitchen to fetch one of our tonier reserve wines. The wafting smell is ungodly. Beefy, crispy, and overcooked. Like charred animal flesh.

"The cheese flavor isn't bad, but the filet mignon flavor smells like cow ass," comments our sous chef. The kitchen had popped the puppy-corn, just to see what it was like. They're taking bets as to who will taste the fluffy stuff.

It's the funniest damned thing, even if it doesn't come off that way. The entire staff gets giddier, and stupider, the closer the holidays come.
Especially the kitchen. And that's saying a lot, coming from the bar staff.

If I don't get a chance to write again before the game, GO BENGALS!! Any given Sunday, I keep telling myself. Any given Sunday.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


When it's really boring at work, the busboy and I invent drinking games. We never actually drink to them. We just make them up, play them, master them, teach them to others, and imagine how fun they'd be if we were actually drinking, or in my case, marketing them.

We might have served 30 dinners tonight, unbearably slow. I'm flipping through USA Today at the bar, since it's so slow that management hasn't even bothered to show up.

The busser suggests we invent a new game tonight. Our favorite one is a real original, a variation on Barrel of Monkeys, involving, cocktail swords. It's a blast, but we've mastered it and we're ready to move on, so a few minutes later, he decides the goal of the evening is a new game, which must involve corks. I decide we need a word game, and he collects 14 corks. We take turns with the Sharpie, forming letters on the end of each cork. We throw them like dice, forming as many words as possible in 15 seconds. It's pretty fun. We keep modifying the game, using a champagne cork as a spinner to determine turn, and what-not.

My partner-in-games is excited about how he can turn this game into the best drinking game ever at his next college party, and I explain to him that it's not really a drinking game, but it's called Scrabble.

We always go through this; we invent a game, he says it would make a great drinking game, I explain that all the games in the world have already been invented. Still, we pretend to make up games.

I've spent a few too many dull nights in a row, next to an empty tip jar, lately. Making words with corks is an amusing way to entertain yourself when the busy holiday season seems stuck in traffic.

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

- Pink Floyd, "Time"

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Who Doesn't Love A Bar Brawl Among County Party Officials?

I've never met the bartender Adam William, but any time I hear about a bar brawl where a bartender ends up assaulted, I spring to his defense no matter what.

Adam makes it even easier with this tale of southwestern Ohio shenanigans gone awry, leaving in its wake a trio of high-profile local Republicans who surely woke up the next morning with full-blown hangovers, next to their wives, thinking, "Oh, Fuck."

Butler County GOP officials investigated in bar fight - Cincinnati Enquirer

Also found on Daily Kos: Link


A complaint filed with the Butler County Sheriff's Department said that central committee Chairman Quentin Nichols, of West Chester; Tim Dearwester of Hamilton, a member of the central committee; and Sean Maloney of Liberty Township, a member of the executive committee, allegedly assaulted the bartender at Putter's Tavern & Grill shortly after midnight Oct. 26.

Adam William told deputies he approached the trio about a plastic advertising sign being damaged in the men's room. He asked them to leave after one of the men threatened him with a pool stick and another made sexual remarks about the bar's owner, the police report said.
The men then jumped on William and punched and hit him with a chair before the fight moved outside at the Cincinnati-Dayton Road establishment, resulting in a bench being damaged, William told police.

How on earth did they get caught? Two clues from the article:

Nichols left his credit card behind and William turned it over to sheriff's deputies.

Now, just a tip. If you're planning on a bender with the boys, and you happen to be a high-ranking county party official, you don't want to leave any kind of paper trail. Start a tab!?!! Even Scooter Libby wouldn't start a tab, amateur. Pay as you go, young Republicans. Pay as you go.

Nichols, Dearwester and Maloney left in a silver or gold Hummer before deputies arrived.

Hey, junior criminals... Sure, it's cool to flee the scene in a silver (or gold) Hummer. Good thing you've got drunk witnesses. Still, it's tricky to creep in a Hummer. Just sayin'.

A toast to Adam William, a hard-working bartender who happened to make the news after a really, really shitty night. To Adam!! I hope you're not bruised in any manner. And, Adam? Next time a bar patron, Republican, Democrat or Independent, tries to throw a bar stool at you, grab the bottle of Galliano and wield it like a light saber. That's what it's there for, because nobody drinks Harvey Wallbangers anymore.

And finally, a weak-hearted toast to alleged felon Quentin Nichols, the man who left his tab behind, for saying, in his defense against assault, destroying property, and stiffing a bartender his well-earned tip:

"It's politics. Some folks out there seem to twist the story on you."

I was gambling in Havana
I took a little risk
Send lawyers, guns and money
Dad, get me out of this

I'm the innocent bystander, somehow I got stuck
Between the rock and the hard place
And I'm down on my luck
And I'm down on my luck
And I'm down on my luck

- Warren Zevon, "Lawyers, Guns and Money"

Friday, November 04, 2005

I'll Have The Usual

I enjoy Indy Bill. He's a regular, comes in about once a week, likes the house dressing, regular oil for his bread, two glasses of the house Chianti, an ice water, with lemon, and something spicy to eat.

We talk about football, and U2, and how long it takes to drive from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, and what best routes to take.

My father told me something once: "Don't expect too much out of life. For the most part, it's boring and disappointing."

I always thought he was just being cynical.