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

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Long Snap That Ruined Christmas

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I was going to write a long post about the Bengals-Broncos game, but I think we all recognize that there are no words.

If I keep thinking about it, I'm going to start making entirely emotional Brad St. Louis-Kyle Larson-Bill Buckner comparisons, or I'll start cursing again, might even throw something, so I'll just stop. It's Christmas.

I don't know about your family gathering, but it took the holly-jolly right out of ours. I imagine many local families still foolishly wondering if maybe, just maybe, they should have gone for two.
The NFL should consider not having these games on Christmas Eve, next time it winds up on a Sunday. It's like tempting the gods. It's not fair to the kids.

It's been hard out here for a Bengals fan. That game-ending wobbly long snap just kind of summarized two weeks of pain.

To get back in the spirit, today is a day to focus on all that is good and magical and wonderful in life, to think about one's blessings, to feel like a San Diego Chargers fan. It's my Christmas wish that your hearts are filled with love, hope, and cheer. Thank you for visiting, thank you for another great year... I wish I could buy you all a drink!

Merry Christmas!

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Fitty Cent

During the busiest times of the year, I'm required to tend the bar from the lunch shift through the evening. Twelve-hour bartending shifts aren't a lot of fun, but I don't mind tending to the needs of the daylight crowd as long as I don't have to do it every day.

Lunchers are quite a bit different from the evening diners, though. They certainly drink less, and they absolutely tip less.

Yesterday afternoon, a gentleman who had a lingering lunch and two glasses of wine at the bar was signing his credit card slip, and suddenly spurted out, "Oh, I almost just left you a ridiculously large tip!"

"Well, it is Christmas, so if you just want to go ahead and get in the spirit of giving, I'm not going to stop you," I joked.

He laughed uncomfortably and scribbled some new numbers down while I tried to look away. When he left, I cringed as I read the adjusted tip. He'd initially written in a $5.00 gratuity, and changed it to $0.50. On a $22.00 tab. And I'd spent almost an hour chatting him up and keeping him company.

Fifty pennies. 'Tis the season.

More amusingly, we hosted a large party of nuns in our banquet room for lunch. CNN was on the television and Donald Rumsfeld was receiving a wildly inappropriate hero's farewell at the Pentagon, and a few of the nuns stopped by the bar to watch before they left. One of them exclaimed, "Just look at that big jerk! What an ass!" Another added, "He ought to be ashamed of himself. Can't he just slink away quietly? He's the biggest jackass!" I guess they might have gotten a little tipsy from the merlot we generously poured for them throughout their banquet.

I giggled as they left, and they laughed along with me, and I wished them a very, very Merry Christmas. They wished me the same, and for the first time this holiday season, I actually felt warm and comforted inside. Every time I thought of them the rest of that long, long shift, I couldn't help but smile.

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish, pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be Peace on Earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it heaven or hell
The Christmas you get you deserve

Emerson, Lake and Palmer, "I Believe In Father Christmas"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cake, or Death?

Bartenders love to eavesdrop. It's easy to look busy and unaffected while picking up the droplets of your conversations.

Tonight, a couple argued at the bar. They looked miserable when they walked in, and I could tell that they were uneasy with each other, but didn't really get the enormity of their dispute until I heard the woman say:

"I don't want a man who decorates cakes for a living!! I want a man who can wrestle a steer!!"

Anyone think their relationship lasted through dessert? Decorated or un?

I honestly felt sorry for the guy. I hope he told her to go find her cowpoke.

I said I wanna touch the earth
I wanna break it in my hands
I wanna grow something wild and unruly
I wanna sleep on the hard ground
In the comfort of your arms
On a pillow of bluebonnets
In a blanket made of stars
Oh it sounds good to me
Cowboy take me away
Fly this girl as high as you can into the wild blue
Set me free, oh, I pray
Closer to heaven above and closer to you

Dixie Chicks, "Cowboy Take Me Away"

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em, Ohio

It's December 6th, the last full day of smoking in Ohio pubs, taverns, restaurants, stadiums, and just about everywhere else one can think of. At midnight, the new statewide smoking ban goes into effect. Pull up those ashtrays and throw 'em in the garbage, bartenders. It's over. We'll never have to wipe stacks of them clean with wet beverage napkins at the end of a grueling night again.

A few recent articles about the smoking ban (updated):

Cigar club goes up in smoke - As Ohio's ban looms, "'Men being Men' enjoy one last smoke fest

Smoke Ban Enforcement Hazy

Smoking Ban Causes Jitters

Countdown is On for Ohio's Smoking Ban

Lawsuit Filed To Block Ohio Workplace Smoking Ban

I currently work at a restaurant that has always been non-smoking, so the looming ban doesn't affect me on a professional level. But for most of my career, I've worked and smoked in smoky, smoky bars, and I'll mourn them. Won't we all, once they're gone forever?

One day, maybe we'll look back and say, "I can't believe we used to smoke in bars" the way we look at newsreels from the 1960s and say "I can't believe the newscasters used to smoke on-air."

I plan to head out to my local tavern tonight, puff a few cigs, and try to cling to the last moments of a dying era. The bars of Ohio will be frantic, and a little poignant, tonight. If you've never bummed a smoke from a cute boy, or girl, or bartender, or cocktail waitress, or guitar player in a bar, you don't know what you've missed. You have only a few hours to catch up.

That said, I support the smoking ban, I voted for it, I think its time has come, I think we'll all reap the benefits of cleaner air, and I think it's a progressive thing for Ohio voters to choose. I also think that bars will get used to it, and adjust. I predict many, many outdoor patios, with heating. And happier and healthier employees.

We'll get through it, restaurant and bar workers. At least it's happening around the holidays, when customers are as distracted and hurried as we are.

Besides, if there's anyone I really feel bad for, it's the bowlers. I'd have voted to let the bowlers smoke, were it an option. Here's to you, bowlers. Please don't immediately start leagues in Northern Kentucky and Canada.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em, Buckeyes. A toast to the last days of the smoke-filled rooms!

I met a gin-soaked, bar room queen in Memphis
She tried to take me upstairs for a ride
She had to heave me right across her shoulder
'Cause I just can't seem to drink you off my mind
It's the honky tonk women

Gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues

- Rolling Stones, "Honky Tonk Women"

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Flavored Booze for the Holidays

I'm not often excited by the new liquor and liqueur offerings that come out this time of year; all the flavors can be baffling, and there's never enough room on the bar to add new bottles. I'm not going to remove my trusty bottle of Beefeater to make room for Smirnoff-Raspberry- Pomegranate-Vanilla-Mojito Vodka, for example.

However, when my liquor rep brought me a bottle of Baileys Mint Chocolate to sample, I knew after one sip that I'd have to find room on the shelf for it. They also make a new Caramel flavor, but it's not sufficiently different from the original Baileys... I recommend you skip it and go right for the Mint Chocolate.

Upon first taste, it was obvious it would pair well with vanilla vodka (Stoli's still the best), so feel free to mix up equal parts, shake well, and pour into a martini glass. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

If you're in the mood for a little more mixing, though, try this recipe, which I modified a bit from the version suggested by my liquor rep; his was too strong and the proportions were way off. I also prefer Crème de Cacao to the recommended Godiva Chocolate Liqueur for mixing; Crème de Cacao is thinner, cheaper, and doesn't have an overwhelming boozy aftertaste like the many chocolate liqueurs available now.

Creamy Peppermintini

1 1/2 ounces Baileys Mint Chocolate
1 ounce Rumple Minze Peppermint Schnapps
1/2 ounce Light Crème de Cacao
Splash of heavy cream

Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass; garnish with dusting of cocoa and fresh mint sprig.

Take great care with the Peppermintini, readers... they go down smooth, but Rumple Minze ("The Bartender's Breath Mint") is 100 proof and you'll be feeling that dizzy holiday cheer rather quickly if you overdo it.

Finally, on this day, December 5th, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, officially repealing Prohibition. Ironically, Utah was the 36th state to vote for ratification. At any rate, if you're looking for an excuse to celebrate tonight, there you go!


Come on, babe, why don't we paint the town?
And all that jazz
I'm gonna rouge my knees and roll my stockings down
And all that jazz
Start the car, I know a whoopee spot
Where the gin is cold, but the piano's hot
It's just a noisy hall where there's a nightly brawl
And all that jazz

- John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago) - "All That Jazz"

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