Tip #16 on Being a Good Bar Customer

2 Mar

Alright, kids, I’m back with the tips. And I think this one might be exceptionally snarky although honestly, at this point, my snark gage is all off and I can’t even tell anymore. After doing some (admittedly non-exhaustive) research on the topic, I am not going to link to my other tips here because pretty much no one ever clicks on those links. If you want to read more tips, I think there is a search tool somewhere around here. Or you could look at the “A Bartending Life” archives for all your bartending related content. If you disagree with the outcome of my study, feel free to comment below. Or don’t. Either way. So without further ado, your next tip.

If any of you have read one of the multitude of stupid Buzzfeed articles entitled “Ways to Get Your Bartender to Hate you” or “Ways to Behave in a Bar” or “This Man Orders a Drink. You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!”* which are basically always written by people who (a) seemingly have never bartended before and (b) cannot really write, this next tip will not come as a surprise to you. For those of you who have somehow managed to avoid all that clickbait: well done, you are my idol.

So last night some dude came in on the earlier side of my shift, sat down at the bar and looked confusedly around the room. His eyes, eventually, landed on the whisky selection. I would classify our whisky selection as pretty standard New York. We have a fair bit, but it’s all the usual suspects. Basil Hayden, Bulleit, Buffalo Trace.** You get it. If I had made a bet right then and there, I would have put money on him ordering a Bulleit Bourbon on the rocks. I was wrong. Not so wrong, as you will come to see, but wrong enough. I feel like betting is sort of an all-or-nothing proposition which is why I don’t like to do it. Shades of grey are totally my sweet spot. Anywho, instead of going the predictable route, he looked at me and said,

“Do you know how to make a Clint Eastwood?”

Ugh.

I replied that no, I did not, in such a way as to try to dissuade him from digging out his phone, Googling a ‘Clint Eastwood’ and then handing the phone over to me. I failed. He immediately reached into his pocket and started tap, tap, tapping away at the screen. Moments later he handed the phone to me with a meaningful look.

Why do people do this? First of all, the drinks that people want either contain something that most bars don’t have like velvet falernum or a raw egg or they are something made up by a bartender at some place like Little Branch as a result of some dude walking up to the bar and saying “I want something with gin that tastes like cloudberries and cotton candy but comes in a manly glass.” Second of all, whenever this scenario happens (not the cloudberries but the recipe googling) and I ask people what is in the drink, generally so that when they say Batavia-Arrack I can tell them I don’t have that and we can move on, they have absolutely no idea. And not just no idea like,

“well, it has gin, lime and the tears of a baby narwhal, I’m just not sure the proportions.”

No. They have no idea like,

“Oh, I have no idea.”

I begrudgingly took the phone while he looked at me, waiting for the moment when I would excitedly take out my shakers and my jiggers (kindly remove mind from gutter) and maybe bust out the suspenders that I have left hanging from my pants, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to suit up and get down to business. (He totally wasn’t expecting any of those things. I am just being a dick because the image I conjured made me giggle.) I looked at the screen and here is what I saw:

INGREDIENTS
1½ oz. Bulleit bourbon
¾ oz. Vya sweet vermouth
2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
1 Amarena cherry, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS
Combine bourbon, vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass; garnish with cherry.

I want us all to just take a moment and look at this recipe. Really just take it all in. Think about what it might be similar to. Something that maybe you have had before? Because I don’t know but this looks to me like a variation on a Manhattan. Granted this one calls for different bitters – Ragan’s orange as opposed to the more common Angostura -and there is of course call liquor here and different proportions but that’s what makes it a variation. Also you’re supposed to shake this? Who shakes a Manhattan? It comes out all cloudy and weird when you shake it. (And this is where my inner snob comes out. I firmly believe, and this is my own personal thing so whatever I won’t impose it on those around me, that Manhattans and Martinis should be stirred. Always all the time. And that James Bond was an asshole. Although now I have done a little bit of research and apparently in Ian Fleming’s books Bond actually ordered his Martini “stirred not shaken.” Can anyone verify that for me? And can we count this as another example of a film adaptation being a lesser version of the book it is based on?)

Anyway, while in my head I was hearing Sean Connery say “shaken not stirred” on constant repeat, I broke the news to my customer that I didn’t have Ragan’s bitters or vya sweet vermouth but I could do the next best thing: seeing as how the “Clint Eastwood” was surprisingly similar to a Manhattan, and it just so happens that I make a pretty mean Manhattan, I offered to make him one of those instead. He seemed dejected and asked if he could see my selection of bitters. I placed the bottle of Angostura directly in front of him. And then it all seemed to click. He looked around the room and noticed the television, the lack of cocktail paraphernalia, the weird photo collages on the wall, the Christmas lights that are, for no real reason, still attached to the mirror, a mirror that is not intentionally aged to make it look all vintage. He was not in a cocktail bar. He begrudgingly agreed to have a Bulleit Manhattan but requested it be on the rocks.

*By and large these are my least favorite articles. The second I see something titled “Man tries to hug a wild lion, you won’t believe what happens next!” I become angry and storm away from the computer. Chances are I will believe what happens. And, as a direct result of that stupid title, I will not care.

**Unintentional alliteration!

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