Friday, June 1, 2012

So, the following was initially as a response to a facebook post. Then, well, I was obnoxiously long winded and this happened. That being said, this probably isn't the last post about this... My experience w/bars really tends in two directions. In larger markets, bartenders are part of the cult and as such, they tend to treat guests as if they are lucky to get served the particular bartenders drinks. I've experienced this in larger markets all over the country and I feel like it's demonstrated by what's the real bartender's handshake, how a bartender treats you when he/she finds out you're in the industry. A year ago I met a couple of industry (one BOH, the other a bartender at a dive bar) friends at a local “speakeasy” bar for drinks. The bartender was giving them the “Seattle freeze,” as I've heard it called, before I showed up. Sitting down at the bar, I asked the bartender what I've since learned are pointed questions that tip my hand as a bartender. He took a shine to me and was warm and gracious despite getting increasingly more busy. I left happy, my friends left disappointed. As we talked about it many times later, we definitely zeroed in on the conclusion that it, frankly, sucked that the industry card had to be dropped, however subtly, for us to get decent service. Since then I've traveled all over the country to check out craft bars w/increasing disappointment. The drinks tend towards being unfinished, i.e. more conceptual than actually enjoyable, and the service is awful. I understand that you (being the snooty bartender) have a door guy and house rules (which sounds more like a strip club then a bar [another post]), but you, as the bartender, still have a responsibility to be hospitable. I don't want you to be a therapist or a friend; I don't want intimacy or a legitimately human moment(though I won't necessarily turn it away); I just want you, the smug asshole who's taking $10 from me for a sub par sour or an unbalanced “spirit driven” beverage, to be polite and available; in short, I want you to do your job. Make conversation. Be a human being. Be humble. Your hipster bullshit is exhausting. The other side of this is that I spend most of my drinking time in a small market where no one professionally knows much of anything about anything in our profession, at least from a technical perspective. They'll pour you shots of moonshine, take smoke breaks, not wash their hands, not wipe down the bar tops or even bus them, nevermind make you a quality drink. Manhattans are shaken with vermouth (if you're lucky?) that's been sitting on the counter for months. Our cocktail culture is not just years, but frankly decades behind the rest of the country. It's flat out terrible. Awful. It's like having your cocktail sensibilities skull fucked, spit on, then left in a ditch somewhere in Spanaway. It's that bad. That being said, I drop into one of my local dive bars and the door guy shakes my hand when I walk in. He remembers me. I don't think he has any idea of what I do. As far as I know, he's polite because the first ten times I came in, I was polite. Same at all of the other local bars. I don't ask for anything stirred, anything stupid, fussy, or interesting. I get a beer and maybe a shot. I say please and thank you. After which, I get to shoot the shit w/working people like me who aren't hip because they're bartenders (although most of them are ridiculously hip...), but who are just working to pay the bills. Some of them like it, some of them hate it, most of them treat me w/respect. The best part about it is that I'm not special at all, they generally treat all of us the same. Both sides are a bummer, but if I can get a guy or gal w/the technical expertise working in a neighborhood bar and they serve good food, I'm in heaven. Until then, Portland's a skip and jump away.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Welcome to the Shitshow: Blogging Tales of the Cocktail

I traveled an obnoxious amount, showing up at Sea-Tac at 9:30 am and getting into NOLA at 8:30 pm, and I ate very little (two bags of peanuts and a chocolate donut), then found myself in 90+ degrees with obnoxious southern humidity. Here are my curt initial observations:
- Fucking neon. Holy shit, really? And classic rock cover bands in every bar on every block?
- In between the classic rock cover band bars are strips clubs. Lots of them. Wait...
- And lots of alcohol and no open container laws...
- This place, at least Bourbon street, reminds me of a hybrid of Amsterdam and Vegas meets some caricature of a Creole port town. I can't decide if I love or hate it.

I'm exhausted already and back at the hotel rallying with some water and bourbon after realizing that the peripheral moments in Tales are filled with VIP-who-you-know-kinda parties. Rather than press my luck, I'm going to go see what kind of trouble I can get into...maybe with that gang from Houston's Anvil Bar. They seemed...promising. More to come.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tom Waits MxMo

Jesus. What to say? I've been listening to Tom Waits non-stop since Andrew posted this month's theme. Here's where I'll start: usually these posts come from the 1022 South blog, but given my relationship to Tom Waits I'm not very comfortable posting them on the biz blog.

Go here to see what Andrew has to say about this month. After that, if you don't own any Tom Waits, beg, borrow or steal any number of albums (I recommend you start with Rain Dogs).

Here's my Tom Waits story. I spent my formative years becoming friends with the asshole (in the best possible way) Jason Quackenbush (J to his friends...)over at Wet Asphalt. He proselytized about many things over the years including Tom Waits, Sun City Girls, David Bowie, and The Cure, Line 6 amps, David Foster Wallace and Anthony Burgess. Before I go any further, I should note that I think this guy is brilliant. I'm sure he's not the smartest person I've ever met, but he's definitely top 5. He's eccentric, occasionally mean but usually very charming, and fixates on strange things probably for the sake of fixating on strange things. I listened to Tom Waits once or twice on his recommendation, it didn't grab and I figured it was another one of his...fixations.

When Andrew posted this months theme, I immediately thought of J. I started listening to Rain Dogs and was immediately sucked in. What I previously mocked as sea chanties or circus music all of the sudden resonated with me. Ya, I know...

So, the reason I write about J is that my memories of him and Tom Waits are all centered around a six month period when I lived in a bat-shit crazy house in the woods across the "bay" from Evergreen State College. The house was all wrong angles and doorways slightly askew or just a little too small. It was nestled in an area of dense greenbelt, I guess you could say (Most would say woods as it was kinda rural). J used to drive down from Sea-Tac (his apartment there is a Tom Waits story in and of itself) and spend the weekend. We would proceed to eat, smoke, or drink all of the drugs I had stock piled, then we would sit in the dark on the edge of the woods and smoke cigarettes and drink beers all night. We were young, felt invincible, and lord knows we were full of piss and vinegar. This challenge made me think of those many, many nights.

Without further ado, here are the god-damned cocktails:

Gun Street Girl
1.5 oz Rittenhouse 100 proof rye
.75 oz Dolin Italian vermouth
2 bar spoons maraschino liqueur
3 dashes cardamom tincture
3 dashes grains of paradise tincture
Combine ingredients over ice, stir, then strain into chilled coupe. Finish with fancy cherry.

This is a riff on the HR 1022. I'm much happier about this one...

And because I can't submit just one cocktail...

Tango Till They're Sore
1 oz Leblon cachaca
.75 oz yerba mate infusion*
.5 oz Licor 43
.5 oz lime juice
serrano pepper
cayenne pepper

Slice a smallish serrano wheel, drop into bottom of mixing glass, and press once with muddler. Combine remaining ingredients, give a vigorous, sexy shake, then double strain into chilled coupe. Top with shake of cayenne.

* 1 cup of yerba mate per 750 ml of 151 NGA. Let rest for 8-10 hours, then double strain.

Something about this month's theme has left me a bit sad. Still, it was fun...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mad guardian of my empty room

Yelp for customers. That shit is going to happen. Get ready, fatty, because your "sassy", fickle-ness that you think is flirty and totally cosmopolitan (I'm totally a Samantha...) is going up on a website somewhere. Then everyone in the world will know what an aqua vit-inspired, fishy-brined vagina you are and have. Or, they'll just know doods for what they are: closet rapists, predators, and bad tippers.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Here's why I'm good at what I do:

Strawberry drink
1.5 Sotol
.5 tarragon syrup
.5 lemon juice
barspoon balsamic reduction
10 black peppercorns
1 strawberry

Muddle peppercorns with srawberry. Add remaining ingredients and ice, shake vigorously, then double strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Life's Rich Pageantry III

Here is the email and the attached letter for your reading enjoyment:

Hi Dawn. I meditated for days and nights over sending this memo to you. However, one of your employees threatened me the night of this incident after I paid for my drink and was getting up from my table to leave. We were alone on the outside patio. Cory said very clearly and emphatically I should “Be careful what I say, and who I say it to when I am at 1022.” Cory had just refused to serve me a second beverage, and asked me to leave the premises. My account of the entire experience is in the attached memo, from my first arrival until I was asked to pay up and get out by Cory. You and your partner have been so gracious to me; I wanted to provide you the opportunity to respond to this at a personal level, should you so choose. The attorney generals office has already provided me guidance, should I choose to pursue further action grounded in what I see as a clear case of discrimination.

Here is the attached letter:

Subject: MFR 1022 South J April 18, 2010
Incident: Refusal of Service on April 16, 2010
Where: 1022 South J, Tacoma WA 98405, 253-627-8588,
Agent: General Manager – Chris Langston; bartender known as Cory
The following two excerpts are from the RCW and refer to incidents where a company has the right and obligation to refuse service to a patron who appears to be under the influence of alcohol or is otherwise suffering behavioral or motor-sensory impairment:
[Begin Quote 1] WAC 480-30-451

Refusal of service.
(1) A company may refuse service to a person when:

(a) In the company's judgment, providing the service would be hazardous, unsafe, or dangerous to persons or property;

(b) In the company's judgment, driveways or roads are improperly constructed or maintained, do not have adequate turn arounds, or have other unsafe conditions;

(c) The customer has an outstanding amount due to the company;

(d) The customer refuses to allow company personnel, drivers, agents, or representatives access to baggage or other materials prior to it being loaded in or on the vehicle;

(e) The customer appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol; or…” [End of Quote 1]
[Begin Quote 2] WAC 314-11-035 What are the rules regarding sales to apparently intoxicated persons? Per RCW 66.44.200, licensees or employees may not supply liquor to any person apparently under the influence of liquor, or allow an apparently intoxicated person to possess or consume liquor on the licensed premises. [End Quote 2]

On the night of April 16, 2010, I stopped in to have a cocktail at a local restaurant in Tacoma’s hilltop district. It was Friday, somewhere shortly after 11pm. I really was not watching the clock very closely, as it was a beautiful spring night, and I came to enjoy the outdoor seating and have one of the clubs delicious cold-pressed coffee drinks. I took a patio seat under a large umbrella table near the sidewalk, and smoked a cigarette. I exchanged brief conversations with several of the regular patrons as they came and left the bar, going about their evening enjoyments. It seemed like a longer time than usual went by before someone came to take my order, but eventually Cory [sic?] who works regularly as a bartender and table server came out, said hello, and provided me a drink menu. After taking my drink order, he returned shortly and asked me how I was doing.
I responded that I was doing great, commented on how beautiful the night was, and jokingly said I was “tripping” an expression from the sixties that I invoke regularly to get a smile out of people. Cory seemed to appreciate my joke at the time. I was, in fact, quite sober and had not consumed any alcoholic beverages since the previous day. I never drink to excess, and do not engage in any illegal activities of any sort, including the recreational ingestion of drugs or so-called psychotropic or entheogenic plant products.
I spent the next twenty minutes or so enjoying my cocktail, talking with friends including a professional bartender from the Crown Bar & Grill, and watching the ever changing sky and surroundings. Cory returned to check on my drink and I said I was fine. He returned into the bar, saying he would check on me later. No problem. Another short period of time passed, and an acquaintance of mine came out to share a cigarette and we talked about her education progress, and my continuing job search. On her way back into the bar, she said she would inform Cory that I was ready for another drink. She is a bartender also, and I am sure she would never have suggested this if she thought I was behaving in a manner that would indicated I was overly intoxicated, or otherwise “impaired.”
When Cory returned in a few minutes, he was very aggressive and rude in his behavior. He said that the bar could no longer serve me, and asked me to vacate the premises. I was shocked, as I have been a regular at 1022 South J for over a year; since the day they opened almost, and even share drinks and chat at times with the funding owner and his wife Dawn, two charming people. I believe he is a retired physician, and do not recall his name. They are always overly gracious and expressive toward me and my guests and have treated us to drinks on various occasions.
Cory’s explanation for his uncharacteristically odd behavior was that the bar could not serve someone who was “tripping on shrooms.” How he came to this conclusion, I have no idea. I do not “trip” on anything. I do not encourage or suggest to others that they should “trip” either, and in fact I discourage this. I have on many occasions heard Cory express his rather adamant disdain for people who discuss the use of marijuana, mescaline, psilocin and other mild intoxicants that do not suit his frame of reference for legitimacy. Patrons of this unique bar often suggest that Anise is a mild narcotic like intoxicant of some kind, and the staff promotes and takes pride in their infusions stock and will happily pour it for you all night, at some cost. I am often interrogated in friendly exchanges with people seeking my scholastic knowledge in the area. I worked hard to obtain my professional degrees, and am proud to share what I know, or presume to know with anyone, at most any time.
I found the RCW subsections that appear to address a bartender’s legitimate right and sometimes their obligation to refuse service to patrons under specific situations or conditions. I am, however, not an attorney.
I am an expert on certain local mycorrhizal fungi and many other microbial life forms, and am happy to share my knowledge with others. I have attended 5 universities, hold two completed degrees, several professional certificates, and am a licensed health care professional in this state. My master’s thesis was based on “mushroom science,” and published last fall. I am certain Cory has no training medically or otherwise that would permit him to evaluate whether or not anyone in his presence has consumed “shrooms” or any other psychotropic substance, except that this bar serves a least half a dozen home brewed infusions including everything from Cayenne pepper to Anise, a drink of legend from world history, reputed to be a mild narcotic or euphoric of some sort, when processed and ingested properly. I do not drink it – too expensive, and it tastes odd to me. Euphoria? Nope, sorry, nada.
I explained to Cory that the term I selected was strictly meant to entertain him, and asked for my check when he began becoming more belligerent and defensive in response to my questions and expressions of disbelief. He seemed very agitated. As I was signing my bill for my one drink, Chris Langston, the general manager, came out and quickly made an about face to go back inside his store when he saw that I was leaving. He never spoke to me that evening. I am personally and professionally offended at 1022 South J’s characterization of me as some sort of frivolous user of any kind of food, chemical, or recreational drug, including alcohol and whatever other wild concoctions that this bar prides it’s self on. On a more personal level, I am absolutely dismayed that people, who had once treated me on a casual, friendly, and more or less professional level, would take such an action.
Then I began wondering if I was on the receiving end of some sort of discrimination? This business entity promotes as an alternative life style restaurant and bar, one that caters to the local and visiting homosexual community. I am straight, and make no bones about that. But I have enjoyed the company of most of the patrons, and only occasionally seen people getting out of line due to over consumption.
The purpose of this memo is simply to record my perceptions and thoughts on the incident. On the other hand, I highly resent the feeling growing in me that I was on the short end of some cryptic plan on the part of Cory or the staff to make my return to the bar highly unlikely. It seems odd, as I spend some good change there, and last summer donated a nice industrial fan to them when the temperatures were soaring, and the lounge became really hot and stuffy. I feel I was grossly mistreated by the management and staff of 1022 South J, and can find no rational explanation for being eighty-sixed from the premises. Is this how Rosa Parks felt? Was I the victim of discriminatory actions for joking with someone who took personal offense at my brand of humor? Am I a criminal simply because I am a scholar of cultural and ethnographic beliefs and practices? Around this earth, more human groups practice the use of divinatory plant products than profess to be followers of orthodox western Christ based belief systems. Like it or not, the numbers are there for any one to count. Sanctioned native tribes in the U.S southwest practice the use of indigenous cacti species for this express purpose, and do it legally, at least to my knowledge. I would actually enjoy a review of this discussion from a qualified legal expert, and will freely discuss the events of the night with anyone.
Et al?
[ed. - signature removed] – Poet & Scientist

Addendum I
RCW 49.60.030
Freedom from discrimination — Declaration of civil rights.

(1) The right to be free from discrimination because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability is recognized as and declared to be a civil right. This right shall include, but not be limited to:

(a) The right to obtain and hold employment without discrimination;

(b) The right to the full enjoyment of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges of any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement;

(c) The right to engage in real estate transactions without discrimination, including discrimination against families with children;

(d) The right to engage in credit transactions without discrimination;

(e) The right to engage in insurance transactions or transactions with health maintenance organizations without discrimination: PROVIDED, That a practice which is not unlawful under RCW 48.30.300, 48.44.220, or 48.46.370 does not constitute an unfair practice for the purposes of this subparagraph;

(f) The right to engage in commerce free from any discriminatory boycotts or blacklists. Discriminatory boycotts or blacklists for purposes of this section shall be defined as the formation or execution of any express or implied agreement, understanding, policy or contractual arrangement for economic benefit between any persons which is not specifically authorized by the laws of the United States and which is required or imposed, either directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, by a foreign government or foreign person in order to restrict, condition, prohibit, or interfere with or in order to exclude any person or persons from any business relationship on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, sex, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability, or national origin or lawful business relationship: PROVIDED HOWEVER, That nothing herein contained shall prohibit the use of boycotts as authorized by law pertaining to labor disputes and unfair labor practices; and

(g) The right of a mother to breastfeed her child in any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement.

(2) Any person deeming himself or herself injured by any act in violation of this chapter shall have a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction to enjoin further violations, or to recover the actual damages sustained by the person, or both, together with the cost of suit including reasonable attorneys' fees or any other appropriate remedy authorized by this chapter or the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, or the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 3601 et seq.).

(3) Except for any unfair practice committed by an employer against an employee or a prospective employee, or any unfair practice in a real estate transaction which is the basis for relief specified in the amendments to RCW 49.60.225 contained in chapter 69, Laws of 1993, any unfair practice prohibited by this chapter which is committed in the course of trade or commerce as defined in the Consumer Protection Act, chapter 19.86 RCW, is, for the purpose of applying that chapter, a matter affecting the public interest, is not reasonable in relation to the development and preservation of business, and is an unfair or deceptive act in trade or commerce.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Life's Rich Pageantry II

For those of you who don't know our regulars, I want to talk about a particular one who took being cut off extremely badly. He is generally sleeveless, comes in and sits at the bar talking quite a bit about hallucinogens and shamanic practices. He also hits on every lady coming in the door. Still, I thought he understood the boundaries at the bar and he was more or less well behaved. The context is that he has an awful reputation around town as being creepy and has been 86'd from a number of establishments including coffee shops and bars. Reasons include inappropriate advances towards women, violence, and homophobia. And he carries a gun.

I've heard all about him. I've taken a rash of shit from other bartenders and bar managers about letting him in the bar. I've defended the guy as being more or less harmless. I've also had conversations with him about not bringing drugs into the bar. So, a couple of weeks ago I'm bartending, Corey is barbacking, and I think John Star is training. It was busy and the regular was sitting outside. Corey went out, took and order, and things seemed to be fine. When Corey checked back, the regular said that he was tripping on mushrooms. This made Corey uncomfortable, he told me that he wanted to refuse service, and I supported that. The regular finished his drink, paid, and left.

Since then, the regular has been in contact with the AG's office and he wrote a letter to the owners. He attached to the AG's letter to the one that he sent to me and the owners. Long story short (it is quite a long letter), he denies ever using any sort of drugs, is offended that someone would say that, and feels like we (the bar staff) are discriminating against him because he is straight. You read that right. He asserts that we cater to gays in town and from abroad and that he was discriminated against because he doesn't fit the lifestyle that we cater to. I cannot convey how insane this is. He definitely doesn't fit the "lifestyle" we cater to because he makes people uncomfortable. Other than that...