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Know thy Bartender as thy Chef

February 8, 2009

Don’t mistake this for one of those posts about calling a bartender “bar chef”. It’s not.


Working in restaurants the past twenty years, I have always been instructed on the chef’s cuisine, favorite ingredients, style of cooking, schooling, training, mentors, employment history, even his favorite color.  This, pending on the establishment, is all important to know for the front of the house staff as guests frequently ask questions about this.


But what happens when they ask about the bartender…?


The other night, a guest asked their server,” What is your bartender’s specialty?”  Their server stumbled out an adequate response, but did not answer the question.  So this got me thinking if any of the servers I work with could really answer that inquiry about me, and other ways to respond to a somewhat left field question.


One way to go on this is to forge an answer from the house’s drink menu giving a generic blurb like,” we specialize in margaritas.”  That way the guest is given a specific item though it may not actually be the bartender’s specialty.


Another, and better, way to go would be to know if the bartender had created any of the cocktails on the drink menu.  That would be specific, tangible, and make a good impression not only for the server, but the bartender as well.


A third way to hit this up would be to ask the bartender what he or she is in the mood to pour, or if he or she has a drink they would like to feature during service.  This gives the bartender a chance to expo a new creation, and again gives the guest a specific item to entice the guest that asks.


A last way, is to know your bartender. Maybe not to the detail as you do this captain of the kitchen, but at least have some detail as to the style of drinks that the bartender enjoys so the guest is as intrigued by ordering a drink as he/she is ordering the entrée.


The guest asking this question to the server is looking for their libation to be a part of their meal.  They are looking to be dazzled not only by what they eat but also what they drink.  They want to be treated to a complete dining experience.


Now in all fairness to the servers who have to put up with me, I always have something brewing, fermenting, or distilling in my head, and I am constantly bombarding them with drinks, history, facts, and follies.  So I do understand that this can be a difficult question to answer when I am in the bar.


A cocktail can be as important to a meal as the plate it’s served on.  And the person behind that cocktail as important to the guest experience as the chef in the kitchen.  My appeal to all who work in the service industry: know thy bartender as thy chef.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jen Johnson permalink
    February 8, 2009 4:40 pm

    Kudos…bartenders are highly underestimated! Don’t just try to get on our good side to get a free cocktail, but learn to appreciate the fact that we are masters of our craft (I suppose that is generous…some of us are masters) and can take your drinking adventure to a new level of pleasure! So SF barman…what is your specialty? I look forward to having it!

  2. February 9, 2009 8:08 am

    Thanks Jen! I look forward to you having one.

    There are several drinks posted throughout my blog, and I am currently working on a page that will have those recipes condensed down for quick reference. And there will be an entire page dedicated to “Smoked” recipes as well, so be sure to check back!


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