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.