Tag Archives: Bartending

Summer! Food! Changes!

24 Jun

I’ve been busily not doing anything, so I thought I’d share two photos of ingestibles I consider most appropriate to welcome the summer.

Obviously, mojitos!

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Since mint is the rapidly becoming the Ultimate Ruler of the Herb Box, I figured it was time to break out the rum and shake up some mojitos while barbecuing. I am especially excited about drinks these days ever since I dropped $12 for four stainless steel straws in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Sidenote: Ming Wo is perhaps the best kitchen store in the universe, and if could live inside it forever I would.

And then there’s avocado… mmmmmm. There’s a reason I got one tattooed in the middle of my arm (consequently I can’t believe how often people say, “IS THAT AN AVOCADO ON YOUR ARM!?” Well, duh).

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This is the best looking avocado I’ve opened in a long time, and I was so excited to eat A WHOLE CRAP TON of it. Especially with a bunch of Hempler’s bacon and green onion and basil from the herb box. 

In other news, I quit my bar job to go back to the kitchen full time. When I started working 3 days and 3 nights per week, a couple different people asked me “how long can you burn the candle on both ends?” Well, turns out it was just about 6 months exactly (plus a couple weeks). Entering the nightlife industry, I optimistically thought I could get by on little sleep and little time off… I’m 24 and energetic and strong! No problem! I thought the machismo energy that ran rampant in the kitchen would translate into bar employment with little effort. As the months ran on though, every day felt simultaneously twice as long and twice as short. I felt I was living in double time because I never got to adjust to a schedule. I’d work three days in the early morning, socializing and getting errands done in the afternoons, then stay up extra late, spend a whole day doing whatever struck me, then switch into three night shifts in a row. I never knew which day it was, or how I was supposed to get anything done that I actually wanted to do. My time was totally consumed with working and laundry lists of necessary activities. Besides the hours…well, I’m just not cut out for it. I’m far too sensitive. I want to see the best in everyone, and instead found myself consistently cursing the entirety of humanity after frustrating nights. So back to the clutches of early morning over the flat top. Honestly it sounds like a dream at this point. So seriously– TIP YOUR BARTENDER. They are badasses and I can’t figure out how they keep it up. I only lasted 6 months, any longer and I’d need therapy. 

This week I’m going to raft the Grand Canyon with my family, so everything I eat will likely be covered in Tapatio (when the informational packet describes “food that everyone will find palatable,” I take precautions). I’ll be back in full swing in two weeks. Happy June, eaters!

A Newbie Bartender’s Manifesto

25 Feb

I think I’m finally getting the swing of bar-employment. I think. Maybe? It’s a tricky game, and I’ve definitely had some trials, but I try to remind myself that time is a prerequisite for things to become easy and/or second nature, and I’m feeling pretty optimistic that enough time has passed to deem me Not Completely Incompetent, maybe even Pretty Okay, Most Of The Time.

Capitalization is necessary.

And okay, I realize that my blog is devoted to food, but since now I also happen to work in the beverage industry, can we just round it out to include all things consumable? Yes? It’s my blog? Okay then, we’re in agreement. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my recent life (specifically the nearly three years between college graduation and now), motivation, economy, and apathy. It’s probably just the weather leading me to bouts of introspection, but it’s bizarre to feel, for the first time since graduation, anyway, comfortable in my routine. When I first set out on my own with no real plan, it felt like a major downgrade to be hustling in kitchens, working weird hours in an industry that is (in my experience) not particularly kind to whiny intellectuals* who feel they are above the work. I often told myself I was just doing this to get by. And then I changed jobs a few times, settled into the easily mediocre challenge of the line, and then, just for fun, decided to become a bartender as well.

*Not that I’m saying I’m an intellectual. I think maybe I once wanted to be, but let’s be real; I am far too lazy and unoriginal for that sort of thing nowadays. In college I was a powerhouse. Now I’m… well…not. 

But in all my introspection lately I’ve felt a sort of solace in my decisions. I’ve stopped berating myself for not more actively pursuing creative work. Sometimes I need to remind myself that yes, I DO freelance on a regular basis, and YES, that counts. Or at least I think it does. Maybe this is complacency or maybe its just self acceptance, but it feels pretty decent (though somewhat bizarre) to have finally come to terms with myself for this. But anyhow, this was just a long, long, long segue to say,

“Wow, isn’t it weird that shortly after college graduation I am well on my way to knowing the ins and outs of nearly EVERY. SINGLE. JOB. in the industry?” Just kind of a novel thought. SO far under my belt (or working on the notch, anyhow) I’ve got dishwashing, prep, line cooking, catering cook, waitressing (to an extent), barista, door-girl, bar back, and bartender. Whoa.

So far though, I’ve learned a few things.

1. Nothing you say when you’re drunk is ever as interesting, original, or as insightful as you think it is. Every person says the same jokes and laughs like they’re the first ones to say them. Every person complains about THE MOST first world problems without an ounce of irony. And they might think their conversation is going somewhere, but as the unintentional eavesdropper can attest, they usually talk in circles for the better part of the evening. It is now my mission to never allow myself to talk while drinking. It is terrifying to think I might sound this idiotic.

2. Assert yourself! If you don’t know the answer to something, don’t get overwhelmed. Drunk people are easily deceived by false confidence. Make up any story you like to divert their attention away from your “tattoo meaning,” or whatever they want to know about you personally. Explain rules clearly and patiently, and if they bother you incessently or won’t take no for an answer, be forward, straight to the point, and don’t try to laugh along with them. If they’ve taken the definition of “asshole” to new levels, feel free to yell a little bit.

3. Which brings me to the next point! Drunk people love being abused. I don’t get it, but it’s true. You can be as friendly as Santa Claus and many people will find a way to be a nuisance to you without remorse. I swear though, as soon as you bust out your sassmouth they fall over each other to be your new best friend. I think there’s a happy medium between the two, but essentially it’s important to keep in mind that drunk people are like dogs. Well trained, masochistic, sloppy dogs.

4. I should probably note at this point that I’m not as hateful as I might sound in print… but what is there to say about nice, well-mannered, polite customers? I guess I will address it now: to all of the wonderful, fun, good-natured and thoughtful bar-goers of the world, I salute you. You are officially on my “People I want to party with when stranded on a desert island” list. Without you, I probably would’ve cried at work on my first day. Keep it up! And keep an eye as well on your wasted friend, they don’t understand limitations on alcohol intake and it is your sworn friendship duty to educate them. Also, buy them a taco since they can’t find their wallet and desperately need food. Thanks, and good job!

5. As far as actually mixing drinks goes, my method seems to work pretty well so far. I remember new information best by writing it down and reviewing it, so I started a little notebook of drinks I’ve encountered while bartending. For the most part people order mixed drinks, beer, or standard shots. But when I had some time on my hands I flipped through my Bartender’s Black Book and wrote down the ingredients/proportions of drinks I didn’t know how to make and knew were popular (think White Russians, Sex on the Beach, etc.) Later I went and sat down with a coworker and had her outline some other drinks she thought I should know about. Between asking questions, scanning the guide, and physically writing down ingredients, I feel a lot more confident about drinks I would’ve been clueless about before. If someone asks for something I’ve never made, there’s a good chance I remember writing it down in my book, in my own words, and I can flip to that page without a problem. For everything else totally foreign, I keep my Black Book on hand as well.

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This way I also get the coworker spin on things– since many bartender’s make things differently, I can make drinks approximately the same way that my coworkers are making them, and we’re all on the same page.

Well, enough numbered lists for now. Here, at 3:35 in the morning, smelling somewhat of spilled beer and popcorn, drinking a whiskey-ginger of my own (with bitters) my body is exhausted and it’s time to get to bed. These past two months I’ve become intimately familiar with the owl screech outside before I open my front door, the hum of the refrigerator when there is no other noise to distract me from it, and the 3:00 am train that runs every day and echoes throughout the house.  Every chair creak and typing noise is amplified when you are tiptoeing into a house to unwind while every other person you know is sound asleep. It’s strange being all alone at this hour. But I’m starting to find it to be peaceful as well. I’m off to sleep, praying that C stays dreaming while the floorboards announce my arrival to bed.

Holy Barstool!

7 Jan

Awkward face courtesy of the lovely Fi. Thanks for taking this even though I was too embarrassed to actually look at yer phone.

Last night marked my first evening as a bonafied (albeit in training) bartender, and all I can say is WHOA. Being in the midst of unfamiliar products and machinery harkened back to the days of my first kitchen job, when I got to ask such mindblowingly simple questions as “how do you dice an onion?” and “how do you unclog the dish washer?” Luckily I’m not quite as stupid as I was back then, and this time my major challenge is pricing and money related, not sharp objects and hot pan related (thus, hopefully, saving my forearms from too many more scars).

At first I was pretty useless, plodding around trying to figure out where the clean rags were, how to operate the glass machine, and what a class B drink plus a double class A drink equals ($12.75… I think). After four hours or so though, I was starting to feel slightly more competent and managed to even make some drinks that didn’t consist of whiskey and soda (my posse of encouraging friends all made it out and had the decency to order the simplest concoctions). I can safely say I can make a solid Long Island now, though honestly the only other drinks I made were mostly dropshots and I don’t exactly remember what all was in those. Oh… except for a Touchdown, which apparently is just Red Bull with a dropped shot of mandarin Absolut and  smells like instant remorse.

Even the little things felt strange and awkward, like trying to spear a lime wedge exactly halfway through the pick, or moving a group of shots without sticking my fingers in the glass while doing so. I’m sure in a little time I’ll stop reeking of amateurism, but until then I have a lot to learn. Next on my list: figure out how to make girly drinks, how to fix the air hockey table, and how to come home at 2:20 am without waking the slumbering manbeast.

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