Ask me what I enjoy most about bartending, and I won't bullshit you: it's not the drinks or the money, it's the customers. I love the slow nights, when friends come by for a spell, drop a healthy wad on me, hug me hard, and get home safely. And I like being front-row-center to the stories of people's lives. People say things to me they might not say to their best friend (sometimes it's because they've just lost their best friend). Anyway, that's what I love--I love to know the juice, the blood and guts of those in my ward. I don't care so much about the drink itself, and neither do they. They want to talk and I want to listen.
And in return for listening, I get: "You're such a great bartender, Frank! Thanks for helping me out!! You should be a shrink, you know?• Yeah, I know. I'm not getting a hundred bucks an hour for this, but sometimes a drink and some straight shooting from your bartender can make all the difference. I love my customers.
That being said, here's some tips for those of you walking through my door for the first time. Now, I realize you can't know more than you do right now. As a newcomer, you yearn to be graceful and respectable in my establishment, feeling anything but the smallness you suffer while walking around on this confusing earth. If somehow you could be granted the wisdom that you will one day eventually receive, I know you would happily accept it, and use it responsibly. But for now, it's just not possible. That being said, I don't care who you are, or what you've been doing up to the point when you wade through the sea of people clutching to my bar--before you say a word to me-- know what you want to drink!
Don't come in with your brains in a bow tie and ask me "what I like to make,• because what I like to "make• are not drinks. I like what anyone else likes: a smooth doodie in the a.m. and a cathartic ejaculation in the p.m. C'mon. If you really don't know what you're thirsty for, ask your folks what they drink. My mother drank Dewars, and when my first big moment arrived, I looked the bartender in the eye and said the first thing that popped into my mind, "Dewars... rocks.• It tasted horrible, but at least the bartender didn't look at me like I was an idiot. So know the name of at least one drink. And if you say, "I drink VO Manhattans, very dry, straight up, with a twist, but I've never had a muddled old fashioned, what's that like?•: you're a man among children and you should find out what a muddled old fashioned tastes like for yourself... on me, in fact.
Dumb Question #2: "What's good?• Here's my rule of thumb: "If you like it... it's good. If you don't like it... then it's not good.• Again, have a game plan. And this doesn't mean suddenly remembering that Mindy had this drink at Darts 'n' Farts in Kent that was "sort of yellow... no green... no red...• and then asking, "do you know how to make that?• It's bad enough you had anything at all to drink in Kent--that's grounds for 86-ing your ass right there--now you want to drink more of it in Seattle? No, no, no, no.
Another thing (and stop me if I'm getting too pissy): Some people treat the bar's condiment trays like hors d'oeuvres at an Italian wedding. "Can I have seven olives? They're for my girlfriend.• No, you fathead, you can't! I need them! Order an appetizer instead. If you want to impress your girl, then spend some money, pally.
And speaking of money... hey, Eastsiders! You come to my watering hole in droves these days. We bartenders know who you are by the way you dress (neo-tacky), by the way you speak (poor syntaxy), and what you order to drink (I give you flacky). And what is the Eastsider's beverage of choice? White... Zinfandel. Who in God's name came up with this undrinkable pink nonsense? Ask me for White Zinfandel and I'll tell you, "We proudly refuse to carry the stuff.• "What, no White Zin!?• you snort. Well, Auntie Em, what can I say? You're not in Bellevue anymore. Just order a Hennessy and Coke and step away from the bar.
I could go on and on, and often do (just ask my friends), but I'd prefer you come and see me. Sit yourself down and scan the place. Talk nice to me (no cussing). Show me your moolah. Don't talk to the girl in the corner unless I say you should, 'cause she might be with me, or I'm protecting her from the likes of drunks like you. Be cool, make a friend or two, enjoy yourself, and the next time you come in, I'll remember you. Oh, and don't forget, a big tip always goes a long, long way.