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The Best Test of a Knowledgeable Bartender

The Best Test of a Knowledgeable Bartender

This is an excellent video from Indulgence, the culture YouTube channel from Playboy (The Atlantic Monthly of Lad Mags™)

So, the proposition is this: You can tell most everything you need to know about a bartender by ordering The Gospel of Rum, a Daiquiri. Do you agree?

I think I do. For a whole host of reasons, not all of which the bartenders interviewed go into.

First, who doesn’t like a Daiquiri? Even people who’ve never had a real Daiquiri like them if you give them one. Good ones are great, and more importantly, even mediocre ones are drinkable. If you are going to have a default test drink, it should be one you don’t mind drinking a lot.

Second, you will probably know if you need to punch out and switch to Jack and Coke or some wine before you finish ordering. If your bartender winces, or makes excuses about blenders, or says one goddamn word about strawberries, punch out. Quickly. Before the flames reach the cockpit. Conversely, if your bartender replies with intelligent questions such as up or rocks, or especially brand or style of rum, you can almost take your eye off them while they make the drink. If you want to make it a true test, dismiss any suggestions related to Hemingway, or any Daiquiri variant the bar has on their menu. As they say in the video, this is a basic skills test. There are basic bartending skills I don’t have, but I can sure fake my way around them if you let me.

Third, the rum they use will tell you a lot. If you aren’t asked to specify, do they go to the well? If so, what’s in there? Do they pour a rum with color without asking you? If they do, they pass the test, but be aware that this person is either opinionated or a conscious risk-taker, or both. Plan your evening accordingly.

Fourth, watching closely will tell you a lot about the bar as well as the bartender. Does a bottle of Roses make an appearance? Leave. Leave the bar. You can’t trust the Budweiser there unless it’s in a bottle. Commercial bottled juice? You can certainly still trust your bartender, but be aware going forward that they may well not be able to give you all you want.
What if they pull out a juicer and squeeze your juice to order? Trick question! 5-10 years ago, this would be a good sign. Not any more. A modern bar that looks like it has enough promise for the Daiquiri test, but squeezes to order, either doesn’t actually serve many drinks with juice in them at all and will have little experience with high-end drinks in general, or they just will have service so slow you need to get out your calendar.


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