Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Manners: Rule #31

Rule #31: Beware of the Bar Snacks

No matter how hungry you get, don't ever, under any circumstance, snack on the bar munchies unless you have personally opened up the bag or container. A customer's double dipping, or finger licking, or questionable hand-washing after bathroom visits contributes to a possible unsatisfactory health situation for you.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Non-Fiction Friday: Two Old Farts Part I

When these two old guys walked in every Friday night I couldn't get them seated at the bar fast enough. The sooner I served them their two Gibsons "shaken not stirred" and received their pathetic seventy-seven cent tip, the sooner I didn't have to see them for a whole frickin' week. Of course some poor waitress had to deal with them for the rest of the night, and by "the rest," I mean they sat there forever.

I didn't start off so angry. No, no. I was nice at first. Even like, after the fourth time they left me the same tip they were leaving bartenders a hundred years ago. But when they started acting nicer and nicer as if nothing was wrong with the arm flailing to get my attention, the demands for hoards of onions, or the glove compartment change they considered a tip, it got to me. I was done. They needed to go.

Unfortunately, being a jerk didn't deter them. Neither did ignoring their existence. A few times I practically held people hostage at their bar stools in the hopes that dumb and dumber (a waitress's nickname for them, not mine) would give up on the wait and fall in love with the crap hole across the street. None of it worked. So finally I gave in and just tried to get them off to their table as fast as possible.

One night, I needed to leave the bar for a minute. It had been an hour since dumb and dumber were seated yet as I passed their table I noticed that their drinks were full again. Confused, and afraid I was losing my mind, I approached the waitress. "Did those two order another round?" They had not. Neither the waitress or I could figure out how the near empty glasses had refilled themselves. Lucky for us, we would have the opportunity to solve the mystery next Friday night. And we did.

The following week dumb and dumber sidled up to the bar, hailed me like a taxi for their drinks, grinned at me like Cheshire cats, and tipped me like I was a panhandler. And then they went to their table under the surveillance of the entire staff.

When the gin martinis got low, and the two men thought no one was looking, they each reached into their coat pockets and pulled out silver flasks. Giddy as schoolchildren, they snickered as they refilled their cocktails with warm alcohol.

Before they had a chance to tuck the contraband back into their coats, three of us walked up to their table. The waitress served their check. I cleared their drinks. The busboy grabbed their plates. We made it very clear that it was time to pay and leave. They settled up and left. We thought that was the last time we would ever see them...

To be continued.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: New Ginger Citrus Cocktail

I think I'm on a ginger kick, and I'm fairly sure it goes with absolutely everything. It does take a little prep work (maybe not the best ingredient for your first night of bartending), but is well worth the effort when it comes to perking up a drink. This cocktail is easy to make (after the ginger part), light, and refreshing.

2 ounces rum
1/2 ounce orange juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce lime
Splash triple sec
2 ounces tonic water

Step 1: Slice ginger, mince with a grater, or crush with a garlic press

Step 2: Press ginger into small strainer to collect ginger juice

Step 3: Slice oranges, lemons, and limes
Step 4: Squeeze into a glass packed with ice
Step 5: Add ginger juice

Step 6: Add rum
Step 7: Add tonic water, shake once, and serve

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tell it Tuesdays: Stone Brewing Co.

Restaurant:  Stone Brewing Co. 
Location: 1999 Citracado Parkway
Escondido, CA 92029

Drink Damage: 2010 Double Bastard Ale | $4, 
33.8 oz. take-home bottle filled fresh off the tap  | $17.50
Interior Swag: Amazing place! Vast space, tall ceilings, urban d├ęcor, stonework, wood detail and a view of the 55,000 square foot brewery on site. The large windows open up onto an outdoor patio overlooking a garden, waterfall and pond. Very impressive.
Service: Cute, young Austin was very attentive and friendly.
Food & Drink: The Stone Brewing Co. World Bistro and Gardens prides itself on using the finest in fresh, locally-and naturally-grown ingredients. We shared a light lunch consisting of a delicious garden salad and crostinis with hummus. They sell growler jugs that you can have filled fresh off the tap with any of their year ’round releases to take home.
Go-Back-Again-Ness: I’d love to take my dad. This place doesn’t feel like a bar, and definitely doesn’t serve “bar food”. Perfect for a Sunday lunch.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Manners: Rule #11

Rule #11: Respond to Drink Complaints Graciously
At every bar I've ever worked at, I only made martinis with vermouth upon request. So when a martini came back to me with the complaint that I'd put in too much vermouth, I chuckled. But I wasn't always so casual about it. In my early days I'd march over to the table and personally tell the patron that I didn't put in any vermouth to start with, which then of course got me into trouble because, well, why didn't I make the drink the way it is supposed to be made?

When a customer is unhappy with their drink, accept the complaint graciously and re-shake or remake the drink to their liking. They may not remember your amiableness, but they will definitely remember any attitude.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Non-Fiction Friday: President's Girl

I was looking for Monica Lewinsky's receipt for this post, but it must have lost its importance over the years and wound up in the trash bin. It was 1999 when she walked into the little neighborhood Santa Monica restaurant where I was waitressing. President Clinton was impeached a few months prior, then acquitted soon after that, and we were all trying to forget that any of it ever happened.

Plenty of celebrities dined at our restaurant.  When a star walked in a few people would usually turn their head, lean into their lunch mate and say, "That's _____________." The other person would respond with something like, "Oh I loved her in that one movie," and then both would return to their business. But when Miss Lewinsky walked in, there was a collective hush and rubbernecking. I think people had to force themselves to look back at their burgers.

She and her girlfriend asked for a booth but since there were only three, and she didn't want to wait, she was given a small two-top in the middle of the floor. Lucky for me, it was my section. Honestly, she fascinated me. I was mesmerized by the entire political disaster, and beyond curious to see the girl who ruined a president I adored.

They ordered Diet Cokes and salads. They ate with a sense of urgency and conversed quietly. I was attentive but didn't hover. And when my other tables wanted to know how it was going with this strange kind of "it" girl, I felt protective of her privacy.

Overall, it was extremely uneventful. I delivered the bill, they paid cash, thanked me, and rushed out. But then there's the tip part. If most people thought of you as the whore who brought down the white house, as the "victim" who happened to be adeptly skilled in the sexual use of cigars, wouldn't you want to redeem yourself? Wouldn't you want to draw less attention to your poor decision making? The bill was $25 and she left me two bucks. That's less than 10%. And I was really nice!

I put the money in my pocket and returned to my other tables, happy to take questions about Miss Monica. I'm not a kiss-and-tell kinda girl, but she was. Maybe that's what happens when things don't go your way.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Spanish Coffee

Thanks to Starbuck's amazing instant coffee Via, bartenders everywhere can now make coffee drinks without having to wait for a pot of Joe to brew, or have to resort to using coffee that has been sitting around for hours. Spanish Coffee can now be enjoyed a lot more frequently and easily during these cold winter nights (or mornings!).

1.5 ounces Rum
1.5 coffee Liquor
2 ounces coffee* (or more)
Whipped cream

* Via is such a fabulous instant coffee- use this if you can!

Step 1: mix 8 ounces of hot water with one packet of Starbuck's Via

Step 2: measure our 1.5 ounces of coffee liquor and rum

Step 3: pour all of the ingredients into a glass

Step: garnish with as much whip cream as your heart desires

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tell It Tuesdays: Mustangs & Burros | La Jolla

Mustangs & Burros, Estancia Hotel and Spa 
Location:  9700 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California 92037 
Drink Damage: Bloody Mary | $10 (me), Stone Brewery Pale Ale $7 (him) 
Interior Swag: There was an outdoor patio with benches and cushions surrounding a fire pit, and an indoor bar with cocktail tables and super comfy leather chairs. The room was dimly lit and had a relaxing tavern-like ambiance. 
Service: Excellent! Jesse was very attentive and friendly. 
Food & Drink: We ordered the Estancia Nachos which were heavenly — a little strange and salty choice for me to have with a Bloody Mary but they paired well with my date’s beer. Perfect for an afternoon snack if you’ve had a light lunch and have late dinner reservations. 
Go-Back-Again-Ness: Ah, duh!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Manners: Rule #8

 Rule #8: Love Advice 101

Once you've got an established group of regulars, you will become more and more of a confidant, leading to opportunities for advice about love. Here's our advice on the advice:

  1. When your customer tells you she just broke up with her guy, do not tell her, "I'm so glad you dumped that piece of shit." Chances are they will be back together by the end of the weekend.
  2. If a guy gets a girl's number, and wants to know if he should wait three days to call her, tell him he should have the balls to call her the next day or not at all.
  3. If your customer is heartbroken and crying into stacks of bar napkins, cue the coffee.
  4. When someone is really excited about a new love interest, be excited for them!
  5. Don't offer unsolicited advice.
  6. If one of your favorite regulars is about to hook up with one of your sluttiest regulars, then I don't know what the hell to tell you.
  7. If all a guy needs is a little more liquid courage to ask for the girl's number, pour it.
  8. When a romance is budding or breaking, serve cognac.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Non-Fiction Friday: Dipping in Luxury

Not every bar carries the premiere Louis XIII, Remy Martin's top-shelf Cognac. But the bars and restaurants that do offer this royal spirit, usually referred to as "Louie Tre," often build special cases and shelves for it, sometimes adding subtle lighting and velvet backdrops.

It wasn't until I worked in a five-star hotel bar that I learned about this fine beverage. And at $125 a shot, it's one I didn't forget. We were told to be mindful of dusting off the bottle every now and then (a crystal decanter made by Baccarat), and instructed to keep it in our hands or firmly on the bar if any customer was interested in viewing it.  We were also informed that the bottle, valued at $700, was to go to the person who finished it off. This bar's bottle? Almost empty.

One evening a man strolled up to the bar in khakis and a polo, with his New York Times in one hand and a cigar in the other. Very non-chalantly he said, "I'll have a glass of the Louie Tre, neat." The other bartender and I immediately shared a quick look, and I very clumsily said, ", did you mean, uh...that one?" Without looking up, the man said, "Yes, please."

As if removing a faberge egg from its cradle, I moved with extreme caution. My colleague polished an already spotless rocks glass, then lowered the volume on the TV. This was a special moment. We needed to focus.

Our guest put two c-notes on the counter and began unwrapping his Cuban cigar as I started to pour. The hotel required a jigger but this was no time for measurements (see Rule #74!). As I watched the cognac flow into the glass, I knew that at least two of us were hoping, praying, this bottle would run dry, and give us the opportunity to gift this bottle. We wanted to see his reaction. We wanted bragging rights. We wanted to be able to say we'd poured that last drop of Remy Martin's best cognac and handed over a crystal sculpture as the reward. But he stopped me.

"That's enough."
"But sir," I said, "I haven't completed the pour."
Holding up his cigar he said, "I'm just using it to dip this in."
I don't know how long the silence was, but neither I, nor the other bartender knew what the hell to say. Lucky for us, a miracle happened.

"Have you ever tried it?" he asked.
We shook our heads "no," afraid we might wreck the moment with words.
"Then why don't you pour the rest for yourselves and keep the change." He pushed the hundred dollar bills over, took his Louis XIII, cigar, and paper to the patio, and smoked and dipped away. What did we do? Shake out every last drip of cognac into our own shot glasses, and sip like kings.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Pina Colada

Enjoy a Pina Colada any season, with or without sand. Today's drink is dedicated to all the Mid-West and East Coasters who are wondering if it will ever be warm again.

1 cup crushed ice
2 ounces light rum
2 ounces pina colada mix
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 scoop vanilla ice cream (or 1 ounce half & half, or coconut milk)

Step 1: put 1 cup crushed ice into blender
Step 2: pour in rum and pina colada mix

Step 3: put pineapple chunks into blender

Step 4: add one or two small scoops of vanilla ice cream into the blender

Step 5: blend on high until the mixture is smooth and creamy

Step 6: pour into a cognac glass and garnish with a pineapple slice or umbrella

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tell It Tuesdays: Jim's Steaks | Philadelphia

Restaurant: Jim's Steaks
Location:  400 South Street
                    Philadelphia, PA 19147
                    (215) 928-1911
Drink Damage:  Diet Coke | $1  *MYOC (Make-Your-Own-Cocktail: At several liquor stores along the street you can pick up a small $3 bottle of your choice of the hard stuff. This Girl prefers Jack Daniels and a Diet Coke for her Philly Cheese Steak)
Interior Swag: Bare bones, but the swag is in the open kitchen! As you stand in the long line you can watch just how perfectly these guys put together the famous sandwiches. Very clean kitchen with fresh ingredients. 
Service: This staff was working hard but never lost their smiles and friendly attitudes (despite what we had heard about their no-nonsense demeanor). 
Food & Drink: As I mentioned earlier, there aren't any cocktails but you can get a beer if you don't want to MYOC. The cheese steak? Amazing. Ordered my steak with onions, peppers, and Velveeta cheese. Couldn't finish the whole thing and wished I could!
Go-Back-Again-Ness: Next time I'm in Philly it's going to be one of my first stops!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Manners: Rule #144

Rule #144: Do Not Share Gossip
Some of the stories going on in your restaurant may be scandalous. I know I've got enough material to keep Non-Fiction Friday running for years. However, it's important to keep the business's business private. As a bartender, people will confide in you some of their deepest secrets. Being able to keep a secret is vital to your own bar business in terms of regulars and tips. If you are willing to share inside information with your customers, you send a message that you can't be trusted. Refine your reputation as a confidant, not a busybody.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Non-Fiction Friday: The Lunch Date

They came in every week for lunch. Usually on Thursdays. I remember thinking how romantic their relationship seemed. Two married forty-somethings connecting during a busy work day for a quick lunch together. They always drank white wine, ate off each other's plates, and giggled together like newly weds. I never engaged much with them, as they were so smitten with each other I feared any conversation outside of taking their orders would be unfair and disruptive.

There is one particular lunch I remember when the man's phone rang. He looked at the number and his eyes got wide. He showed the number to the woman and her eyes got even wider. She covered her mouth. But they were both smiling with amusement. The man answered the phone and put a huge emphasis on the caller's name.

"Oh, hello 'JOE.'

The two men bantered on for a bit before my customer took the conversation in a different direction.

"Listen- you aren't going to believe who I ran into at lunch." The woman gave him a, "don't you dare" kind of look, but it didn't stop him.

"I'm sitting here with your wife."

The two men laughed about it for a minute before the phone was passed to the woman. I'll never forget the ease with which she managed, "Hi, honey," and went through the story of how she happened to stop in for lunch, saw their mutual close friend, and joined him for a quick bite. Throughout the entire conversation, the 'couple' continued to sip their wine and grab at each other's hands. It was all so easy. I knew this sort of thing happened all the time but their indifference to their adultery, their casualness towards almost getting caught, made me glum. The lunch date lost its sweetness; its romantic aura.

Maybe they sensed my disappointment, or maybe they got caught, but I never saw that couple again. And that made me happy.