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Guest Bartending a Fund-Raiser


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I'm tickled, and a little nervous, to have been asked to be the guest bartender for the 2011 Share Our Strength fundraiser in Providence on June 12. This event is part of the Tasteful Pursuit series, which will bring Jonathan Waxman to our little burg of Providence and feature several local chefs of note.

Needless to say, I want this to be boffo, and while I'm already pondering drink choices, I'm also starting to think through the logistical challenges of guest bartending, with someone else's bar layout, glasses, ice, rail....

I know that some aspects will be similar to doing a cocktail workshop, which we've discussed at length before. But I'm sure that many things will be quite different -- not the least being the need to produce ~70-100 drinks in an hour's time.

I'm just beginning to formulate my list of questions. So, while I chew on this pencil eraser, can you get me started? What to do? What not to do? What to bring? What to leave behind?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Seems like the first thing to do is get over to the restaurant and check the layout. If you go at about 3:30 pm, you should be able to chat up the bar staff on the idiosyncrasies of the place: how well the ice machines work; where the dishwasher is and how fast (and how well) glassware gets turned over; what the well and premium brands are.

Most likely, that will lead to more particular questions, but it's where I'd start. I'd also ask if you're going to have any help.

(Congratulations on your promotion to "mixologist.")

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
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Eat more chicken skin.

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Seems like the first thing to do is get over to the restaurant and check the layout. If you go at about 3:30 pm, you should be able to chat up the bar staff on the idiosyncrasies of the place: how well the ice machines work; where the dishwasher is and how fast (and how well) glassware gets turned over; what the well and premium brands are.

Excellent idea. I've eaten at the restaurant several times before, and it's right down the hill from my school. Your time suggestion is particularly smart.

I'd also ask if you're going to have any help.

My first question was "Barback?"

(Congratulations on your promotion to "mixologist.")

Sigh. I asked for "bartender," and got nixed.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I've been to a lot of this sort of thing over the years, not least helping Audrey with the Citymeals galas in Rock Center for the past 5 years or so. The one thing I would recommend is that you offer no more than three cocktails which you batch beforehand and shake out on site. Typically what you'll want to do is have a gigantic shaker so you can shake out around 5 cocktails at a time, which you can then pour into glasses, garnish and set out on the bar for people to grab (or get someone to circulate in the crowd with a tray of cocktails). An advantage is that you may be able to get a distributor to donate, say, a case of bourbon or whatever in exchange for putting out some signage (which could be as simple as making a litle "display" of the bottles and listing the name of the spirit on the menu or in some kind oc signage) and featuring that spirit.

What you absolutely do NOT want to do is to offer 6 or 7 cocktails plus an array of the usual highballs and neat pours, all of which you will be jiggering and shaking out to order. Take it from the guy who, together with Don Lee, produced something like 300 each of Queens Park Swizzles and Lemon Thyme (muddled!) Daiquiris in an evening. :)

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Yes, definitely thinking about making bottled drinks and/or a punch, no more than three drinks, I think. I'm pretty sure that someone else will be pouring beers and wines -- note to self: check that.

Typically what you'll want to do is have a gigantic shaker so you can shake out around 5 cocktails at a time, which you can then pour into glasses, garnish and set out on the bar for people to grab (or get someone to circulate in the crowd with a tray of cocktails).

What is this gigantic shaker of which you speak? Actually, now that you mention it, I wonder if I still have that 24" glass....

An advantage is that you may be able to get a distributor to donate, say, a case of bourbon or whatever in exchange for putting out some signage (which could be as simple as making a litle "display" of the bottles and listing the name of the spirit on the menu or in some kind oc signage) and featuring that spirit.

That's likely, and I'll know more in a bit if it is a sure thing.

What you absolutely do NOT want to do is to offer 6 or 7 cocktails plus an array of the usual highballs and neat pours, all of which you will be jiggering and shaking out to order.

Word.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Honestly, a bowl of punch looks very attractive on the counter and can practically sell itself. I recently made one for an event that was essentially an un-aged, high-proof vin d'orange with rosè of tempranillo and it was very successful with a wonderful dark pink color. (I managed to infuse the spices and oranges in grain alcohol for a week prior to serving)

And yes, aged cocktails are kind of trendy right now...

Are you going to be dealing directly with people, or, will servers be talking to them?

If it's you, then make up a list of easy things to serve and suggest them upfront when talking to people. Try to have one easy drink for each major type of liquor. Instead of saying "what's your poison?" open with "we've got a killer applejack in stock, if you're a whiskey drinker you'll like it, it's great straight up." If they decline, they'll probably state what type of liquor they like and you can quickly come back with your easy drink for it before they can name a complex cocktail.

If you'll have servers, gather them beforehand and tell them the 'house specials' so they can help you by making suggestions to guests instead of just accepting orders from them.

Aside from things served straight or on the rocks, I'd try to suggest easy non-shaken drinks like gin & tonic, amaretto and tonic, The Dead Date, cuba libre, screwdriver, etc.

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Typically what you'll want to do is have a gigantic shaker so you can shake out around 5 cocktails at a time, which you can then pour into glasses, garnish and set out on the bar for people to grab (or get someone to circulate in the crowd with a tray of cocktails).

What is this gigantic shaker of which you speak? Actually, now that you mention it, I wonder if I still have that 24" glass....

This baby holds 60 ounces. They're not hard to find. If you decide to do a stirred cocktail as well (although I encourage you not to switch techniques if you're going to be the only one back there) you can use a large glass "lemonade" pitcher.

A rocks drink is a good idea for one of them, because all you have to do is scoop some rocks glasses full of ice and pour over the batched cocktail straight out of the bottle.

Oh, and champagne cocktails (or, rather, cocktails with champagne) are always a winner.

Brace yourself for people who will ask you for straight pours of whatever spirits you're using. Happens every time.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Could you make a riff on an aviation, maybe with St. Germain instead of creme de violette, maybe garnished with an edible flower, and call it the "Share Our Strength". If someone asks you why it is called that, just tell them that you would like to share with them that it is strong. :wink:

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Carbonate. Take a look at the cookingissues blog. When they do classes they typically serve excellent cocktails en masse. One trick is to carbonate ........ I think some of these recipes are on their website

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You may want to check the glassware inventory, too. Just in case the venue needs to order some rentals.

Never underestimate the value of an additional assistant.

Karen Dar Woon

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For a big shaker, I recommend the ol' Ball half-gallon canning jar.

I recently played mixologist at my school's fundraiser and did a riff on a recipe from Imbibe that I called Schoolhouse on the Rocks:

1 1/2 oz. gin (we got Breuckelen Gin to donate at cost)

1/2 oz. each fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, St. Germain, and Maraschino

Shake and serve over ice, top with green tea.

A friend and I did about 60 drinks, so I now have even greater respect for what the pros deal with!

"The thirst for water is a primitive one. Thirst for wine means culture, and thirst for a cocktail is its highest expression."

Pepe Carvalho, The Buenos Aires Quintet by Manuel Vazquez Montalban

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I participate in a fair number of events like this one with some regularity. My best tips.

1) Come up with a solid recipe that batches exponentially with ease. Try to stick to equal/half measures of ingredients. Example:

Garden State Cup

1 part cognac

1 part Pomegranate tea

1 part Hibiscus simple syrup

1 part fresh lime juice

.5 part Laird's 7.5 yr. apple brandy

.5 part Combier orange liqueur

.5 part cranberry juice

2 dash Angostura

Mix together and strain over fresh ice. Top with approx. 1 part ginger ale.

This works as a single serving with 1 part = 1 ounce or 1 part = 1 quart for batch purposes. For the batch you can just dash bitters into each glass before you fill it. Keep it simple!!!

2) Don't make too much. Find out how many guests you're expecting and assume that everyone will have one to one and half drink(s) and batch accordingly. This is most especially true when there's other drinks available because some folks won't have any and others will become your new best friend as they continue to make up excuses and such to keep coming back for everyone else's share. :rolleyes: And the sooner you're done, the sooner you can enjoy yourself without the pressure of being on stage. I'm not suggesting short changing your hosts or the event, but having an abundance of pre-batched cocktail and nowhere for it to go looks either like no one enjoyed your efforts or that you don't know what you're doing. Always leave them wanting more...

3) Do you have running water or a place to at least rinse off your hands? A dump bucket? Clean bar towels? Scope out how rustic or well equipped your station is and ask for those things you can't function without.

4) Make sure you have volunteers to keep you stocked on glassware, ice, extra mixers or whatever, remove trash, etc. if need be.

5) Get yourself a big assed shaker. I couldn't do events without mine. When there's a crush of several dozen folks waiting for drinks, shaking up half a dozen at a time is a godsend.

6) This may seem silly, but definitely try and relax and have fun with it. A bit a "quality control" tasting can often speed this process...

Hope this helps!!! I'm certain this won't be the last time you do this. It gets easier as you go along. Share Our Strength is a great organization. I've worked the event here in Philadelphia several times. They're good people. Have a blast!

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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  • 2 weeks later...

Apologies: sickness interfered. I'm also saddled with an injury to my left (shaking) elbow, so I've got a teammate, Jesse Hedberg, my partner-in-arms at Cook & Brown. We'll be visiting the venue later this week. More soon.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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  • 2 weeks later...

So plans are progressing. We've visited the bar and sorted out most of the logistics there, including ice, glassware, and getting a hand during the event. We also have three drinks-in-the-making that we're finishing up; I'll post recipes here when they're set. Now it's estimating amounts, securing sponsorships for the booze, arranging to print recipe cards, and a few other things.

In short: more soon.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Quick, everybody bone up on their ridiculously complex drinks -- like the Mongolian Mo-Fo -- and head to Providence.

"Five drinks that bartenders just HATE to make."

PS -- Good luck! I did the guest chef thing for charity at Benihana for a few years. The first year, I sucked. I got better, quick.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Elbow is sore -- but it turns out that all three drinks are going to be stirred: a rocks drink with Old Tom, a champagne cocktail, and a cobbler. We'll be bottling a few different components and leaving others in their original bottles, especially since there are likely to be many people there who aren't familiar with stuff like Old Tom gin.

And -- sorry, ScoopKW! -- no off-menu drinks. Thank god.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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