Monthly Archives: April 2018

An Art To Cutting Someone Off

I’m bartending the hotel bar, it’s around 10PM, I’ve got a group of people sitting at the bar, all pretty soused.  They’re being loud, typical reaction from customers that have consumed over five glasses of wine.  My manager approaches, tells me, you need to cut them off.  Ugh.  The worst part of my job as a bartender is cutting someone off.  You’ve been “working with them” for 2-3 hours, interacting with them, dealing with all the things you have to do when they become drunk.  And then, in the final stretch, you have to figure out how to cut them off, without pissing them off.  And truly, there is an art to cutting them off.

It’s a fine balance.  You don’t want to walk on egg shells with them, but on the flip side, you don’t want to be too blunt.  Just saying, sorry, I’m cutting you off, doesn’t work.  They become extremely defensive, and things get weird.  It’s very rare, if unheard of, when you say, I’m cutting you off, that they say, really?  Thanks for keeping my best interests in mind.  I appreciate that, so give me my tab, and I’ll give you a generous tip.  Nope.  No one said ever.

It’s more like, you’re cutting me off?!?  That’s bullshit.  I’m not drunk.  Gimme another one.  They almost become defiant about it, and want to drink more.  And guess what?  Here you have a customer you’ve been working with all night, and when you give them the info that you’re cutting them off, there goes a solid line thru the tip line.  And that’s not really fair, is it?  They’ve been taking up precious real estate at your bar.  You’ve been patient with their actions.  But then again, you got them there, so it’s your duty as a bartender to sometimes have to clean up the mess of their drunkenness.

But it truly is important to learn how to not over-serve.  In the hotel setting, it’s a little bit different, because they’re probably a 30 second walk to the elevator, and up to their room.  But when you’re working at a regular bar, they’re probably going to be getting in their car, and you as the bartender might be liable if they get into a car crash, and God forbid, kill themselves, or worse yet, kill someone else.

But as bartenders, we need to man up.  This is just part of the job, and you need to come to peace with it.  Like every job, there’s aspects that you don’t like to do.  For me, cutting people off is one of them, and I’m still trying to perfect it.  The outcome of cutting someone off will a lot of times not benefit the tip line.  But the alternative might be getting sued for something tragic that happens after they leave the bar, and the responsibility of that might be on the shoulders of the bartender, and the bar he or she works at.

If you take anything away from this, dear drinkers, know that your bartender doesn’t want to cut you off.  When they do, try not to take it personally.  Know that they’re doing it NOT because they don’t like you, but that it’s in your best interest, and the interests of others.  We’re not kicking you out, and we’d love for you to chill out with a glass of water, or help you call an Uber to get you home safe and sound.  We know you want to enjoy yourself, and blow off some steam at the end of the workday.  But when you’re slurring your words, and can barely ask for another drink coherently, do you really need another drink?  Probably not.  Let’s get you home, or in your hotel room safely, so that there’s a tomorrow for you to enjoy another drink.


If You Take It Out, Put It Back

I’m reading a really good book right now about Stanley Kubrick, written by his driver for 30 years.  One thing that struck me to apply to my life was one of Kubrick’s house rules:  If you take it out, put it back.  A very simple idea to help you to organize your life.  Clearly, if you can follow this simple rule, you will always be organized.  

When I’m behind the bar, this can sometimes be a difficult task.  You open up a liquor bottle, the empty bottle sits there taking up space before you have time to put it in its proper place.  Everything should have a home, but when it’s busy, it’s easy to try to cut corners.  Thinking:  I’ll take care of this when I don’t have 15 customers wanting drinks.  But then it piles up.  You look behind your bar when you have a moment, and see the kind of destruction you’ve made when busy.  But maybe if you take the time in the moment to put away the empty bottle, it won’t inevitably clutter up your bar, making things look messy.  Nobody likes to look at a messy bar.  

Cleaning empty glasses is an absolute CONSTANT struggle.  Sometimes it feels like, when you finally get the glasses done, a whole new load appears.  It’s not just cleaning the glasses, but sometimes the hardest part, the most time consuming, is putting them in their proper place.  At one of my hotel gigs, they actually have a dishwasher, which is a miracle for bartenders.  Not only is it easier to manage dirty glasses, but it cleans the glasses better as well.  Here’s a little secret you don’t want to know:  when you’re at a bar and it’s super busy, probably the sinks are not getting changed as much as they should.  The last thing a bartender has time for is to dump all three of the sinks, and fill them back up, when it’s busy.  That means your glass is not getting as clean as it should be.  Problem solved when there’s a dishwasher.  The glasses come out clean every time.  The only small drawback is that usually the glasses are hot.  But I’d rather have a mildly warm glass that just came out of the dishwasher, instead of a cold glass that didn’t get cleaned properly.

Getting back to the original concept everyone could use help with:  if you take it out, put it back.  Think of your car.  I just found a bowl in my wife’s car with a half of banana in it.  And it looked like it had been there for awhile.  Obviously, the bowl’s home wasn’t the backseat of her car, but it’s just another thing to have to carry in from the car.  We all get lazy, I get it.  But you will find your life, and work, will be more functional if everything you have has a home, and when you take it out of its home for whatever reason, you put it back in its home when finished.



The Double-Take

As a bartender, I try never to do “The Double-Take.”  What is The Double-Take, you ask?  Well…it’s when someone orders some ridiculous drink, that doesn’t make sense, and you question their order.  Sometimes I’d like to be almost robotic.  What would you like?  A tequila and Coke with a sugar rim?  Sure, absolutely, coming right up.

But sometimes, I just can’t help myself.

First up, lady approaches the bar, asks for a Cosmo.  I’ve made a thousand Cosmos in my life, not a problem.  But then she says, I’d like gin in it.  What?  I’m sorry.  (Double-take).  Gin?  Are you sure?  Yes, I want gin in it.  Well, Cosmos are usually made with Absolut Citron vodka.  Are you sure you want gin instead of vodka?  Yes.  Make it Tanqueray.  Allll-right.  A gin Cosmo coming right up.

Then she says, I had one in New York and LA.  They make it there.  Well, gee, shucks.  Must be good then.

Then, about five minutes later, another lady approaches the bar, says, I want a Pomegranate Martini, put some olives in it.

You gotta be kidding me.  Olives in a sweet-ass martini?!?  Am I on Candid Camera?

Ok, how about I make you a Pomegranate Martini, and give you some olives on the side?  No, she says.  I want them in it.  I like it when the olives soak in.

Ah, yeah.  That sounds delicious.



Locking Up The Taps

This post will only be remarkable to .00000000001% of the population in the world, but I’m super excited about it, so here goes.

When you’re bartending at a hotel bar, usually you have to lock up behind the bar at the end of the night, because it is usually exposed to the rest of the hotel.  i.e. drunk guy at 3am can’t sneak behind the bar, and steal some booze.  Usually there’s a way to lock up the liquor, the coolers, the tap handles.  Now I’ve worked at two hotel bars, and I’m seeing a trend.  The locks you put on the taps are worthless.  For some reason, they never fit on right, never tighten correctly, never stay on.  They’re just not made durably.  The keys are also flimsy, and tend to break off in the locks.  Also, it’s usually stripped out where you put the key in.  There’s only so much you can do when this occurs.  At my current hotel gig, when I was trained, my fellow bartender says, you’ve got to figure out the trick to it.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t really articulate the trick.  It’s more of a feel.

Last night, when closing up, I DREADED having to tackle this task.  But then I said to myself, you know what?  If I have to spend three hours on this tonight, I’m all in.  I’m going to figure out the trick, or I’m gonna sleep behind the bar to protect the keg beer.

After ten minutes of finagling with the locks, I had an epiphany.  What if I loosen the lock the whole way, get it into position at its highest point, THEN tighten it.  I tried it, it worked, I almost cried.

I learned a good lesson.  Instead of hurrying into a frenzy believing that I’ll never figure it out, I took my time, trying different tactics before I succeeded in figuring it out.  

And that was my “key” to success.  I left the bar feeling pretty good about life. 




What Would You Like To Pair With That?

I’m at Table 128, a semi-fancy restaurant in West Des Moines celebrating my 46th birthday with my mum and step-father. The server approaches the table to take our order.  My mum orders first, and the server says, what would you like to pair with that?

I like that question:  what would you like to pair with that?  Instead of the tried and true, what would you like for a side?  It’s more upscale, and appealing.  I don’t think you’re going to be at a Perkins, and the server is going to say, what would you like to pair with your burger?  I think I’ll try it out next time I’m taking someone’s food order.  A good poet borrows…a great poet steals.

I’m at the hotel bar last night, a guy approaches the bar, says, can I put in an order for some food?  I say, absolutely!  What would you like?  He looks at the menu, says, I’ll take the tenderloin sandwich.  

Here’s my chance:

Sounds great!  What would you like to pair with that?

He looks up quizzically, says, huh?

I repeat, what would you like to pair with that?

He says, um…what do you mean?

Giving up, I blurt, what would you like for a side?

Oh, he says, I’ll take the fries.

So much for me being fancy.