Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bartender Andy

Next to eating, drinking is a favorite pastime of mine. It seemed only logical I should talk to a bartender and learn a little more about the thing that I love so dearly.

Meet Bartender Andy. He is a (most excellent and wonderfully nice) bartender at Eastern Standard (one of my all-time favorites) who used to work at the B-Side (yet another favorite). Andy let me have a glimpse of restaurant life and told me what bartenders drink, both before and after a hangover.

Thank you so very much, Andy, for taking the time to chat. It was great fun.

SND : How does one get a job as a bar tender? What’s the process?
BA : I get a lot of guests who ask me “Did you go to bar tending school?” No I didn’t. I think the best experience is bar backing. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to bar back at the B-Side. People tell me they want to be a bar tender and they say “Oh I am going to bar tending school” and I say don’t do that, because people will laugh at you.

SND : Do you ever drink while on the shift?
BA : I have definitely had a drink while working before, but you don’t want to get drunk while you’re working. I mean, it’s not like Coyote Ugly. You figure out pretty quickly that you can’t get wasted all the time while you’re working. It’s not very productive.

SND : I would be an alcoholic if I worked at a bar.
BA : [Complete silence… guess it’s just me then.]

SND : Do you eye how much you’re pouring? How do you do it?
BA : Mostly we use jiggers, for consistency’s sake. If I make you a cosmo on a Monday and you come in on a Thursday and [someone else] makes it, it’s going to taste the same. Consistency is a big part of cocktails, an important part, definitely. If I had a bar I would definitely use jiggers… and no Bloody Mary’s past five o’clock. It’s my bartender pet peeve.

SND : Why is that you get a can get a regular Grey Goose martini, slightly dirty, and it tastes so good but you order it somewhere else and it tastes like ___. What is the difference?
BA : They probably out too much olive brine in, maybe they shake it and not stir it. You should always stir. One of the first things that Pat Sullivan, the owner of the B-Side, told me is that if it’s all liquor you stir it, if there is any juice or syrup in it you can shake it. Stirring the ice doesn’t let it melt as fast [as when you shake it], it doesn’t chip. If you ever get a shaken martini you will notice there is a layer of little ice chips at the top, which a lot of people are into and like.

SND : You don’t have Jager at Eastern Standard?
BA : No we have Fernet-Branca, Jagersmeister for grown ups. It’s an Italian digestif. If you go to a bar and they have Fernet-Branca, you know you are in a pretty decent bar. I think it’s the best thing to happen to alcohol since bourbon. It’s amazing. It’s a secret blend of over 100 herbs and bitters. Most digestifs, liquors and cordials are 35 - 40 proof, this one is 80. It’s an amazing blend of flavors and probably the best hangover cure I have ever found, and the best after dinner drink, ever. The first time I had it I thought it tasted horrible, but after two or three times you pick up all these subtle flavors in it like liquorish, mint, and tart berries. As far as staff drinks, it’s the most consumed drink at Eastern Standard.

Editorial note: I have tried Fernet-Branca. It may take me more than two or three tries to stop wishing for death immediately after swallowing it.

SND : Does it mess with your day to work so late at night? Are you completely nocturnal?
BA : Yea, pretty much. We work pretty long shifts, 3 or 4 till 3 or 4 in the morning. I think most people who work in restaurants are pretty nocturnal. It’s the nature of the beast. We all work a lot but it’s worth it. I don’t want to sound like a cliché but it is like a big family. It’s a massive staff and it’s a big place, it’s really intense, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a restaurant job and anyone that has done it knows, there is a certain fraternity. You want to pull your hair out sometimes but the same time, some of the best moments I have had were working with people behind the bar or at a restaurant, or not even working, just hanging out with the people. You develop a certain bond. It’s a lot of fun.

SND : I really want to quit my job now.


aimee said...

Martinis? Jager? What about 'The Beast'? Bitch please.

One thing I loved about America was the fact that people in service jobs seemed genuinely happy to be there. There's no respect for it here in Britain. They're thought of as inferior jobs and if you were genuinely happy working in a bar or a restaurant everyone would think you were a complete waster. Meh. I often think about going back to my days as a bar wench in the Highlands. As much as I liked to complain about it, I had an absolute blast.

JC said...

I haven't heard of Fernet-Branca, but I now I want to try it. I'm not near the drinker I used to be, although I have been buying lots of beer lately. Of course when I drink at home, though, after one beer I usually want to go to sleep. LAME.

And Aimee, I don't think the term "bar wench" gets used enough in America. Maybe Anna can change that.

aimee said...

Jc, you are so right, the term isn't used nearly enough - anywhere. Anna, get on it.