Author Archives: Clint Curtis

I’m Not Judging You

I’m bartending the hotel bar, woman comes up, says, I’d like a glass of your house Chardonnay.  And can you put some olives in it?  

I imperceptibly make a face.

But she notices.

Says, I know, I know.  it’s weird, but I like olives!

I say, hey, hey.  (Shrugging my shoulders).  I’m not judging you.  I’d never judge.  Who am I to judge?

She smiles, says, thank you.

I get her glass of Chardonnay, put some olives in it.

Just FYI:  If anyone ever says to you, I’m not judging you, most of the time,

There’s some serious judging going on.

-Clint

Gouda-with-cumin-olives-with-white-wine-square

 

What You Get For Stiffing Your Server

I’m serving at the hotel bar, two ladies sit down in my section. They are of foreign descent. Here’s the problem with foreigners: many times it’s not in their custom to tip, which I am aware of. That’s fine, we all come from different cultures, with different customs. Hey, where these two ladies are from, the servers probably make an amazing hourly rate. They don’t necessarily need a tip. Unfortunately, here in the US of A, servers make a meager wage. That’s all fine of course, as long as their customers are tipping.

I take the ladies order. One wants to start out with hot tea. Unfortunately, the only place we can get hot water is way over in the gift shop. But that’s fine. I’ll hustle over there to get a guest a hot cup of tea. That’s just what I do. The other lady orders a hot chocolate. She says, do you have unsweetened hot chocolate? I’d like that. Huh. Unsweetened hot chocolate? Where the hell you get that? I say, I’m sorry, we don’t have unsweetened hot chocolate, but in the server station we have a Keurig and hot chocolate pods. That’s the best I can do. She thinks for a moment, then says, that’s fine.

I get their drinks, take their order, everything runs smoothly, food gets on the table in a timely manner, and I get their check when they request it.

They leave after some time, I clean off their table, grab their tab, yep, you guessed it…

A big zero in the tip line.

More specifically, they didn’t even put anything in the tip or total line. Just signed the check. Which is almost more annoying.

The next day, I’m serving again, I turn around, and one of the ladies from the night before, approaches.

Oh hi! she says, excitedly. Remember me?

I say, as a matter of fact I do! You were at Table 22 last night, wanted the unsweetened hot chocolate, and at the end of the night, STIFFED ME!!!

Ok, of course I didn’t say that. I just said, yes. I remember you.

With a trace of so what.

She says, I’m looking to get an apple. Do you know where I could find one?

I say, an APPLE? Yeah I got your apple RIGHT HERE (as I grab my crotch).

Ok. No I didn’t say that. Or grab my crotch.

Instead, I say, yeah, you can find apples in the gift shop. Over there.

But I didn’t say it as enthusiastically as I would have said it if she had tipped me. So BLAM lady.

IN YOUR FACE!!!

-Clint

 

redapplepic

The Origins Of Putting A Lime In A Corona

I’m at the bar with my fellow bartender, guy comes up, and orders a Corona.  Do you want a lime with that?  Of course!  

This commonplace exchange got me thinking…  Who was the first person to put a lime in a Corona, and why?

After doing some internet research, I’m even more lost.  There are a number of theories.  The best ones:  to keep flies and bugs out, to mask the skunky flavor caused from having a clear bottle that reflects light changing the taste of the beer, and of course, some cynical bartender saying, watch me put a lime in this beer, and it go viral.

Whatever the reason, I’m sure it began as something, and then turned in to something completely different.  You just have to decide whether you like the taste of lime in your cerveza.  If you do, go for it, hombre!  

It kind of reminds me of the ritual of people packing their cigarettes before they open it.  I’m sure you’ve seen some addict doing it while walking out of a Kum And Go.  I’m pretty sure when the ritual began years ago, they were doing it to a pack of filterless cigarettes.  So yeah, actually a good idea to pack the cigarettes with your palm before you open it.  If you’ve ever smoked a Lucky or a Camel Straight, you’ll understand why it is helpful.  If you don’t pack the tobacco as much as possible, you’ll be constantly picking the tobacco off of your lips.  And that’s no fun.  But since the advent of cigarettes with a FILTER, do you really need to pack the cigarettes?  Not really.  But the ritual continues.

Another article I read about the origins of the lime in the Corona talked about how legally in the state of New York, a bartender could be FINED for touching a lime wedge with their bare hands/fingers.  Now, when was the last time you saw a bartender wearing gloves, or used a tong when grabbing a lime, and putting it in the neck of a Corona?  Like, never.  Can you imagine how time-consuming and laborious that would be?  And I don’t think anyone wants to see a bartender wearing gloves.  That would just be weird.  But again, legally in the state of New York, a bartender can’t touch a lime.  Your options are to grab the tongs and put the lime in with that, or place the lime wedge on a napkin, and present it to your guest with the beer, which is a little over the top.  I think I can speak for most when I say if you see a bartender grab the tongs, you’re gonna want to roll your eyes.  We’re not surgeons.

But of course, perhaps, psychologists.  But I don’t think they wear gloves…or use tongs.

Probably my favorite explanation for using a lime in a Corona was that some gringo thought it’d be funny to get a bunch of people to put a lime in a Corona.  But, I must admit, it looks good in that clear glass, with that white and blue label.  Then I’m sure the execs at Corona caught wind of it, and thought, this is marketing GOLD.

There’s one thing I will guarantee.  If you go down to Mexico, and you see a Mexican drinking a Corona, there’s not going to be a lime in their Corona.  It seems to be a very American thing to do, and if you ask for that lime in the Corona, everyone will know you’re a tourista.

-Clint

 

447134

An Easy Way To Remember How To Make A Manhattan

A Manhattan is a beautiful and simple drink.  You really appreciate it when you have to start making cocktails with more than three ingredients.  Here’s a sure-fire way to make a delicious Manhattan, and an easy way to remember how to do it.

Start with 2 oz of Bourbon.  If you’re at home making cocktails, don’t be afraid to buy/use a jigger to get things precise.  For starters, I would use Bulleit Bourbon, or Makers Mark is always a good go-to.  I also like Woodford Reserve.

Next, use 1 oz of Sweet Vermouth.  This will smooth things out with the drink, and sweeten it up.

After that, 2 dashes of Bitters, and you’ve got yourself a Manhattan.

2 oz Bourbon, 1 oz of Sweet Vermouth, 2 dashes of Bitters.  (And a cherry).

And do you know what the Area Code for Manhattan is?  

Drum roll please…

212.

-Clint

 

bourbon-manhattan

Eating My Calories Tonight

It’s a Thursday night, 6ish, I’m serving at the hotel restaurant.  A table of four sits in my section, I approach, hand out menus, say my introductions.  Can I start you guys out with something to drink?  A brunette, mid-40’s, opens up the menu, and says, with confidence,

I’ve decided I’m going to EAT my calories tonight.

-Clint

 

4-popular-diets-i-killed-with-delicious-food

Revenant

Young guy comes up to the bar, sits down. I’d say he’s mid-20’s, kind of on the preppy side. He orders a drink, I make it, set it down, we get to talking. On the TV at the bar, The Revenant is playing. We get to talking about movies. He tells me he likes Rom-Com movies, which is my least favorite genre. He says, I’ll watch any kind of movie, except for horror. I say, I LOVE horror movies! Why don’t you like them? He says, I’ve been possessed by the devil nine times, starting at age 9. I’ve been to Hell. Actual Hell. If you don’t believe Jesus Christ was here, died for our sins, and is our Lord and Savior, we’re not talking anymore.

I open my mouth to respond, think better of it, turn back to the TV to see my old buddy Leo getting mauled by a bear. 

The bear looks so real. 

-Clint

 

maxresdefault

My Starbucks Moment

I’m serving at the hotel, a group of six come in to the restaurant, sit down.  I go up, introduce myself, set some menus down, take their drink order.  Young group, I ask what they’re doing in town, they tell me they’re in Des Moines for a convention.  I go get their drinks, set them down, we get to talking.  There are three young men, and three young women at the table.  I ask them, so what are you guys up to tonight?  One of the young ladies says to me, we don’t know.  What should we do?  I say, what are you looking to do?  She says, have some cocktails here, then find another bar, somewhere close by.  I say, great.  I know the perfect place to go.  There is a bar literally 36 steps from the hotel.  She says, oh really?  I say, ok.  Don’t hold me to that number.  I haven’t actually counted the steps, but it’s somewhere around there.  You go out the back door of the hotel, turn right, and the bar is in the next building over.  Cool bar, has a 50’s apartment feel to it, with a great selection of craft cocktails.  She says, awesome!  We’ll check it out!

About a month ago, to prepare for the re-opening of our restaurant/bar that was recently renovated, the hotel set up a training session with a company called the Ellis Adams Group.  A man named Ezra did the training.  To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first whether I would learn something from the training, but I was pleasantly surprised with Ezra’s bar and restaurant knowledge.  At one point in the training, Ezra talked about his “Starbucks Moment.”

A number of years ago, he was working at the Ritz Carlton, and happened to be in earshot of some guests in the lobby when he heard them say, you know what would be great?  A Starbucks coffee.  The guests didn’t know Ezra heard them, and after they left, he walked up to the shuttle service, and said he needed to borrow a car.  They were reluctant at first, but then gave him the keys.  He drives to a Starbucks nearby, and buys two cups of Starbucks coffee, takes them back to the hotel, finds out what room the guests were staying in, and knocks on their door.  They open the door, and he says, I was in the lobby, and overheard you saying how much you’d like a Starbucks coffee.  I took the liberty to go out and get you a couple.

They were understandably surprised and impressed.  The next day, Ezra comes in, and the manager asks him to come to his office.  He says, one, we’re going to have to talk about you borrowing a car from the hotel, but we’ll discuss that later.  Secondly, the guest you got the Starbucks coffee for left you an envelope.  Ezra opens it up, and there in the envelope, was a thank you note, and a crisp $100 bill.  And every day after that, an envelope was waiting for Ezra with $100 bill in it, for as long as the couple stayed at the hotel.

In the training, he described this as his “Starbucks Moment.”  It is a moment you find the opportunity to go above and beyond the expectations of a guest.

Getting back, the table of six sat in my section for a good hour, enjoying each other’s company, and some tasty beverages.  I would go up to their table, and entertain them with stories I thought they would enjoy.  Some tables you just instantly have a rapport with, and this was one.  

Upon leaving, they thanked me for my service, and told me they were going to check out the bar I recommended.  I said, don’t forget to count the steps, and get back to me.

When they left, upon cleaning up their table, I realized that one of the ladies had left their to-go food.  I approached my manager, and said, hey, can you do me a favor?  Deliver this drink order for me I just put in.  I gotta do something.  I’ll be right back.

I grab the to-go bag, make my way to the back door of the hotel, and exit.  I start counting my steps.  1, 2, 3.  I reach the front door of the bar, go in, look for the group.  Hey guys!  They’re sitting at a table, lounging with drinks.  CLINT! One of them yells.  I said, I just wanted you to know, if you didn’t already, that it was 90 steps to the bar.  They laugh.  One of the young women says, you know what, Clint?  I left my to-go food at the table.  At this point, she hadn’t seen what was in my hand.  I say, oh, this one?  And hand it to her.  The crowd goes wild.  CLINT!!!  Stay, have a drink with us!  I say, sorry guys, I gotta get back to work.

And with that, I left the bar, and found my own “Starbucks Moment.”

-Clint

 

starbucks-sustainable-cups.jpg__1500x670_q85_crop_subsampling-2

Hamilton Sucked

The Broadway musical hit Hamilton is in town right now, and for the last couple weeks I’ve been bartending/serving to people before and after the show.  Before the show, they sit with a cocktail with friends, excited for a play they’ve looked forward to seeing.  Then, I see them after the play.  They come in, flush with excitement, after seeing an incredible performance.  Words like “fantastic”, “amazing”, “incredible”, “best show I’ve ever seen” tumble from their lips.  And after two weeks of hearing people’s awe-inspiring, across the board reaction to this monumental play,

I’m sick of it.

I mean, c’mon.  Really?  EVERYBODY LOVES IT?!?  How is that possible?!?  I have not spoken to one person that has seen the play that haven’t adored it.  After the play, they slap down their Hamilton program on their table, proud that they finally got to see the play.  And they shelled out good money for it.  One guy last night told me he spent over $300 for a ticket.  And sure enough, all he had to say was, it was absolutely worth it.

At the hotel I work at, the cast and crew may or may not be staying there.  (I cannot confirm or deny).  But two nights ago, after the show, a number of them gathered at one of my tables.  You can really spot them a mile away.  From their young New York style appearance, to their backpacks with a big gold star on it.  I approach the table, get their drink order.  I say, so…I’m gathering that you guys are performing in Hamilton?  They nod their heads, yes, we are.  I say, you know, I’ve been serving people before and after the show, and I want once, just once, for one lone soul, one single person, one individual, to come in after the show, and say to me…you know, I gotta say, I just saw Hamilton, 

and I thought it SUCKED!

-Clint

539757268.0

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

95f5f8da-a788-4c87-88be-53cbbb8b6976_1.b596468c9fbd2ded32d5d2664fbd2bec

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