Josh Miller’s petition that everyone who cares about drinks in California should sign… today. California lawmakers think it is a good idea to force bartenders to wear food service gloves like they are school lunch ladies. In this (as with most things), California lawmakers are wrong and need help seeing the light. (Josh is @Inuakena)
For anyone in the bar and restaurant business, or just those of us with way too many friends working behind the bar, the subject of the big tip is a heartwarming one. I’m not talking your fairly run-of-the-mill 20%, rounded up. I’m talking the twenty for a cup of coffee tip, or the Benjamin on dinner for two at Bob Evans. I mean the kind of tip that has your friendly neighborhood bartender or server rushing to tell everybody about it.
Some group of good Christian gentlemen has really made this a “thing” of late, traveling the country and leaving random, four figure tips on small tabs. You’ve probably seen a story or two about it. If you work in the industry, you likely are hoping they’ll drop by to see you. Even better, with all the attention this is getting, we are starting to see copycats….
Well, mostly better.
In what may be an alarming sign that this wonderful little fad may be playing itself out, the people who are Unclear on the Concept™ now seem to be trying to get in on the act. Bless their hearts.
Today’s example of Unclear comes to us by way of Oregon. A couple who dined at the Twisted Fish Steakhouse (with a gift card) thought that they ought to go plus one on their tip and left an envelope with a big question mark written on it….
Ryan and Erica were unclear on the concept in several ways. First, when going for the grand gesture, you do not hang around while your server picks up the tip. No thanks should be needed. The gesture is its own reward, and all that. Second, and more importantly, crystal meth is not really going to fit the bill as a great tip.
This made the whole first “hang around and enjoy your coffee” part of the fail a particularly bad idea. The server did not appreciate her bounteous tip and ran to share the news, not with her co-workers and the press, but with the local constabulary. Said gendarmerie arrived swiftly and discovered that the couple could have tipped even more generously, to the tune of seventeen more ounces of meth tucked away in Erica’s purse.
It will shock you to discover that the couple are not exactly Brad and Angelina Pitt in the looks department either:
Three hot, dusty camels trudge across a nighttime desert waste. Their hotter, dustier riders slump tiredly in their seats. Each occasionally looks up at a particularly bright star in the sky ahead of them.
Melchior: <Straightens and begins to sing>We three kings of Orient are. Bearing gifts we….
Gaspar: Oh cripes! He’s in the mead again, Balthazar!
Balthazar: Melchior, will you please quit it with the
kings bit? No one believes you.
Gaspar: Seriously. If we are supposed to be kings, where are our entourages?
Melchior: Like I told that barmaid back in Jerusalem, Gaspar: “With the economic downturn, we’ve had to make cutbacks in the sycophant budget.”
Gaspar: And how’d that pickup line work out for you, your majesty?
Melchior: Shut up.
<They ride along through a brief silence>
Balthazar: And why do you need to pump yourself up, anyway? We’re astrologers—the best astrologers in the world. We can look into the sky and divine the purposes of God.
Melchior: <Yodels>We are the Kings of Astrology!
<Balthazar and Gaspar shake their heads>
Balthazar: Speaking of kings, I woke up this morning with the unmistakable impression that once we find this kid, we should go home some way other than back through Jerusalem.
Gaspar: Gee, you think? That Herod character seemed a bit too eager to hand over the keys to the palace to a replacement he never heard of. If I really were a king, my definition of “going and worshiping him too” would consist mostly of dropping the kid in a very deep well.
Melchior: I’m happy to go home another route. Herod smells worse than ol’ Camile here. <Slaps his camel’s flank affectionately>
Gaspar: That, and the fact that that barmaid’s father will have had all this intervening time to sharpen his scimitar….
<Balthazar coughs on some sand>
Balthazar: Well, whatever Melchior’s thinking about kingship and whatnot, he’s got the right idea about a drink. <Starts to rummage through his camel’s pack. Finds a present and pulls it out> Hey! My gift for the kid! Did you guys remember to bring yours?
Gaspar: Don’t you think you might have asked that question earlier, when we were still able to turn around?
Balthazar: I got him a batch of Frankincense.
Melchior: Still on with the incense? It’s a baby. You’ll give it colic.
Balthazar: Look, my reading still says the kid’s gonna be a god. He better get used to people waving incense around his face. What’d you get him, Gaspar?
Melchior: Cash? You got him cash? You might as well have gotten him a Target gift card!
Gaspar: Look, my reading is that the child will be a king, not a god…
Balthazar: Something you might have kept to yourself around Herod…
Gaspar: <Overrides Balthazar’s interjection>… and nothing says
you’re the king quite like gold.
Melchior: Gold says,
Here’s some cash, I couldn’t be bothered to think of anything appropriate to get you.
Gaspar: <Makes a rude gesture a Melchior>OK, Miss Manners, what did you get the child?
Melchior: <Mumbles something>
Gaspar: What’s that? You didn’t really forget your gift, did you? You’re not adding your name onto my tag, like you did for Balthazar’s last birthday.
Balthazar: I remember that. You still owe me a gift.
Melchior: I didn’t forget my gift. It’s secure in my pack.
Balthazar: Then what is it?
Melchior: Look, my reading just doesn’t end well for this poor kid. Doom, Gathering Gloom, Death, and all that.
<Gaspar and Balthazar stare at Melchior aghast.>
Gaspar: Melchior, you cannot give a shroud for a baby shower gift.
Melchior: No! No. I just got to thinking and Myrrh popped into my head.
Gaspar: Perfume? You bought a baby perfume?
Balthazar: Maybe the mom will like it.
Melchior: I didn’t actually get pure Myrrh…. That’s kind of expensive, and I’m a little short this month.
Balthazar: Then what are you… Wait! You didn’t, Melchior.
Melchior: <Defiantly>Yes I did. What of it?
Balthazar: You brought a bottle of Fernet Branca?!?
Gaspar: I’d have gone with the perfume.
Melchior: Come on, it’s got Myrrh in it! And we love it.
Gaspar: We are bartenders.
Balthazar: We are astrologers.
Gaspar: We are astrologers who tend bar to make ends meet. Together, that makes us the wisest men on Earth.
But after a long shift kissing the backsides of arrogant camel brokers in their red power keffiyehs, we need something exotic to cleanse the pallet. Fernet Branca gets rid of every bad taste you got in one shot.
Balthazar: Leaves it’s own rather… imposing set of aftertastes. Like the Myrrh, for instance.
Melchior: I brought a case of Canada Dry Ginger Ale too.
Gaspar: Oh… well… that’s fine then.
<Melchior starts to relax.>
Gaspar: Except, have you forgotten it’s a gift for a freaking baby?
Melchior: Look guys, like I said: My reading says this kid has got a rough road ahead. I figure he’s going to need to fight off a lot of bad tastes in his mouth. I’m just trying to equip him properly.
<Tired, companionable silence>
Gaspar: <Spits>Ugh, all this sand… Look, Melchior, I’ve got a lot of gold here. It was a good month for tips for me. Let’s stop off at the next town, and we’ll buy some real Myrrh for your gift.
Balthazar: Perfume would be more appropriate for a god than booze….
Melchior: <Suspiciously>And why, pray tell, are you suddenly feeling so much like sharing, Gaspar?
Gaspar: Well…. <rubs his throat> If you are going to give real Myrrh when we find the kid, then we can crack open your bottle of Fernet Branca right now….
<Fade to black>
Balthazar: Um, Melchior, I don’t suppose you brought any Moxie, did you?
And that, children, is the real story of Epiphany!
Repeal Day is a growing cultural phenomenon in America, a day filled with a variety of meanings and lessons, both political and sociological. Most of the issues of Prohibition are well-known to educated Americans, especially those in the bar trade, or those who like Ken Burns. But even for a history geek like myself, there is always a new, and sometimes important, angle to learn about anything.
Repeal Day is December 5th, the anniversary of the date when Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah all ratified the 21st Amendment, ending Prohibition and restoring to legality America’s most hallowed pastime, recreational alcohol consumption. At the time, American’s celebrated by remaining on the barstools they had occupied throughout Prohibition anyway, and ordering another round. They might have gone outside to moon a cop or something, in a gesture of victorious contempt, but the cops were likely all inside the bar, having another round as well.
These days, the greater knowledge of history in the resurgent cocktail world has led bar professionals to treat Repeal Day as the national holiday of the trade. This always feels a little odd to me. I grew up in Georgia, raised in the metaphorical shadow of Jacksonville, Florida. It doesn’t take much experience with the Georgia-Florida Game to understand why it has been called The Annual Celebration of the Repeal of Prohibition for longer than most of today’s Repeal Day celebrants have been alive.
But as a bar lover, I embrace the trade’s desire to make this a day of reflection on the mistakes of the past, and their consequences, good and bad. It’s a proud day for America, in that it showed we can actually own up to a mistake, and correct it. We learned that just because you have someone else’s very best interests at heart, it is probably not the best idea to always use the government to force everyone to comply with your agenda. The collateral damage of Prohibition was dire, while the promised benefits were difficult to find once put into practice.
But while the end of domestic abuse and personal bankruptcy, skyrocketing productivity, and a general end to poverty all failed to manifest themselves during Prohibition, there were a number of positive social changes that did arise from the Noble Experiment, not all of which were likely viewed as victories by those responsible for foisting Prohibition upon the general populace in the first place. Chief among these is the simple fact that there are women in that photo atop this post.
Before Prohibition, women did not go to bars. Full stop.
You know… unless they were literally prostitutes, and then only at very specific kinds of bars. But the saloon was outlawed, and was replaced by the illegal (though just as busy) speakeasy. This was a new cultural space, and newly enfranchised women took this opportunity to make sure they had a place in it. Sure, it was still considered a bit naughty for women, well-bred or respectable working class alike, to be in a place that served alcohol, but since everybody, men and women alike, within were being deliciously criminal, the shared rebelliousness neatly occluded a change that otherwise would likely have induced decades of sturm and drang.
Last night, I went to the first Repeal Day bartender’s celebration that I know of in Ohio. Both the northern and southern chapters of Ohio’s USBG got together at the always excellent Mouton here in Columbus, for a midnight toast to the arrival of Repeal Day. The Cleveland gang actually chartered a
bus luxury motorcoach to get them down and back safely! It was a great time to hang out with the pros who are really beginning to make some progress on bringing the kind of craft that has been nurtured in the larger markets for a while now into bars in Ohio, as well as making some real, original contributions of their own.
There were toasts at midnight, and that’s when I learned a new angle on Prohibition and the effects I just discussed. In vino veritas….
The event was sponsored by Pama, and their national brand ambassador Lynn House was there. Just before midnight, she raised a glass and noted that she felt especially thankful for Prohibition and its repeal, “because I have boobs.” It got the laugh she expected, but she went on. “Everyone talks about how Prohibition let women into bars to drink, but for those of us women working in the industry today, it is very important that Prohibition let women into bars to work as well.” (I listened to this at midnight at a bartender party. The chances that this is an exact word for word transcription are slim…)
Remember before, when I noted that only women in saloons were working there, but not behind the bar? Without the social upheaval and general image reset that came from Prohibition, it would have been far longer before women would have been let anywhere near a respectable bar’s staff. And even today, there would probably still be some nasty social undertone associated with women bartenders.
Instead, we have a world with people like Audrey Saunders. And Lynn House. And some of the best bartenders I know in Ohio: Cris, and Pilar, and Lindsay, and Emily.
Everyone who in in the bar industry, or who simply orbit it as I do, has some vision in their head of the difference between Bartenders and Mixologists. Yes, I know there has also been argument over the term Mixologist in the past. But let’s face it, we’ve all sort of settled on it as a term for craft bartender, at least in the professional context.
Most of the folks I talk with who think about the distinction, do some from the perspective of the Mixologists. It’s who we are, or who we most often are looking at over a bar. When we do talk about Bartenders, it often is in a lightly condescending fashion, as in this tweet of mine recently. The reason for this is simply that all Mixologists are pros. It is in the definition. (Not all are good, but all are over-trained pros.) Where as most Bartenders are not. Most Bartenders are transients, going with temporary employment on their way to somewhere else.
But not all Bartenders are inexperienced amateurs. A small minority are serious pros in their own, different, right. But since there are so vastly more Bartenders than Mixologists, that small minority is likely much larger than the whole body of Mixologists. And some of those pros blog too. And do it entertainingly, with plenty of valuable things to say. I recently highlighted Tales From a Bar as one of these Old Pro Bartender Blogs.
And that was all an over-long introduction to another of these Old Pro blogs, The Truth About Bartending. A recent post, Mixology vs. Bartending, is one of those funny reads I mentioned that has a lot to say.
The post breaks down a lot of the key differences between established professional Mixologists, and established professional Bartenders, both from a customer’s viewpoint, but also as a career choice for each. Each area he breaks down is a very valid point of comparison, and for his non-professional reader of either stripe, he has a good sense of which terms need definition to understand what he’s talking about.
I’ll add that, like CaveMan of the above mentioned Tales From a Bar, “Freddy” blogs anonymously. If you look around at the Old Pro Bartender Blogs, you’ll see that another difference Freddy doesn’t mention is that Mixologists blog under their own name, while Bartenders blog anonymously. Read Freddy’s About page for an in depth list of the practical reasons for this. Then read around his blog for lots more interesting stuff, including his excellent taste in cocktail pundits.
To be clear, I recognize that you can in some cases, and to one degree or another, meld the two species. Take some talent, subject it to enough pressure for 16 years (as of this week), and you get a diamond like this guy.
And lo, in recent days, the king of cocktail blog traffic, Darcy at Art of Drink made an accidental foray into Rule 4 territory. Rule 4 states that you can pump up your own traffic by making controversial statements that rile up other online personalities. They denounce you publicly. And both of you reap the traffic reward as onlookers flock to both your blogs, tumblrs, feeds, or whatever.
Happily Fortunately for Darcy, his Rule 4 trigger also employed Rule 5… Rule 5 is at its core: Everybody is interested in boobs.
In this particular case, Darcy tweeted a comment about how he is looking for a bartending job, and wonders if his search would be more fruitful if he got a boob job. He got some blowback… His tale and defense of his musing is summed up at Art of Drink in the post, Bartending and Your Boobs. You should follow the link and read the whole sordid, fascinating tale. (See what I did there? that’s Rule 2 of blogging success. And I went Rule 2 because Darcy went Rules 4 & 5)
Enough blogging about blogging. Darcy’s little contretemps illustrates an interesting question/controversy/fact of life in the bartending world. Like it or not, good looks are remarkably valuable as a professional asset in the bartending world.
To be clear, I am less worried about being pilloried than Darcy is on this subject because
- I’m older and married, thus giving less of a damn about what other women think
- I have already written on this subject (humorously) and have established my cred as a believer in the value of skill over looks
- No one takes me all that seriously. (This is invaluable if you wish to say what you believe in this PC world)
That said, I do wish to make several beliefs perfectly clear at the outset, so any fights I get into will be on the merits, instead of misunderstanding.
This does not just apply to women. Hot is hot, female or male. Everybody objectifies hot people, and everybody avoids ugly people, in circumstances where we don’t know each other. Darcy focused (hey, he’s a guy) on bartenders who went out and purchased their “charismas” from Dr. Feelgood, but the issue remains just as germane when discussing naturally attractive folks as well.
If you are a bartender, the better looking you are, the more drinks you will sell, and the bigger tips you will get, all other things being equal.
Looks will not help you if you suck. The customer will quickly lose interest in gazing into your dreamy eyes or magnificent cleavage if you take forever, get their order wrong, or your Margarita tastes like ass. Or if you shake their goddamn Manhattan….
Being a great bartender, or at least a competent one, is a skill. Most anyone has what it takes, should they care to work at it, to become a decent bartender who will care for customers adequately and be a value to their employer. Smokin’ hot looks are not a skill. If you have them, bully for you. If you don’t, you are not going to get them. (Dr. Feelgood disputes this, and for $10,000 he will endeavor to prove it to you)
As the internet meme goes, this post is useless without pictures, so I shall indulge my juvenile side with a few pictures so that you may have some illustrations of what hot bartenders might look like, you know, in case you are having a hard time with the concept….
If you want to be a successful bartender as a career, your looks will never be the deciding factor. They may make you successful more quickly, and they might raise your ceiling of success, but you can be Bo Derek and you will never be a successful bartender if you go around serving single malt scotch shaken with ice in a cocktail glass.
Kids, Bo Derek was this amazing looking actress back in the Pleistocene… never mind.
Now that I’ve established a set of opinions upon which I doubt I will be contradicted, let’s get controversial. Darcy, shortly after making the most convincing argument yet in our on-going back and forth about whether Canada is better than the US or (obviously) not, writes this key paragraph:
The choice is always up to women as to how they live their life. For example, this is a job ad for bartenders I saw a few months ago: “wanted: female bartenders, send picture and phone #”. That was literally the complete ad. I thought about dressing up in drag and sending my picture in, but I opted out. The thing is that an ad like this probably did result in a number of responses, and if a person responds to this type of ad they realize that the talent portion of the contest is secondary.
This is exactly right… here in the US, Canada, and a few other, lucky places on Earth. This is not the natural order of things now, or ever in the past. And if we want to preserve this historically anomalous state of affairs, we need to recognize our achievements on this front, and quit acting as if there is some moral equivalence between Western puerility, and the subjugation, open human trafficking, and even gendercide of women in most of the world. I have two young daughters, so this really matters to me.
But I have Sitemeter, and I thus know most of you who read this are fortunate enough to live with me in one of the good neighborhoods on Earth, so lets focus on how to live in our world. Darcy is over-reductive, I think, when he focuses on the ad I reproduced atop this post. Here is another such, longer and more detailed ad that makes the same point. Yes, in the Hooters-esque sub-sector of the hospitality biz, women do need to sort of “tramp themselves out”, but I feel the women who work in these places deserve more respect than they get. To succeed, they still have to have skills, and they have to work hard. A box of hammers with the best boob job on Earth will still fail in short order. (Or, alas, moved to the hostess stand)
But tramping oneself out differs in the professional context. It’s easy to see in the gay bar, where John Goodbody wears tight jeans and a shirt that shows off his chiseled, tanned biceps and pecs, or even at TGI Houligan Tuesday’s, where Jane Juice never sees the need for a bra and apparently has some disability that prevents her from working the buttons on her blouse more than one above her navel. Like these fine professionals:
But having great looks, and using them, will be just as effective, and just as calculated, for a seasoned pro working at a class outfit like a Violet Hour or a Pegu Club. I chose those two because during my last visit to each, neither had any really outstanding lookers, male or female. Other top of the line cocktail bars I’ve visited have had such, and don’t think it doesn’t matter. It is a simple matter of dressing conservatively, but tailoring, um, less so.
OK, enough with the eye-candy, let’s wrap up.
That means many of you can stop “reading” here….
The point that Darcy makes, which I agree with, is that in our civilization, no one makes you use your looks. Nor can they dictate how you choose to do it, should you choose to. Only in our ludicrously PC society would anyone equate a natural, automatic increase in your revenue and your earnings with being oppressed….
Similarly, if you got it, you’re an idiot not to use it. How you use it, or how much, is up to you. When choosing between otherwise identical bars, I’m going to the one where Cindy With the Rack works, at least most of the time. I’m not being crass, I’m being honest. In fact, straight as I am, I’m probably going to prefer the bar with they guy who looks like Robert Downey, Jr, over the one with the bartender who looks like Marty Feldman. (Kids, Marty Feldman was a famous… never mind.) You see, attractiveness isn’t just about sex. It’s about being pleasant to simply be facing for a while.
This is the world we live in. It is not going to change much. None of what is at issue here is about right and wrong. It is about practicality. If you are good-looking, use it, it’ll work out well for you and your customers. But don’t forget you still have to work, care, and educate yourself well, or you will not cut it as a bartender. If you look ordinary, fine. Grump about the “unfair” advantage of others, then out-work and -create the pretty people, and you will do better than they. It might be harder at first. As someone who, um, has never gotten a lot of professional advantage from his looks, I sympathize. Any way you cut it, it is the truth, so we might as well laugh about it from time to time. Humor is the natural human mechanism for dealing with truths, especially the slightly uncomfortable ones.