Author Archives: Clint Curtis

The Big Difference Between Call & Well

I’m behind the bar, it’s around 4PM, guy comes up, sits down. How ya doin’, what can I get you? He says, I’ll take a gin and tonic. Great. What kind of gin? Tanqueray, Bombay, Well? He says, what does it matter when you put a mixer in it? I’ll take the Well.

This, my friends, is a smart man.

What DOES it matter? It really doesn’t. The moment you put your cranberry, or your Diet Coke, or your tonic in it, the nuance of the liquor will be lost. Ok, I’ve heard some say, cheap booze gives me headaches, and that might absolutely be true. But there is NO WAY someone is going to tell the difference in taste between a Grey Goose Cran, and a Well Cran. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s nearly impossible. Let me break down a drink. Most drinks are 9 ounces. 1 1/2 ounces is the booze. That’s 7 1/2 ounces of mixer. The mixer will inevitably clobber any subtlety you might find in your chosen Call liquor.

I know you’re thinking, hey, Clint. Don’t you want to sell that high priced booze instead of the Hawkeye Vodka? Hell yeah, I do! The bigger the tab, usually, the bigger the tip. But facts are facts, and the guy at the bar with his gin and tonic was right.

Let’s flip things a bit, and talk about drinking booze neat, and on the rocks. Neat, for the amateurs out there, means no ice. NOW. Are you going to tell the difference between a Well whiskey like Ten High, in comparison to Maker’s Mark, when you drink it neat? I’m going to say a strong maybe. It really depends on your pallet, and your history with a specific booze. Trust me, I’ve done taste tests with seasoned drinkers, and 50/50 they choose the Well, over the Call liquor. So I’m not totally convinced EVEN when you drink the liquor neat.

Let’s be honest. We all fall prey to the psychological aspects of what is advertised to us on a daily basis. For YEARS I drank solely Tanqueray Tonic. It was the only thing I’d drink. But I’m not convinced I’d even be able to tell the difference between the “good stuff,” and the Well.

So what should you take away from all this? TRY EXPERIMENTING. That is always fun. Drink the Captain and Coke, then try the Well rum and Coke, see if you can tell the difference. ALL THAT MATTERS is you find something that suits your taste buds. Be open-minded. Mix things up.

Literally.

In the end, maybe the only thing you find different between Call and Well is the difference on your bar tab.

-Clint

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Be Bold

I’m at the hotel bar, it’s Sunday, around 10:30PM.  Earlier, the server gets cut around 8pm bc it’s so slow.  I get a couple tables here and there, nothing too crazy.  An older gentleman, classy, with his daughter, they order two Bombay martinis.

Kitchen closes at 11, I go outside to get a breath of fresh air, come back thru the kitchen, and the woman doing dishes says, you’ve got a table.  I hustle-up, get to the bar, and there’s indeed a new table.  …Of 20.

Holy shite.  I’m a bartender, not a server.  I get flustered when there’s more than four people at a table.  I actually HATE serving tables, but find myself doing it more than I care to.  I start taking their orders, as I do, another six people join the party.  Chaos.  And what majorly sucks is, these people are being UBER-picky.  10 of them order burgers, and you’d think that this would be easy, but no.  I want a burger, medium well, but I don’t want this on it, but can you put this on it, but wait, I don’t like those sides, could I get this instead?  EVERY SINGLE BURGER ORDER IS LIKE THIS.  And then, mind you, I have to remember which one goes where, bc they all look pretty much the same, but with variance.  And to top it off, everybody wants separate checks.  That’s always fun.

It was a nightmare, true and complete.  But an angel arose from the ashes.  A woman in the party quickly introduces herself, and tells me she works at the hotel.  She says, do you need some help?  YES, PLEASE.  I get to entering in everybody’s order, and the phone starts ringing.  Room service.  And with no server, guess who has to somehow figure out room service, which I haven’t been trained on?  At this point, there is NO WAY I’m getting someone’s room service order prepared, and take it up to their room, no matter what the logistics.  I answer, and say, I’m sorry.  We don’t have anyone doing room service tonight, but I can take your order, put it in a to-go, and you can pick it up at the bar.  He says, that’s fine, no problem.

While the cook is in the kitchen, casually freaking out at all the orders coming in, I hit the tables.  What can I get you?  I want a water with a lemon.  I want a coffee.  I get the coffee.  I want cream, with a lot of sugars.  I go looking for cream.  I return.  I want a Sprite.  Put some cherry juice in it (grenadine).  Can I add something to my order?  I’d like to change my order.  My wife said take this off the burger, can you put the jam back on?

Oh what true hell hath come to my life.

My angel from the ashes helps me start handing out food.  Burgers, wings, wings, wings.  I really have no idea where everything is going.  If this was just some nightmare I could wake up from, but there’s no waking.  Can I get an extra Ranch dressing for my fries?  Can I get?  Can I get?

Somehow, all the food gets out to the right people.  I get two people tell me their hamburger isn’t cooked enough.  I take the burgers back, the cook puts them back on the grill for a minute, I return them to their proper place.

Right when there’s a lull, with everyone eating, a manager from the front desk comes up, asks me if I need help.  I’m sort off stuttering at this point.  Uh..well…uh…I…have no idea whose bill is whose.  I don’t know what I’m gonna do.

He says, just be bold.  You can figure it out.

If there were only two words he said that could magically calm me, and help me get to the finish line, be bold was it.

Be bold.

I walked up to the main table, and said, all-right.  What else can I bring you right now?

-Clint

Going Out On A Limb

Two guys come up to the bar.  First guy says, I’ll have a Tito’s Cranberry with a lime.  I say, you bet.  And you?  Other guy looks over the beer bottles and the taps.  He says, Hmm…I think I’m gonna switch it up a bit.  Go out on a limb…

I’ll take a Bud Light.

-Clint

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The Elevator Business

About a month ago, guy sits at my bar, we get to talking.  I find out he designs and builds elevators.  Seems like an interesting job.  He specializes in glass elevators for tall buildings.  He shows me pictures on his phone with him at the top of a 30-story building, strapped in.  No thank you very much, I get vertigo just looking at the pictures.

Tonight, he comes back into the bar, sits down.  I remember he likes Coronas without the lime.  Corona?  He says, yes, please.  I get one out of the cooler, open it up, set it down.  I say, so…how’s the elevator business?  He says,

It has its ups and downs.

Hey-oh!!!

-Clint

 

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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.

-Clint

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.

-Clint

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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.

-Clint

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