Category Archives: Bartending

What Bartenders Keep in Their Pants

Like waitrons, bartenders are constantly on the move. In order to avoid fatigue and keep ourselves from shedding bar tools all over the floor, we try to keep carry weight to a minimum, ensuring that we are light and fast. This is what I carry up to the bar from the basement after ditching my pack and my jacket:

The items in the back of the image with the exception of the thin purple notebook remain by the register in a mule mug or julep cup for quick access:

iPod: In case internet service cuts out and the Pandora station fails to load. Also mostly useful as a calculator for splitting checks five ways, summoning an Uber/Taxi, settling bar bets, quickly finding the proportions to an obscure cocktail. While some may balk at having to look up recipes, it is simply best practice to choose ensuring order accuracy over pride.

Thin Notebook: I have the memory of a drug-addled old man selling socks on the side of the road. I still have to write some things down.

Planner (indicated with sewn red rectangle): I work two jobs and have been working every day for the last 25 days. I would rather not confuse the two or have shifts overlap. Handy for remembering anniversaries/dates where you should take your girlfriend’s new dress out for dinner.

Cocktail Quick Reference (Indicated with sewn gold star): Used for keeping track of any cocktail menu add-ons, client favorites or menu items which I have shamelessly stolen from my friends.

-All remaining items are carried on my person-

In the Vest: Vests are a personal choice, just like plaid is a personal choice. I choose to wear a vest not only because I believe that it adds to the service experience, but because practically it is a piece of load bearing equipment (LBE) which allows me to evenly distribute the weight of my tools and carry more items. What lives in my vest lives there because there is no room for it in the pockets of my famously tight pants.

Pens: One Scotch Malt Whisky Society pen for myself and one I could give a shit about, so yes, of course you can borrow it to finish your sudoku.

Flammables: Lighter for flamed zests and candle lighting, backup lighter, matches to loan out which have usually been taken from either Quinn’s or Smith.

In the Trousers:

Wine Key: I don’t need to shell out $1500 for a wine key and neither do you. If someone asks you, “hey, can I borrow your wine key?” what they are really asking you is: “Hey, do you have a wine key that you never want to see again?” These basic five-dollar wonders are built to take a beating, work flawlessly and need less maintenance than a Glock. One respected older gentleman (and I use that term loosely) bartender I used to work with doesn’t carry a wine key, bottle opener or pocket knife. All he carries during service is a Swiss Army Knife and a pen. And his reading glasses when he’s writing out tabs.

Bottle Opener (with can punch): when I worked in much seedier places, the can punch was…handy. Now that I work in a place where I can wear a tie bar, the can punch has finally been used for its intended purpose, and frequently so. I don’t like unnecessary trips to and from the kitchen, so I don’t even have to make the hike to ask for a can opener to bust open the giant can of tomato juice used for our Sriracha-laced Bloody Mary Mix. The bottle opener is handy because I don’t like using the wall-mounted one. It is an unnecessary trip and too often leads to my face being sprayed with beer, and not in the good way.

Uncle Mike’s Pocket Holster: Compact holster for carrying all the above-listed tools. Once I ditch my pack and jacket, all I have to do is grab my holster out of the pack and walk upstairs.



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Hey look, I found a sweet bar cart for free.

Sure it used to be a baby changing table, but I could not help but admire the rich mahogany and smooth casters that someone had all but abandoned on Capitol Hill at the corner of E John and Broadway. Tighten up some screws, remove a rail and a cushion, add some glassware, tools and bottles, and what once represented many sleepless nights and cleanup, well… I guess it pretty much represents the same thing, doesn’t it?

Now taking bets on how long Kate will let me keep it in our small apartment.

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Filed under Bartending, Cocktail, Cocktails, Cocktails at Home, Fernet Branca, Genever, Gin, hayman's, Heering, Hendrick's Gin, Mixology, old tom, ransom, Really Cool Stuff, Rum, Rye, Scotch, Soda, Whisk(e)y

Why Star Wars Will Make You a Better Cocktail

One big room, full of bad bitches. Image Credit:

Feel free to disagree with me on this, but I feel as if it takes a certain person to fill the shoes of the craft bartender. I say “craft bartender” with a certain restraint, even going to such lengths as writing the phrase with the same case and intent as the great bell hooks: that the title is immaterial; it is the body of work which ought to be judged, that as long as there have been bartenders, even in the days of bottled sour mixes and tonic from a gun, I maintain that tending bar has always and forever will be a craft measured in sweat equity, satisfied guests and the pride in the product of one’s own hands.

I believe that, to a certain extent, there must be a certain obsessiveness about other, seemingly inane or otherwise nerdy things that somehow manifest themselves into an obsessiveness about ingredients, technique, philosophy and history. I may be wrong, but I think Continue reading

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Video Time! Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Ginger Beer

I tend bar privately. One of the upsides of the deal is that I have complete control over my ingredients. That means citrus pressed to order and homemade ingredients. For the job that I worked most recently, I decided to share the prep process with you. Jeff Morgenthaler of Clyde Common in Portland, OR has a recipe for ginger beer. It’s really good. The original recipe for 16 oz. of the stuff can be found here:

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Filed under Bartending, Carbonated, Clyde Common, Ginger Beer, Lemon, Mixology, Morgenthaler, Portland, Really Cool Stuff, Soda

From the Questions Box

A friend of mine is working the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland this summer and fanagled her way behind the stick.  I’m pretty excited for her. Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s messages. Because she’s an American being paid under the table overseas, and I don’t want her Visa getting revoked, the names herein (except my own) have been changed to protect our respective interests:

    • Dear Ricky,
      I need your advice. I’ve managed to get my way into a bar shift on Friday, and despite having worked in restaurants and coffee shops I’ve never actually worked in a bar. This is going to be a fairly straightforward affair, no fancy cocktails as far as I know, but I’d still love some advice from a pro so I can pretend like I know what I’m doing. Pro tips? Continue reading

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Ricky’s First Cocktail Menu

Goddamn, they grow up so fast

So, it’s been a few months since I’ve been behind the stick, and it’s got me depressed something awful when I think about it. Then I realize that I’m still 22 and have a long while before I should start to worry about it.

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Filed under Bartending, Fernet Branca, Ginger Beer, Gosling's, Herbs, Lemon, Lime, Mint, Old Overholt, Orgeat, Rosemary, Rum, Rye, Whisk(e)y

My Thoughts on the Mixology v. Bartending Debate

Mixology is the study of alcohol, its properties and applications. Bartending is the art of applying that study with great care to the bar. And by “bar,” we do indeed mean our patrons as much as the physical space which they inhabit. Neither term is mutually-exclusive in that one often takes on the role of bartender and mixologist, as one may be at once, a soldier and scholar.

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