Came across this article, "Use The Force", over at www.shakestir.com
and felt like it needed to be shared. ShakeStir’s mission is to provide bartenders worldwide with an
interactive online and offline platform to market their professional
achievements, exchange ideas, and raise awareness about the cocktail
industry both among bartenders and also the customers they interact with
on a daily basis. ShakeStir is built exclusively for bartenders with
the purpose of showcasing trends and techniques as they sweep through
the spirits industry, while revealing the camaraderie among bartenders
Here's the article:
""This [the lightsaber] was the formal weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not
as clumsy or random as a blaster. More skill than simple sight was
required for its use. An elegant weapon. It was a symbol as well.
Anyone can use a blaster or a fusioncutter—but to use a lightsaber
well, was a mark of someone a cut above the ordinary." - Obi-Wan Kenobi
Recently we were asked to do a staff training only covering bar
tools and their uses. Exciting, but a bit nerve wracking to speak for
four hours to a staff that is mildly to heavily hung over on their
Saturday morning about only tools - we were sure they would rather have
been eating spicy, greasy plates of eggs and swilling over roasted
coffee with their sunglasses on. But there we were. No booze talk,
just mechanics: why we stir, the many uses of a muddler, how to open a
beer bottle with your tin, how the julep strainer is the perfect ice
scoop in a catering situation when your icebox is a swamp, etc. We
step behind the bar, open our mouths, and then BAM! The intro and
first subject of the days training comes into focus. The most important
tool in the bartender’s toolbox is….The BARTENDER.
From there, the training fell like rain. We are our most
important tools behind the bar - yes we are aware we just called all
bartenders tools - on with the show. Your appearance, attitude,
physical and mental well-being, presence, and confidence of space are
all invaluable to making a night kick a*s. Most bartenders have the
luxury of not having to wake up at 8 am on a regular basis. So, if
you are coming to work exhausted, let’s hope it’s because you woke up
early to a) hit the books and study up on your spirit knowledge, b)
take care of / hang out with your kid - that says it all, or c) you
have found a yoga class that somehow hits all the spots bartenders need
to hit… and worked a double. The obvious alternatives of why you are
tired mean that you have no excuse. When you walk through the door,
you can shake it off and do what needs to get done.
We are not innocent to the overindulgence; late nights and lack of
sleep are sometimes commonplace in a bartender’s world. We just
realize that it doesn't serve that moment when your bar is three deep
and you need to keep your chin up and smile.
We know speaking to a group that prides itself on the individuality
of one’s dress and appearance is a dangerous plank to walk down. We'll
play this safe and say be clean, have clean clothes, clean breath and
fingernails, and don't stink. Dress as you are able given the place you
work, and express yourself in whatever way makes you feel the most
comfortable taking the stage behind the bar. The stage… We feel you
have to accept it. The bar is a stage wherein everyone watches you,
whether you want them to or not, so posture matters. Chin up, chest
facing forward, eyes bright and active, smile easily. We often find
we are our nicest, most natural and personable selves when we are behind
the bar. Sometimes after a few busy nights, all we want is six hours
of catch up on cable TV shows, some take out and very little
conversation, if any. But, when you are working, you gotta give it.
It's like an actor hitting the stage on a bad night. People paid for
their tickets and want to see the show. They could give a sh!t if the
actor isn't “feeling it.”
Presence is a powerful thing. It’s innate in some people, but in
others, it's something that is learned, nurtured and practiced. It gets
easier to "fake" when you’re feeling really beat up, and becomes more
natural over time as the emotional epicenter of your bartender state.
With a strong presence, an unruly mob of people clamoring for a drink
becomes something that can be controlled and guided into the night with
the bartender at the reins.
Eyes, ears, nose, mouth. For example, while we stir, we treat this
as a time to take visual inventory of what needs doing once this
delicate little all spirit bastard is done. We make eye contact with
guests. We smile and nod with the universal, be there in a sec, face.
We catch the barbacks gaze and speak with our eyes. We take a second
to survey the general crowd and check in with the room. Ears pick up
where your eyes leave off. Bartender ears are thieves. They are fine
tuned filters that can sort through the conversations of the room, take
cues from the conversations of their guests, hear what is happening in
the station down the bar, and what is happening behind them. By
acquiring this data, you can find your way out of any maze. Now that
you are seeing and hearing, smelling your way through the night keeps
you on your game. Are your tins clean? Smell them. If that glass is
too clean (meaning the sanitizer is alive and well), the nose knows.
Has the cream turned, is that drink balanced, corked wine, skunked
beer? Of all things, your nose will be a last line of defense against
preventing something bad from landing in front of a guest and soiling
their experience. Finally, the mouth. Help us out. Is this drink on
or off? On or off, balanced or imbalanced, too much bass or treble,
you get the point. Always trust your gut. Your instincts will save
you in all walks of life, and definitely will save you behind to bar.
Bartending is beautiful. Or at least it can be. It can also be
clunky, sloppy and uncoordinated. Move behind your bar as if you were
born to. Own the space. If temporarily blinded by lemon juice shot
from a squeezer, know you can find your way out without looking like a
blinded Frankenstein. Move with purpose. If you can do it in one move,
do so. We all know our local maestros of bar movement - we love to
see them in action and study the efficiency of their game. They are
captivating to watch. Whatever your style is, decide, and be that
style. A machine, a dancer, flair, a comic, whatever, just carve out
your style. Own your space!
With all these things considered, practiced, and then properly
utilized, then reach into your briefcase full of vintage
pre-Prohibition silver that we all love, and kick a*s with it.
“Lightsaber skills, important they are. How to use as well as how
not to use. When to move as well as when not to move.”- Master Yoda"