If you are fond of the occassional drink, you have undoubtedly encountered a bartender or two in your time. Yes, this is a post that involves discussion about drinking so if you’re on of those that do not agree with drinking, you might want to skip this post.
Meeting Bartenders around the world
This year marks me and my wife’s 28th anniversary and we are fond of the occassional drink. In fact, we’ve planned entire vacations around “the best places to drink”. We’ve tested the waters in most states in our great country, Japan, China, Korea, Mexico, London, Barcelona and Dublin as well as too many Caribbean waterholes to mention. At this point, I think we are qualified to call ourselves experts on drinks, drinking, bars and bartenders. In fact, I should point out that my wife has also worked as a Bartender in past lives and loved every minute of it. We seem to have a pretty close connection with the good ones we have come across and I’d like to share a few stories on that subject.
Our Mexico Bartender – perfect and proud
We spent a week in Mexico City and found the people we met were super nice and of course the food was excellent. We found a few places to order some drinks (surprise!) and one stands out in my mind. The older gentleman behind the bar greeted us as soon as we walked in and plopped ourselves front-and-center at the bar. It was early and the place was pretty empty and he was busily slicing garlic into paper thin sheets. Between pouring us our drinks and giving us a non-stop monologue of the local color, he continued his garlic slicing. We managed to get a word in and asked what the garlic was for – he just smiled and told us it would be worth the wait. So we waited. And waited…and waited. About 4 drinks in, he gathered up the considerable number of garlic slices and placed them almost reverently on a grill behind the bar. The sizzling of the garlic and the smell rising from behind the bar was incredible…he was grilling these little slices of garlic in some kind of saute sauce. 5 minutes later the little slices of garlic had turned into little slices of heaven and we were treated to what was arguably the best bar snack we’d ever had. Turned out, once the garlic was ready, the locals seems to know somehow and the bar filled up shortly after that. This particular bartender knew what his customers liked and he provided it in spades.
Jamaica Bartender – yea’ mon!
Jamaica is on the top of our list of favorite places to visit. The people are wonderful, the country is beautiful and the drinks are great. The coffee isn’t bad either! My wife and I got “stuck” once coming back from an anniversary visit. There are worse places to be stuck, for sure, and we were forced to spend an additional two days in paradise while the airlines figured out the flight schedules. During this time we found ourselves at one of those beach bars you see in the movies. Great places to hang out, by the way! Our Bartender friend on this day was Raul and he was a master. The bar itself was basically a small hut with the bar running completely around the outside of the small building. Maybe 8 people to a side and on that day it was packed several deep. Quick math shows that Raul was serving more than 30 people…probably more like 50 or so. I say “serving”, but he was also entertaining, gossiping, joking, taking pictures and…I swear…found time to step outside to participate in a goat race to satisfy a patron’s curiousity. Not a single customer that I could see voiced the least bit of a complaint. Even if they had to wait a bit for their drinks (and they never waited long), they were so entertained by Raul that they didn’t mind. Even during the goat race, which Raul lost by the way, everybody remained in good spirits and cheered him on. Aspiring…and even seasoned…bartenders could take a lesson from Raul. Patrons may have to wait for a drink but they don’t have to be bored while they wait. Keep it lively and entertaing – your patrons will love you for the experience and you’ll be rewarded well. Raul’s tips jars (more than one) were literally overflowing.
Dublin – nicest people you’ll ever meet!
I’m not sure what it is about Dublin, but the people there are incredibly nice. I mean like…just…crazy nice. They love you. I’m telling you now, if you have self-esteem issues…go to Dublin, Ireland and you’ll come back with a whole new self-image. As far as drinking in Dublin, yes, the rumors are true. There is a pub on every corner. Actually, no, there are four on each corner. Sometimes eight. Loved it!! We ended up in one and met the bartender, chatted him up and found out that he hosted a pub crawl and, lucky us, we were invited to attend that night. Long story short, we stayed in that same pub all day and then attended his pub crawl. I think we were back at his pub by dawn the next morning and if I remember correctly, we stayed there that day also. I’m sure we made it back to the hotel for showers at some point but I don’t remember that part. I remember the pub, (some of) the pub crawl, the bartender (pubtender?) and then back at the pub the next morning for breakfast and a new day of drinking. I also remember the bartender and his expertise of his craft. He knew everything about every beer we asked him about. He played several musical instruments and led us around town playing his instruments with about 12 or so of us following like he was the Pied Piper. He knew everything about his beloved city, he had a great sense of humor, a lovely singing voice. Overall, we were entertained all night by a master bartender, entertainer and historian. If you are considering bartending as a job or career, or if you’re already involved, you could do far worse than to emulate our Irish Bartender.
You might think that since I go on and on about the international bartenders we encounter that I don’t have anything good to say about the local folks. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve encountered many bartenders in the states that are just as good as the ones outlined above. At our current watering hole (Mellow Mushroom in Conyers, Georgia), there is a gang of them that keep us entertained and satiated. They’re a great group and I’d put them against Raul any day!
So there you have it – a few of my thoughts on what makes a great bartender. If this is your chosen path, take the above as a drinker’s advice on what is desirable in a bartender. It may or may not fit with your personality or the job description as your boss has set it forth, but if you can take it upon yourself to get to this level it will only serve to make you better and more profitable.
Good luck and as always, Enjoy!!