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Bartender's repertoire


JAZ
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Wow! :blink: That's quite a list. I'm sure I would be very happy at your bar.

I'd like to clarify that I have been requesting an Aviation purely because I enjoy them and would love to be able to order one at a bar. Maybe if people ask for something often enough it will be made available. It never hurts to ask and I've had some fun conversations with bartenders after we discuss what it is and why they don't have the fixins for it.

My interest in cocktails is due to egullet. First Nightscotsman had his wonderful cocktail parties and generously provided recipes for those of us who could only read all about it. Then Dale Degroff came along and I bought his book. How was I to know all these wonderful drinks were not readily available at what would appear to be very well stocked bars? My bar at home is now extremely well stocked and I look forward to beginning every weekend with a well made drink. (Makers Mark Manhattans for tonight!)

This thread has also been an education as to what one can possibly expect at most bars and why. I just wanted to make it clear that I have not been out playing stump the bartender.

KathyM

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I've seen several mentions of the Aviation on eGullet but have never had one so I looked it up on drinksmixer.com. It does look like it would be very good. Is the Maraschino Liqueur very sweet? Of course there isn't that much of it in the drink so I guess it wouldn't make it too sweet.

Sorry, I know this has nothing to do with the thread.

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To go with the filet mignon analogy, first of all, you're not dealing with the person making it in the kitchen, you're dealing with the waitperson, so it's not quite the same, but you do make certain assumptions, for instance, that the chef knows what the cut of beef that comprises a filet mignon is, that they know what medium rare means, and that they know that butter and sour cream are not the same things.

However, you are in an environment and specifying your preferences and choices.

Why not apply that to your local barkeep?

It is just plain silly to ask for a martini, generic in form and expect that example Plymouth gin with Vya and three olives.

If you don't ask for what you want, you simply do not get what you want.

Most bartenders I've ever worked with are quite happy when people specify the details as then the guest/customer is quite pleased. Then there's no bs or anyone in the dark with what to choose playing that dicey game of if I pour this they may not like it or if I pour that they will love it -- but will they pay for it despite they didn't specify? Or, are they going to be pissed since they didn't specify and are most definately not going to like the well version of this?

My impression is that you trillium have very high expectations to something you truly adore and are enthusiastic about when it comes to a bartender's performance. I'll give you a hint: we are not mind readers and it is absolutely silly to expect such as there is that great learning curve and those horribly personal apptitudes for being able to perform one's duties to another's satisfaction.

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I don't think anyone is saying that bartender should be a machine-like database of cocktail recipes or that you can cop an attitude if they don't know some obscure drink.  I think the question is: are there any drinks you can assume a basic knowledge about when dealing with a bartender?  I'm not sure there are, but it's an interesting question to think about.

Exactly, Trillium. If there is such a list, it's undoubtedly very short. But I, personally, think there is a list, short though it may be. And that's what I was interesed in.

I didn't think the question was: what do you have to do as a customer to get the drink you want?  Which is interesting too, but a different question.

Right. An entirely different question.

Just to reiterate, I'm not talking about walking into a bar, asking for a martini and getting the martini of my dreams. I'm not talking about the bartender reading my mind about the type of gin (or vodka, as the case may be) or the type or amount of vermouth I prefer. I'm talking about walking into a bar, ordering a martini, and having a bartender who knows that a martini is made with gin (or vodka) and vermouth, and not -- say -- tequila and buttermilk.

And, as I said upthread, I think that's a pretty reasonable expectation. That's why I used it as my primary example. Everything else I've suggested has been just that -- suggestions. Most of the drinks I mentioned are actually examples of drinks I don't have that expectation for -- an Aviation, a Bronx, a Negroni, etc.

My gut feeling is that there are a few more drinks that should make that list of reasonable expectations. Not a lot -- but the Manhattan, maybe. Margarita, almost certainly (I mean, didn't we all get a kick out of the story on the Mixologist Incompetence thread where the poster asked for a Margarita and got tequila and Sprite?). Daiquiri? Maybe not -- I found it very interesting that on Charming's list, a Strawberry Daiquiri was listed, but not the basic drink.

I personally have been surprised -- both pleasantly and less so -- by what individual bartenders know how to make and what they don't. I was suprised the first time, in response to my request for a Tanqueray Gimlet, the bartender said, quizzically, "That's with an onion, isn't it?" Yes, it was a neighborhood bar, not very sophisticated, but I was still surprised. I'm no longer surprised when a bartender doesn't know what goes in a Gimlet. But I am disappointed. On the other hand, I'm happy when I ask for a Negroni, and the bartender knows how to make it. I don't really expect that -- it's a nice surprise.

In short, I don't expect a bartender to read my mind. I don't expect him or her to be a walking database of drinks. I do expect a base of knowledge about their craft. It's no different from any other profession. I mean, if I were talking with a professor of English, for example, I wouldn't necessarily expect her to be able to quote long passages of Shakespeare, but I would expect her to know that "To be or not to be, that is the question. . . " is from Hamlet.

And as far as the food analogy goes, to me it's closer to this scenario:

You hire a cook, you have certain expectations. You expect him or her to know the difference between a coarse dice and a fine mince; you (probably) expect him to know what a mirepoix is; you expect her to know how to make chicken stock; you (again, probably) expect her to know what goes in a bechemel. And that, it seems to me, would be regardless of whether you had dishes that called for mirepoix or bechemel.

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when training staff completely new to cocktails i always tried to relate modern drinks to 'x' number of classics and found that most drinks were just a variation of older ones, meant that if the bartender new the classic then it was easy to teach a new one by merely relating to said drink,

ie a lychee cooler is a vodka collins with a splash of lychee juice and a dash of lychee liqueur.

remember a talk from someone years ago at one of the first barshows in london where they suggested there was a base of approx 10 basic styles of drinks and all others could be related back to those,

think the list went something like...

sour - spirit base

sour - liqueur base

collins

daiquiri

martini

manhatten

rum punch

classic champagne

and right now my foggy sat morning brain forgets the others

at a bare minimum i'd expect a cocktail bartender to be able to make these and then prob modern classics like a mojito, caipirinha, cosmo.

if every bartender could make these drinks as a minimum i'd be content

'the trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass'

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Maybe the link to the chef/kitchen scenario lies in the process.

As I said before I think there is a (roughly 12 drink) list for all bartenders in bars with a cocktail menu. What those drinks are will have big regional and national variences...

Bartenders should, however, be able to process preferences effectively. Just as you would ask for a medium rare steak, if you ask for a shaken or stirred drink it should be produced properly.

So does the knowledge lie in the specific recipes, which in the end are all matters of personal opinion. Or does it lie in the knowledge of ingredients, terminology and the process of cocktail production?

You shouldn't always expect your martinis to be very dry, Stirred with Plymouth and garnished with 3 Olives... But if that's what you specify, it should always taste the same.

The other skill lies in taking a list of ingredients from a half-cut customer who wants you to make a random drink they once had on holiday, and turning it into something drinkable.

Hope all that made sense

Vist Barbore to see the Scottish scene.

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You hire a cook, you have certain expectations. You expect him or her to know the difference between a coarse dice and a fine mince; you (probably) expect him to know what a mirepoix is; you expect her to know how to make chicken stock; you (again, probably) expect her to know what goes in a bechemel. And that, it seems to me, would be regardless of whether you had dishes that called for mirepoix or bechemel.

Boy JAZ, you sure have high expectations and clearly have not worked in the biz.

Are you talking a cook or an executive chef?

If those were the requirements for hiring a cook in any of the restaurants I've worked for the last ten years, the kitchens would not have any staff.

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Daiquiri?  Maybe not -- I found it very interesting that on Charming's list, a Strawberry Daiquiri was listed, but not the basic drink.

Then perhaps you'd be surprised that I've never been asked to make a plain daiquiri? Ever.

There really are very few folks that like the truly sour drinks.

It isn't that interesting about Cheryl's twenty year experience list does not include such, but rather the general imbibing public does not order that with any regularity to make the list.

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You shouldn't always expect your martinis to be very dry, Stirred with Plymouth and garnished with 3 Olives...  But if that's what you specify, it should always taste the same.

FYI, I used that example because the predominant number of those on eG that loath vodka, adore only gin and don't like anything dry. They love their vermouth and are rather vocal about it. :wink:

Your post makes perfect sense. :smile:

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FYI, I used that example because the predominant number of those on eG that loath vodka, adore only gin and don't like anything dry.  They love their vermouth and are rather vocal about it.  :wink:

Your post makes perfect sense.  :smile:

I'm a fan of both but for me it's a Martinez all the way (a Plymouth Martinez!)

Cheers :smile:

Vist Barbore to see the Scottish scene.

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Some interesting points have been made all around.

I think most of us would agree that cocktail mixing skills and general knowledge are at a very low level among working bartenders, to the extent that they are practically nonexistent in the average bartender. Taking this one step further, I would argue that there is far more mixological expertise and knowledge in the amateur cocktail enthusiast community than there is among working bartenders, by and large. This is largely a reflection of the fact that the vast majority of bar customers do not drink cocktails and thus do not require or value mixological skills. The average bar is not a cocktail bar. People like Dale DeGroff and Gary Regan and Audrey Saunders are so important precisely because they are the exceptions, and cocktail evangelists in the professional community.

The cocktail craft is making a comeback compared to where it was 10 or 15 years ago for sure, but the reality remains that a wide variety of well crafted cocktails is not in demand at the average bar. The average bar does the vast majority of its business in beer, shots and no-brainer mixed drinks like G&Ts, 7&7s, frozen premixed Margaritas from the slush machine, Screwdrivers, Bloody Marys, etc. In some cities the cocktail scene has developed to the extent that "regular" bars and restaurant bars are increasingly offering a limited selection of classic and new classic real cocktails. But few other cities are in the same category as NYC, SF and NO in this respect -- and even in these leading cities, the average bar is still a "beer and shots" place.

So, what does the owner of the average bar want? He wants to make money. And, in order to make money he is going to hire people with the kind of skills that help him make money. Since mixological skills are not important, he considers other factors... things like speed, upselling, customer rapport, appeal to the target demographic, etc. And, as we all know, "skills" like gender, hair color, breast size and bicep development can make a difference too. None of these factors have anything whatsoever to do with knowing how to make a cocktail. Heck, the average bar probably doesn't even have cocktail glasses.

Understanding the foregoing, I wouldn't expect the average bartender to know how to make any real cocktails at all. He/she might know that a martini consists of gin or vodka shaken on ice with vermouth, but just about everyone in America knows that. Depending on an individual bar's style, there are probably a few other cocktails that the bartenders are expected to know (Margaritas at a Mexican place, premix Hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's, etc.).

I think the comparison to a chef is an interesting one. Beans is correct when she points out that the average cook coming into a his first restaurant kitchen at the rock-bottom level probably doesn't know how the difference between a coarse dice and a fine mince. However, he will be taught these things if he expects to move to the line, and I'm quite sure that everyone working the line at e.g., Babbo, knows difference between a coarse dice and a fine mince along with all the other things Janet outlined. But, let's take the analogy a little further. A bartender isn't like a line cook anyway. A bartender making a cocktail is like a chef who makes the whole meal all by himself. Now, I would expect that any chef I hired to staff a kitchen all by himself was well-versed in just about everything there was to know about the kind of food he would be cooking. If my kitchen was going to be turning out French food, I would absolutely expect my cook to know what goes in a bechamel. On the other hand, if my kitchen was going to be turning out hotdogs and preformed hamburgers, I wouldn't have that expectation. Taking the analogy to its conclusion, it would seem that the average bar patron wants to eat hot dogs and that the average bartender as a result is more like a fry cook than a one-man bistro chef. That's too bad, I think, but it's the reality I think.

--

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He/she might know that a martini consists of gin or vodka shaken on ice with vermouth, but just about everyone in America knows that.

Unfortunately, you're right. But it's still blasphemy, sacrilege and heresy.

But it's like I've said: I see a lot of people tending bar, but damn few Bartenders.

This thread has caused me to remember a girl I worked with last summer. She was a waitress but had taken a Bartending Seminar while in College (Brown) so the GM put her on the bar with me a couple of nights a week.

Apparently for his amusement.

She clung to her little bartending workbook like dear life itself.

She couldn't make eye contact with customers. Wouldn't talk to them, not even to ask if they wanted another round. She tried to hide from them.

No, really.

She was absolutley terrified when it came to counting the drawer.

She didn't drink, except for the occasional port.

She couldn't even tell a Knock-Knock joke.

She wouldn't read the newspaper because it "made her sad." Same goes with TV. She liked reading Rimbaud. In French.

Finally I had to ask her: "What is it that attracted you to bartending?"

"I like to make drinks", she said

"But your lousy at it."

"I know."

She taught me this, though. Of all the things that make up a good bartender, fixing drinks is pretty far down the list. A great bartender, however.....

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However, you are in an environment and specifying your preferences and choices.

Why not apply that to your local barkeep?

It is just plain silly to ask for a martini, generic in form and expect that example Plymouth gin with Vya and three olives.

If you don't ask for what you want, you simply do not get what you want.

Most bartenders I've ever worked with are quite happy when people specify the details as then the guest/customer is quite pleased.  Then there's no bs or anyone in the dark with what to choose playing that dicey game of if I pour this they may not like it or if I pour that they will love it -- but will they pay for it despite they didn't specify?  Or, are they going to be pissed since they didn't specify and are most definately not going to like the well version of this?

My impression is that you trillium have very high expectations to something you truly adore and are enthusiastic about when it comes to a bartender's performance.  I'll give you a hint:  we are not mind readers and it is absolutely silly to expect such as there is that great learning curve and those horribly personal apptitudes for being able to perform one's duties to another's satisfaction.

I wasn't talking about my own personal experiences or expectations, or what a customer needs to do to get the drink they want. If we're going to get into my own personal experiences, which is kind of boring for me and not the point of the thread, I'll state for the record I nearly always get the drink I expect when I order one at any given bar.

regards,

trillium

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This was an interesting thread to read. Began with a relatively straightforward request for the baseline knowledge expected of 'any' bartender, and ended up taking an interesting tangent.

I have to admit I used to be guilty of assuming bartenders knew every drink there was, but it always seemed to end up benignly! I have a couple of cocktail books at home, and when I'm out, I try to order things that I can't make for myself, either due to lack of experiance or ingrediants. So I'll wind up at a bar, and try and think of something I'd like to try that I read about. Usually something along the lines of "This cocktail enjoyed great popularity among officers of a particular regiment of British troops, between May and October 1921, during British rule of Hong Kong, and used a particular variety of liqueur native to the area, and garnished with a flower that is now sadly extinct" sort of thing. I'd do a "Hmm, that sounds interesting...I'll have to try it next time I'm out!" Fortunately for all involved, most of all the bartender, I'd remember neither the name, ingrediants, nor method of this cocktail from outer space when the Moment of Truth came, and settle on something known and tasty! In my own defense, to whatever degree it may be required (Never did actually order any of these things, afterall :raz: ), I had never even heard of the practice of 'stump the bartender' until I came here, and would never have dreamt of doing that regardless! I was motivated purely by curiosity! Yes, curiosity and alcohol!

I think the take-home message of at least one of this threads tangents is: A little knowledge in a bar situation can be a dangerous thing! There is certainly a point on the drink continuum up to which a professional bartender 'should' be comfortable, and beyond which is the territory of the dedicated cocktail enthusiast. I'd wager (Again, from the perspective of somebody not in the industry) that this point is rather far to the 'left' side of the hypothetical scale, in that there probably not all THAT many drinks, relative to the entire body of mixological knowledge, that are ordered an overwhelming percentage of time. Once again, yes, within the parameters of a particular establishments, or set of similar establishments, and barring things like house specialties.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't at least try to order what you're really after. As Beans said, communication is important! Be able to describe what you want, and you'll probably get it, if the parts are there. And who knows...maybe someday marachino will become as common as orange bitters!

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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