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Balanced Life: Lessons from a Cocktail Glass

September 15, 2014

Let’s face facts here.  No matter how good your upbringing, no matter how genuine your intentions, no matter how decent your action and no matter how you surround yourself and in turn express Love…….shit happens.  Not just to you but to everyone at some point or another (in some cases the several moments at the same time).

So it goes. But we all learn to move on and move through with our high proof inner strength.

With the exception of a few random posts, and working at Secreto Lounge, I have done very little work.  My boss would probably say I have barely even shown up for work!  Why is this? I needed to re-balance.

Between teaching classes, doing private events, responding to an average of 74 emails a day, making public appearances, and daily shaking behind the bar, I began to allow my world to become consumed by all-things-work with little or no focus on the guy that is trying to make all that happen. Not to mention trying to be a dad.  Living, working and playing booze all day turns life into not a well balanced drink something more like a Pickle Back Shot.

070514P_679One of the ways I decided to break this vicious cycle? Whitewater Rafting! And not just rafting , but training as a Raft Guide. Each weekend this past summer I was riding the Rio Grande River away from my phone, away from my computer, and away from the bar finding a sanctuary in the Rio Grande Gorge learning to navigate boats on Class III and IV rapids.

When I first moved to Santa Fe, I didn’t work in the bar biz: I was a Ropes Course Facilitator at  a summer camp and part of my excitement in being a guide was using those team building skills again taking a group of strangers, or a family, or a bunch of friends down the river creating fun, and making memories.

And I learned some things about myself as well.  I learned that great ingredients in life are necessary and that every ingredient is great in and of itself.  That some things are good together, and others are not and the only way to find out if they do is to try.  Focus on the moment with precision and pay attention to exactly what you are putting into your life’s mixing glass. There is reason for the gentleness of stirring and the vigor of shaking.  Over pouring can be overpowering and putting too much or too little in will not achieve balance.

“Craft”y Marketing

July 30, 2014

There is a buzz on social media right now as some people have “blown the whistle” on the fact that many “craft” products are made at a couple mass producing distilleries. I have needless to say seen and commented on these post to a point where I am compelled to say a couple things here.

1. There is little that regulates how a marketing team or PR company, a Brand ambassador or even a sales rep push a product. This is what they are paid to do. They are taught buzz words to catch industry attention. NAd they cater this to each one of their buyers. They do not sell a product to a cocktail bar as they do to a dive bar.

2. Each of these groups are there for the sale. PERIOD! They work on commission just like you and me (we call our commission a tip)

3. Many big distilleries are contracted by smaller companies to make a particular juice for that smaller company as it is simpler and cheaper for production and in turn keep the ottle cost coming to the bar down. Who wouldn’t appreciate that??

4. The word “craft” is a marketing ploy:not a level of quality. Again a buzz word. It has nothing to do with quality of production.

5. Dig past what the sales people tell you. Talk to the experts. I’ll give you an example. Recently I was concerned that a particular tequila I carry did not sport the “Certified USDA Organic” logo, so I started to investigate and bit the level of BS I found was an eye opener. I started with asking a general question to experts and aficionados finding that production had moved twice, the product not certified any longer AND the “hand crafted” claim was being done by a bull dozier!

6. Do not confuse your tastes with what sells. Yes, some of the stuff I like to consume is stocked in the bar I work in. Some are not. Why? Because they do sell!!! My job as a bartender is to make the house money. IfI am not doing that, I don’t have a job. The rest of what I do is part of selling those products and drinks. But if something on the back bar isn’t moving and taking up space, I will drop it no matter how much I enjoy it. It is not about what I like. It, like the marketers, the Brand Ambassadors, The Brand mangers, and the Sales reps, is about what I can sell.

Those of you who went to Tales this year and attended the Spirited Awards may recall this video introducing Best New Spirit…..just saying it is what we all sound like

[View:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGZKTfwjoR0:550:0%5D

Spiking Up Snow Cones

July 2, 2014

Recently I moved (again) and during the move I found a cheap little snow cone maker that I had bought a couple years ago. My son was especially excited and and we filled the ice molds in hopes of a fun snack to cool off in the desert heat. And doing fun things like this is a treat in itself. I have never been happy with the pre-made syrups for snow cones (big surprise) so my son and I set out on an adventure of creating our own syrups . We started brainstorming what flavors we wanted (I do miss the days when I’d ask him what flavor he wanted and he would say “BLUE!”).

We started playing with the different ideas and started making syrups and as we did this, my bartender mind set in and I began to wonder how I could spike these summer treats up to add to the grown up fun. But we will get to that in a second. The easiest way to make your own snow cone syrup is to take any fruit juice, drink mix etc and make a 1:1 simple syrup. But why stop there? Why be 1 dimensional? The first big idea we came up with was Pina Colada. We took 2 oz of pineapple juice and combined it with 4 oz coconut water then added 6 oz of sugar and voila!! Pina Colada Snow Cone. Its pretty easy to do just adjust the sugar level to your liking but 1:1 seems to keep the kids happy. Personally these syrups are a little too sweet for my taste but I wasn’t making this for me and honestly he loved it.

Pina Colada “grown up” style was pretty easy as well as was Daiquiri. But I wanted something a little more daring. Being Tennessee born there is one drink that always refreshes the Southern side of me……I decided to make a Mint Julep Snow Cone. Here’s what you do….

Mint Julep Snow Cone Syrup

4 oz Bourbon

2 oz Sugar

12-15 mint leaves

In a small sauce pot over medium heat bring this mixture (sans the mint) to a boil. Be careful because it is easy to ignite the bourbon and burn your eyebrows off. Once boiling reduce heat and stir in the mint leaves. Stir briefly, remove from heat and let steep until room temp (couple hours). Strain off the mint and refrigerate. Tasty

Then I wondered if I could make something equally classic but not really a summer cool-down kinda drink. MANHATTAN!!!!! This came out fantastic and was a great summer cool down

4 oz Rye

2 oz Sweet Vermouth

4 dashes bitters

3 oz Sugar.

The procedure is the same as above.

So have fun in the sun this summer with your own Spike Up Snow Cones

 

Master Distiller Bill Scott Joins Ocean Vodka as Brand Expands

June 25, 2014

A little while back I reviewed Ocean Vodka with resounding praise.  Here is an update on what is going on with them.  Notice please that Bill Scott has pioneered many organic spirits and I am glad to see him now with Ocean

(Maui, Hawaii) June 24, 2014 – Hawaii Sea Spirit’s CEO Shay Smith is thrilled to announce that Bill Scott has joined the company as Master Distiller in charge of production.

“Bill Scott has mentored me for the past ten years as we took Ocean Vodka from concept to market,” says Mr. Smith.  “He has been a huge part of the success of Ocean Vodka, with an award-winning recipe that continues to garner great reviews and interest.”  Ocean Vodka recently went into three additional states and one province in Canada, bringing the total to 35 U.S. states.

Bill Scott is widely regarded as one of the top spirits industry leaders in the arena of white spirits production (fermentation and distillation), spirits flavoring systems, and innovative product development.  During his eighteen-year spirits career, Scott developed award-winning flavoring systems for over 20 premium and ultra-premium distilled spirits brands.  Accolades from domestic and international distilled spirits rating organizations include many best-of-the-best ratings.  Scott formulated and was influential in the success of vodka brands Blue Ice Vodka, American Harvest Organic Spirit, Square One, and 44 Degrees North.  

More info: OceanVodka.com

About Ocean Vodka

Ocean Vodka is 100% certified USDA Organic, gluten-free, and the only vodka in the world made from organic sugar cane and deep ocean mineral water, sourced from a depth of 3,000 feet off the Kona Coast of the Island of Hawaii.  The Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery in Kula, Maui highlights the company’s commitment to socially and environmentally conscious business practices.  Ocean Vodka has been the exclusive vodka on Hawaiian Airlines since 2007, and is the number one selling spirit made in Hawaii.  Ocean Vodka is sold in 35 states, Washington, DC, and Canada and is sold at $32.99/750ml.  Produced by Hawai‘i Sea Spirits, Kula, Maui, Hawai‘i 40% ALC/VOL (80 Proof).

 

Gloves Off!

April 29, 2014

I started in the restaurant industry while I was in high school bussing tables at a now closed (sadly) pizza place in Atlanta, Georgia.  About a year or so into the job I became a cook.  This was back in the 80’s mind you and there were many things we could do then : some of which are good things to be gone like smoking in the kitchen.  I do remember though that this was when many food service places were beginning to use latex or plastic gloves and I remember telling my coworkers in a rant (big surprise) that i would never….. NEVER work in a place that required gloves.

Well times change as they do, and I have worked in kitchens since that did require them. And I did wear them.  But I don;t like them, and do still stand by my feelings about them when it comes t food service.

Simply put gloves give the customer the illusion of sanitation.  Simple fact.

I have spoken with many chefs and cooks over the years and they all agree.  Gloves are frequently required by state r local health code.  But are they cleaner than using your hands?  More Sanitary?  Not so much.

The use of gloves is an illusion as I said.  I can tell when my hands are dirty and I will wash them instantly but I cannot tell when a glove feels dirty.  See where I’m going here?

Any germs that may be on my bare hands will be killed in the cooking process. Using gloves only makes me think not to wash my hands unless I leave the line.  Another question is how often are the gloves being changed?  For me I would wear them until they haad holes in them and any times I would have a cotton cutting glove on as an insulator for hot pans and never notice the gloves having holes until I looked at my hands.  What I would see is black dirt on the fingers of the cutting glove and wonder how long I had been wearing them like that.

But working with bare hands whether on the line or behind the bar I can feel when they are dirty.  I can feel when They are sticky from sugar or citrus and rightfully so I wash my hands frequently because of this.  Wearing gloves prevents me from doing that as all I feel is latex.

So, just a thought to those who want this kind of regulation for bartenders as they now require in California.  Gloves are an illusion to cleanliness.

 

 

 

Zen And The Art Of Bartender Maintanence

April 16, 2014
tags: , ,

In the 26 years I’ve been in the biz I have trained almost every aspect of the bar and restaurant industry.  I  started as a busboy and dishwasher/  I went from  there to cooking, then to front of the house where I trained as a server, host and eventually a bartender.  I have a good bit of management experience as well ( actually folks I have trained are now owners and partners in multiple restaurants).  I even spent some time facilitating and teaching in outdoor experiential programs which contributes a lot to my management style (drives my bosses crazy though).

Why am I giving out this resume?  Well in all the time and all the things I have learned over the years.  In all the ups and downs, the goods and the bads, I have learned a couple  of things that I wish I had known early on when I first got started.  Many probably did but I didn’t listen because I didn’t plan on being a food and beverage guy as a career, but here I am 26 years later.  When I did decide this was my vocation I began to listen closer.  And in the past couple weeks as I am  training a new staff at Secreto I am reminded of the things I have learned and the things taught to me that I want to pass on to them.

1. Good insoles are essential.  Many talk about the right shoes and that is correct to a point.  In the F&B world slip resistant shoes are a must, and the style should reflect the uniform or the requirements of the uniform standard.  But that is where it ends.  My podiatrist will be thee first to tell you that the most important thing is what is inside the shoe: the insole.  Skip Dr. Scholl’s and all that crap.  Trust me here.  Drop three time the money and get good insoles for your feet.  In the biz we are required to be on our feet for 6-12 sometime more hours at a time on tile, brick wood, and stone floors contorting our bodies in very unnatural ways.  After a while, the body gets used to it, but as you get older it will catch up.  I am 45 and I am feeling it.  See a foot doctor and ask about what is best.

2. Mise en Place: French culinary tern fro ‘everything has its place’.  Where you found it put it back there each time every time.  It will keep you organized because you know where it should be.  Especially important if you work with other people behind the bar.  They will expect it to be in its place as you should.  When you have to search you are wasting time and hurting customer service.

3. Balance service and showmanship: The 80’s taught us that everyone love a show from behind the bar ( enter Tom Cruise)).  The show doesn’t have to be bottle flipping, but flair is definitely a customer draw,, whatever that flair is.  But remember the show is there to entertain the guest, not distract from the service off the guest.

4. Promote responsible drinking on both sides of the bar: many people think that because we work with booze, know a lot about booze, and can mix cool drinks with booze that we can out drink everyone.  Let’s turn this around….is a doctor good at health care because he or she has tried to contract every disease possible?  NO!  A doctor’s vocation is to promote a healthy lifestyle.  As a bartender we work with a drug.  It is a legal drug but nonetheless a drug that affect the way a person acts thinks and behaves.  We, like doctors are responsible to the people we serve.  We as bartenders create a happy party good time atmosphere but on duty we have to also protect our customers from over indulgence.  We also have to set the example from the other side of the bar.  Am I comparing alcohol service to medical malpractice?  Yes! Bottom line: create the party and be the life of the party behind the bar or in front of it, but be responsible.

5. Plan you time off like you plan your shift.  This one is big.  It is especially important of managers, operators and owners.  We work in one of he  highest stress environments there is.  We need time to decompress.  It is easy to get to a couple days off and want to do nothing but veg on the couch and watch a couple movies.  Problem is that the subconsious is still working and is not distracted enough to allow that decompression.  Whatever it is fro you, make plans on your days off to do things that you enjoy so you can let go of the work time and relieve the stress.

6.  Work to live;don’t live to work.  We do this because we love it. WE GET PAID TO HANG OUT IN A BAR!  What could be better?? But it is a means to an end.  But it is a job.  It could be a vocation.  But how many priests are covered to cross tattoos?  Not many.  Love and believe in what you do, but remember that a vocation is a part of who you are, it is not ALL that you are.  A good friend reminded me of this the other night, and asked me to re-examine the past couple of years of my life and she was right.  I lost sight of this one very slowly to a point of meltdown.  I love what I do.  I serve people in a bar and I do some fun and cool drinks.  It is part of my passion, but not all of it.  I put all I have into it while I am working but when I am not behind the wood there are other passions I want to cultivate (see point number 4).

I have made every one of these mistakes in my time, and some still continue to challenge me, but life and passion is a journey to be enjoyed no matter the success or failures that come along.

So find the balance.  It is there.  And even if you are not a career F%B person these points will serve you ell no matter where you go in life.  And to all those who have mentored me (Phil, Jeff, Sara, Matt among many) I hope that I have given alittle to those who I have mentored over the years

 

St. Patrick’s Day the Right Way

March 7, 2014

I love this day.  It is a day of celebration of all the contributions that the Irish brought and contributed to America.  St. Patrick’s Day is now celebrated in Ireland from tourism pressure, it was previously a religious holiday.

There are some things that I don’t care for when celebrating St. Paddy’s.  The stereotypes of drunken debauchery,fighting along with the obnoxious display of clothing promoting this kind of behavior.  It’s  like wearing a big Afro wig on MLK day.  Just not cool.

There are some right ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day that honor the spirit of Ireland and show respect for all the things that this wonder culture has to offer.

One of them is whiskey making.  The Irish (and Scottish) settling in the Appalachian regions were the first to bring whiskey making to the U.S.  Let’s take a look at where they learned it.  Irish whiskey in the U.S. was limited for many years to the two big names (you know them) but in the past few years a plethora of new products have swept into the market elevating this spirit category to and pushing Irish Whiskey to the forefront.  Most Irish whiskies we’ve seen in the past were blends, but nowadays the are many amazing simgle malt Irish whiskies that truly showcase the Emerald Isle’s ability to make great craft spirits as well.

ImageTake Knappogue 12 year for instance: triple distilled single malt aged in bourbon barrels. Pale gold in color the elegantly light whiskey stands on it’s own with hints of spice and fruit.  Along side this one is Knappogue 14 year Twin Wood.  This amazing little beauty is also a single malt that is aged in a combination of bourbon and oloroso sherry barrels.  The sherry barrel and the extra two years adds a smoothing depth to the juice with being overpoweringly sweet and truly showcases their motto “Passion for Perfection”

Now if by chance you are like me and have to make everything into a drink, give Clontarf 1014 and  Celtic Honey Liqueur a try.

Irish Kiss

  • 2 oz Clontarf 104 whiskey
  • 3/4 oz Celtic Honey Liqueur
  • 1/4 oz dry vermouth
  • 2 dashes Whiskey Barrel Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garish with lemon twist.

So this St. Patrick’s Day celebrate what is good and true of Ireland.

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