ShoreBilly’s Swill: Bartender’s Rant
As a career bartender, I witness things, people, and behaviors on a nightly basis that drive me right to the brink of insanity. Some of them may be petty on my part because I’ve become tad bit jaded after spending my entire adult life catering to people whose sole purpose is to get one shot shy of getting their stomach pumped by the end of the night before pissing the bed in their rented condo. Most of my peeves however are completely founded. I’d like to now give you some examples of what I mean.
I find myself now asking the following question in my head just about every shift. How did restaurants and bars survive for a couple of hundred years before the advent of the ‘cocktail menu’? It’s the first thing many people ask me for when they sit down. Now I understand that this is a resort town, most of these folks are on vacation, and perhaps they want to indulge in some specialty beverage that they wouldn’t otherwise normally get. I get that. But so many of them act as if they would be completely befuddled without a list of adult beverages for them to choose from. Has the systematic dumbing down of society driven us to a point of complacency where we’re incapable of knowing what we want to drink without some sort of guidance? It just seems to me that if you’re old enough to be in a bar, then you should at least have a mental short list of what you like to drink. I really want to keep a sheet of paper behind the bar that reads; “Liquor, Beer, Wine” and hand it to people when they ask for a drink menu. Then I’d just sit back and watch the fun and confusion. It would be like the diner menu in My Cousin Vinny.
The scenario usually goes something like this. They start at the top and read every single word on the ridiculously long list of choices as if they were instructions on how to disarm a bomb that’s attached to their mid section. At this point, I usually do a lap around the bar to give them some time and so I’m not ignoring the people who behave like they’ve actually been in a bar before. After the first lap, I stop in front of them and they ignore me completely enamored by the menu. Their eyes are wide and mouths agape like a preadolescent boy who just discovered his father’s Playboy stash. That’s when I do another lap around the bar.
As silly as it sounds, very often they’re still not ready by the time I arrive back for the third time. This will often prompt me to say, (with a smile on my face of course); “are you guys ordering a drink or picking China patterns?” They usually laugh thinking that I’m kidding. They continue reading as if they have the lead role in a Shakespearean production and they’re trying to memorize their lines. By this point, they realistically could have been half way through their first drink. Instead they’re just taking up valuable real estate. It’s a bar, not a freakin’ library. When they finally finish reading and have made the most difficult decision of their day, they have the audacity to be annoyed if I’m not standing in front of them waiting because I’m otherwise occupied. When I come back to get their order they don’t attempt to hide their irritation that they had to wait a few seconds for me. Really?!
At this point, it usually goes one of two ways. The first type of person will look at me after 20 minutes of reading and say; “I’ll have a Bud Light”. This makes me want to reach across the bar with a muddler and whack them in the side of the head. You’ve forced your obnoxious existence into my life, occupying several minutes of it that I won’t ever get back, only to give me the most pedestrian drink order that you possibly could.
The other direction this scenario goes is that they order one of the specialty drinks, often grossly mispronouncing it. The drink entails my cutting, muddling, fresh squeezing fruit, pouring multiple bottles, and shaking the drink before serving it to you. It’s a ridiculously time consuming process during which I could have served Bud Lights to the other idiot and 20 of his friends. (I’m just kidding, there’s no way he has that many friends). I was just illustrating how many less annoying drinks I could have served in the time it took me to make this one.
They look at the drink as I set it in front of them with the enthusiasm as if I had just pulled a rabbit out of my hat. Manners and human decency are practically extinct, so more often than not, they don’t thank me. They begin sipping the concoction that has more ingredients than a witches brew. A few sips in they make a face and decide they don’t like it. Despite the fact that every ingredient to this drink is clearly printed on the menu that they just spent a large portion of the evening reading. Apparently they didn’t realize in the first 40 years of life that they don’t like the taste of mint, or grapefruit. They just thought this would be a fun time and place to experiment. They push the drink back at me, tell me they don’t like it and instead they’ll have a different drink from the menu. When the hell did this become a thing?! It’s not a freakin’ wine tasting at a vineyard! It’s not a tray of toothpicked, free samples being offered to you by a 76 year old woman in a blue apron at Sam’s club! It’s a costly, time consuming drink that you read about thoroughly before ordering. Shut up, drink it and pay for it! It’s not my fault that you made it almost half a century before trying a certain fruit or type of liquor. If you want to experiment, do it in your own kitchen, not on my watch. Now I have to dump booze into my sink and clog up the drain with leaves and citrus pulp because you’re an idiot.
I think that’s enough for one week. Thanks for playing along. Until next week, Syd Nichols
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