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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

It Could Happen To You

Applebee's Bartender gets $10,000 tip on $26 tab

Of course, this is Applebee's we're talking about, so two weeks later, they're still trying to verify the tip. God, I hope they don't make her tip out the management...

Who doesn't remember that wonderful (not really) movie starring Nick Cage and Bridget Fonda (whatever happened to her, anyway?) where a cop left a waitress a winning lottery ticket as a tip? I'm pretty sure that was a true story, too.

I'd love for this to happen to me one day (it won't), and so would my sweet mom, who sent me this link which propelled me into a seething rage of jealousy and wishful thinking. But you know what I really want? I've always wished I could just walk into a restaurant with a pocketful of cash and make someone's day. It's the only reason I still tolerate Ben Affleck.

Cheers to the big tipper, and cheers to Cindy Kienow! Even though 10 large won't buy her a new Jeep.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hi, I'm A Diabetic!

It's a Monday. I'm barely dragging into work after a nice, lazy weekend. I'm not feelin' it, but we throw open the doors and the first customer, already waiting outside, is an uncommonly perky young lass.

I flip her a cocktail napkin and say, "What's your poison?" My head barely contains a dull ache.

"Hi! I'm a diabetic!!" she replies, with a chirp at the end of the sentence. Her tone induces a marked pain just behind my left eye, but I endure. It's certainly not her fault, she's pleasant enough, but some days, you're just not in the right mood to serve at the pleasure of the public.

"OK," I answer. Not sure how to please her after that introduction, I offer a Diet Coke.

She laughs, throws back her head, flips her hair (we're empty) and says, "No, silly! (ed.: Seriously.) I want a drink, but nothing with too much sugar!"

I have a flashback, old coworker of mine. Great bartender, and a diabetic. He abstained from drink, but when he felt like imbiding, he always stuck to something sweet. He said that alcohol tended to bring his blood sugar down, so he'd counteract that with a little sugar to keep him even-Steven for about an hour. On the rare occasion he felt like falling off the wagon, he'd always insist that I make him my Long Island.

"Bacardi and Diet?" I ask. She doesn't look remotely qualified for a Long Island, nor my friend's blood sugar explanation. She makes a face.

"Gin and tonic? Vodka and soda?" I offer. I'm really trying, here. I'm one helluva bartender even when I'm feeling weekend-weak, but I'm definitely not a dietician.

"How about a Piña Colada?" she says, perkily.

Thinking it's an odd choice for a diabetic, and also thinking that I really don't want to make one, I tell her that I don't have a blender, and although I could mix one on the rocks, it just won't be the same. I'm praying she'll change her mind, since I'm not even sure I have Coco Lopez on hand.

"OK... how about a Margarita?" Whew.

"Salt or no?"

"Sure," she says.

It's like stepping on an elevator, and a kind rider says "What floor?" and you answer, "Yes." I choose to salt the rim of her glass, and begin mixing her Margarita.

Just as I whip out the tin and start shaking, she says, "Ohhhhhh... it's not frozen?"

What part of I don't have a blender escaped her?

At the end of the day, my perky diabetic customer drank an iced tea. I strained the leftover margarita into individual shots and offered them to the kitchen staff.

At least they were cheerful the rest of the evening.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Take a bottle, shake it up
Break the bubble, break it up

Pour some sugar on me
Ooh, in the name of love!
Pour some sugar on me
C'mon, fire me up!

- Def Leppard, "Pour Some Sugar On Me"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Toast To Hoy Wong, New York's Oldest Bartender

This article really made me smile this afternoon:

New York's oldest bartender still mixing martinis at 90

Retirement is the last thing on Hoy Wong's mind. The New York bartender, who turned 90, plans to carry on mixing martinis just as he has done for the past six decades.

It was while working in Freeman Chum, considered one of the city's first chichi Chinese restaurants, that he served most of his celebrity clients.

Marilyn Monroe, he remembers, would come to the restaurant for a liquid lunch. "She would have a Beefeater Martini. She was very nice."

Judy Garland, he recalls, was also fond of a tipple: "She was lovely. She liked to drink. She liked it a lot."

Joe Di Maggio would come every Saturday night and sit in a corner. "He would drink Johnny Red and soda, sit for four, five hours. He didn't want to be bothered."

John Lennon and Henry Kissinger would both come to the Algonquin Hotel, his employer for the past 27 years, and shared a taste for Scotch, he adds.

What I wouldn't give to have John Lennon, Joe DiMaggio and Judy Garland (Queen of the Boozy, I'll bet she was a hoot) perched on barstools before me. Henry Kissinger, not so much... but can you imagine eavesdropping on a conversation between him and Lennon?

Six decades of mixing martinis and Manhattans in... well, Manhattan! What a life, and what stories he could tell. I wonder if I could beat his longevity record behind the bar... probably not, since I made a personal vow to myself years ago that I'd quit this job when my looks start to fade. Heh...

Cheers, Hoy Wong!! And thanks for helping me to remember the word "tipple," which I think deserves a comeback.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Rules of London

Image hosting by Photobucket

A coworker of mine just returned from his European post-college backpacking vacation. I couldn't wait to see him again, since I'm a huge fan of European travel and since I'm too broke to experience it again anytime soon, I live vicariously.

"The club scene in London is impossible," he told me, although I already knew. I've never known anyone "inside" enough to explain the rules to me in-depth, but I've been lucky enough to blend in and tag along and have a jolly good time. My impression, based on limited experience, is that pubs close to the public early, and then "members only" clubs pop up for the after-11 late-nighters. Thing is, you have to come to the club with a London native, or be incredibly attractive, to be admitted. I'd say my coworker is more than reasonably attractive, and it still took his crowd four attempts before finally earning entrance into the London nightclub underworld.

"I made myself look incredibly pathetic, which wasn't difficult," he told me, recounting their final, succesful try. "I essentially begged, and the weary doorman just passed us on through. We set our money down and received drinks, and at that moment, the lights went up and the club closed."

"I hope you chugged," I said.

"We did. We felt like douchebags."

I like London a lot, but I feel more like an unwelcome visitor there than in any place in Europe, and it bums me out, honestly. Anyone hold the key to getting a cocktail after 10:00 there? Am I just too prole, or something? Is there a password, a secret handshake?

Most of my London memories are good ones, but I'd love to learn how to navigate the city after-hours. And of course, there's this song, which will forever remind me of London... in the best possible, most wonderful way.

Long shot of that jumping sign
Visible shivers running down my spine
Cut to baby taking off her clothes
Close-up of the sign that says, "We never close"
You snatch a tune, you match a cigarette
She pulls the eyes out with a face like a magnet
I don't know how much more of this I can take
She's filing her nails while they're dragging the lake

- Elvis Costello, "Watching The Detectives"

Technorati Tags: ,

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Is there a shelf life on this Mel Gibson thing?

Image hosting by Photobucket

I hope not, because I want to talk about his taste in tequila... but first....

To update my
earlier post about the proposed minimum wage/estate tax bill, it's nice to see that Senate Democrats unanimously doomed it to failure. It was gutsy, in the sense that now Republicans can say "Democrats blocked our minimum wage increase." Since Dems have been playing this kind of verbal blackmail game and losing for years, it's nice to see them finally standing up for working people. What took them so long? They're taking the gamble that we know better, and that we're bright enough, and patient enough, to think minimum wage increases shouldn't be attached to tax cuts for the wealthy. I'm thinking it's a good bet, but I could be wrong... the talk of the bar the last few nights wasn't wages, it wasn't Mel Gibson, it wasn't the Reds (I'm getting worried about this homestand, although at least we might sweep Atlanta), and it wasn't the Middle East.

The talk of the bar? Gas hit $3.15 a gallon. And baby, it's hot outside.

Since I'm distraught about gas prices, the state of the world, and the Reds especially, let's lighten it up and talk about
Mel Gibson's tequila preferences. I enjoy a good, smooth, sipping tequila as much as the next girl, so I was interested to learn that Mel was busted with an open-container brown-paper-bottle from The House of Cazadores (pictured above). Did he have Blanco, Reposado or Añejo? Has anyone tried this brand, at home, or on a bar stool? I hear it's popular in southern California, and I'm dismayed that I haven't heard of it or located it (I've made phone calls, that's how obsessed I am with finding Mel Gibson Tequila). Mel's been an ass, and he hasn't made a decent film since "Braveheart", but I sure would like to be hipped to a new tequila, and I'll use him as a vessel if that's what it takes. I'm a bar professional, after all.

So, Cazadores... good? Bad? Indifferent?

Technorati Tags: ,

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Welcome to $2.13 an hour, Nevada bartenders

And California bartenders. And Washington bartenders. According to this article from the AP, there are seven states in which tipped employees earn the state's minimum wage on top of their tips.

The GOP would like to end that, and make you seven more like the rest of us forty-three.

Tips Caught Up In Minimum-Wage Debate - AP

I find this development incredibly distressing. The Pacific-West states, and Minnesota, have been very progressive in terms of living wage, and it was my fervent hope that the rest of us might catch up one day.

It's important to realize that most servers and bartenders in Ohio, for example, are paid $2.13 an hour by their employer, and are essentially making the whole of their wages through tips. I think most people know that, but are often surprised at how little we're paid in wages. Often, we're paid with a monthly check, which amounts to pennies, since the $2.13 wage is used to cover taxes. Our take-home pay is based on the generosity of our customers. There are often nights which are so slow that when the combined hourly wage is added to the earned tips, we walk home with less than the minimum wage. There's no safety net for the worker to ensure that doesn't happen.

I'm not saying that bars and restaurants should pay $10 an hour plus tips. Who wouldn't want to be a waiter, if that were the case? But wages have been stalled at $2.13 an hour for almost a decade, and it's simply unreasonable. No wonder Reds attendance is down, as the Cincinnati Enquirer pondered yesterday. People are broke, dumbasses. Open your eyes.

It's even more disgusting when you realize that the latest minimum-wage package has been tied to the estate tax cut. So, while my wages remain stagnant, and while the chairman of Exxon's grandkids get an enormous tax break that's unnecessary and undeserved, the gal who pours your Budweiser in Portland and the guy who parks your car in Vegas might be getting a pay cut they probably can't begin to afford.

Edit: Actually, the bill proposes that tipped employees in those states will make at least $3.00 an hour, so maybe I should amend the title of this post. Nothing like a shot of cold comfort during an August heat wave.

When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse
When the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

- Coldplay, "Fix You"

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

So You Think You Can Tend Bar

This ought to be Fox's next reality concept. Throw 12 people from outside the on-premise world and throw them into club bartending. Really fuck with them, you know, Cosmos and Manhattans and Sex With An Alligators and Old-Fashioneds and Purple Hooters and fucking Mojitos. Make 'em. Make 'em good. And fast. Really fast. Fastest, most charming bartender wins 500 large. Where can I sign up?

My pick for judges: Janice Dickinson (knows her drink; former supermodel; could use the work; will probably say something outrageous); Kate Moss (knows her drink and doesn't look like someone who likes to wait on line; most likely to pass out while sampling the Flaming Dr. Pepper shots); and someone random, I'm thinking, I don't know, Tony Danza (could use the work) or maybe one of the aging "Full House" cast members, or the dad from Family Ties, I mean, how busy could he possibly be? I'll bet Michael Gross would sign on to do a Fox bartending reality show five minutes ago.