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
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.
Take 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.
- 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.
Ever wonder why the ice you make at home is cloudy and the ice you get in a bar is clear? There is reason for this. Ice machines used in your local watering hole are typically made from filtered water and made in sheets meaning the water is in a constant flow over the vertical trays which pushes out air.
But do not fret as you can make clear ice at home. Here’s how:
First start with a good filtered bottle water. Pour the water into a sauce pan and bring it to a boil. let cool to room temperature then boil it again. After the water is cooled a second time pour into your ice mold or tray and place in your freezer. If you are using ice trays, cover loosely with plastic wrap to keep the circulating air away from your water. Also only fill your trays about 3/4 in each compartment because the water will expand as it freezes. Wait 24 hours and your ice is ready.
Personally I like ice molds. I have a few different ones from 1 1/4 in squares to big ice ball molds when drinking spirits on the rocks. Recently I discovered Arctic Chill’s Ice Ball Makers. These large 2 1/2 inch diameter spheres melt slower than conventional ice and though some dilution is desired, regular tray ice simply melts too fast for my preferences (save them for mixing). They silicone material seals well and do not leak like some I have used. Once I open one I immediately fill it back so to have ice the next day
When using these ice mold, be sure not to fill them completely full leaving about 1/2-3/4 inch of room fro expansion. Because these mold are blue, it is a little tough to see exactly, so I simply fill them with a funnel then pour off about an ounce of water.
Arctic Chill Ice Ball Makers are available on Amazon for $9.99 for a pack of 2, are dishwasher safe and carry a lifetime guarantee.
Enjoy your next “on the rocks’ experience and give Arctic Chill a try.
Last March I spent two of the most incredible and life changing weeks in Ireland. Yes I was there for St Paddy’s, but that was not the pivotal moment nor even the reason I was there: pure coincidence.
There is something different about Ireland….something magical. The hospitality and general good nature of the Irish is unbeatable (where Southern hospitality gets its roots). The smiles I saw on people’s faces glowed as I toured all around from Dublin, Middleton, Cork, Cobh, Doolin (especially), Glencolmcille, into Belfast and back into Dublin (yeah I left a couple out). The land is beyond any green imaginable, the air is rich, the music made me want to dance like no one was looking, the food was filling, and then there was the whiskey. Everywhere you look there is unsurpassed beauty, and the folks there richly jolly especially for a country that has been through what Ireland has endured, and survived.
The experience was one of great joy for me that changed the way I see myself and the world. My thirst for more was unquenchable and I didn’t want to leave. There was no way anyone could capture this feeling in pictures or nay media……..
Then a couple months ago I was surfing Facebook and saw an ad for Tullamore DEW Irish Whiskey that did the impossible. This 2:34 minute spot did what I thought could not be done. I watched with tears in my eyes as I began to experience the same beauty I felt standing amidst the grassy knolls of the Emerald Isle watching the commercial.
The featured song, “The Parting Glass” dates to the 1850’s and is truly one of my favorites. If you recall, I did a drink a couple years ago named after that song: a drink meant as a nightcap to top of the evening as one departs from friends.and heads to slumber.
I watched this Tullamore DEW ad over and over again and shared it with anyone and everyone near my office. Still now each time I watch it takes me back to a special place in myself I discovered on my travels in Ireland.
So this St. Patrick’s Day season, I invite you to raise a glass to family and friends, to loves and losses and ……to change…..
For more visit Tullamore DEW
The Parting Glass (2 drinks)
- 4 oz Tullamore DEW Irish Whiskey
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1 oz Drambouie
- 4 dashes orange bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into two chilled cocktail glass. Garnish each with an orange twist. This must always be shared with a friend!!
These guys are doing it right! The Smith family lives on the island of Maui and wanted to start a eco-friendly sustainable business that reflected their love and respect for nature, so looking at what their home could offer the created Ocean Vodka.
Ocean is one of the most unique vodkas I have tasted in my career and for many reason. To start the water base is a mineral water mined from 3,000 feet below sea level. It is then desalinated by reverse osmosis leaving all other minerals in the water (potassium, magnesium, and calcium). This imparts an amazingly fun mouth feel and flavor not found in any other vodka I have tried.
Next, Ocean Vodka is a sugar cane based vodka: only one in the world as a matter of fact. This adds a mild and pleasant sweetness to the juice that sets it apart and that I find very exciting.
But the best thing about Ocean Vodka is the efforts of sustainability. The distillery and farm and 100% solar energy run, the cane is GMO free and organic, and it is hand harvested. Natural light fills the offices and all paper and packaging is post consumer recycled. To top that off, the bottles used for Ocean Vodka are 60% recycled glass. THIS, my friends is not only a great vodka, but a company that cares about how they affect the world around them.
Retail price averages at $33.00 and Ocean Vodka is available in 32 states currently. And as soon as New Mexico figures out they need to be number 33, Ocean Vodka will be a permanent addition to Secreto and my home bar
I have used many muddlers in my career; some good, some bad, and some should be banned from existence. When I find a muddler that works well, is comfortable in my hand, and does the extraction work for me, I stick with it.
Arctic Chill is a muddler that does just this! Made from dishwasher safe and sanitary stainless steel with a nylon head,has a very ergonomic feel in my hand and is easy to work with. The ribbed head is unique in that the ribs themselves are big enough to muddler hard fruits but not so rigid that they easily tear herbs. That feature I REALLY liked as many muddlers are kind of all or nothing at all.
Another fantastic feature is Arctic Chill Muddlers come with a lifetime guarantee. Yep is you somehow manage to screw up the stainless steel or if the nylon head gives out, you can get a new one at no cost. That’s a pretty good deal for the price (which by the way is $13.95)
Order yours or one for your favorite cocktail geek from Amazon. And yes you still have time to get it before Christmas.