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Which came first the bartender of the guest?

April 29, 2011

I spend a ton of my time researching drinks, cocktail history, and techniques to make better drinks, and to bore my customers with stories of the why’s and where-fore’s of mixology.  And I’m not the only one; there are hundreds if not thousands worldwide that are as I am to the art and craft of mixing drinks.

Being a bartender, as a profession, has gained quite a bit of popularity in the past few years.  It is become an honorable profession versus a second job to get through school.  I like that.

Social Networking sites (and previously forums) have allowed those of us who are career bartenders to get in touch with each other, share ideas, recipes, ask question, teach and learn from each other.  I like that.

In turn, we have been able to redefine the world of mixology and the world of drinking for our customers as well.  There is more knowledge, and better drinks to serve.  Customers through their bartender are just having a drink, but having a drink experience.  I like that.

But, some bartenders have become elitists, shurking customer requests, refusing to make drink they themselves deems unworthy, or insisting that the customer drink what the bartender wants to make, or even denying an entire spirit category.  I don’t like this.

Ever been in a restaurant and asked for a substitution on a menu item and been told that the chef will not make changes?  Or been in a Steakhouse and ordereda filet but was told that the kitchen will ot cook that steak over medium rare?  I have one simple question that I asked when I was told this:

May I speak with the chef personally so I can ask him who the fuck he thinks he is????

The bar is the same thing.  Yes a “true” martini is made with gin(not vodka) , vermouth (not just a glance toward France), orange bitters (yes, bitters),  and stirred.  And this is how I will make it, UNLESS someone asks for it shaken.  Is shaking a martini “proper” techinique?  No.  Am I gonna refuse to shake it?  No, again!!

Now maaaaybe this customer may be open to a second drink with my recommending that he/she try their martini stirred.  Then again maybe not.  That’s up to me during our conversation to test the waters and decide.  I have to first gain their trust and confidence.

Simply put, we are the hospitality industry, servers of the public, and professional in our field. The public relies on us and we rely on them.  It is a symbiotic relationship.  And we should always, act with that in mind.  We have all heard the Golden Rule of customer service,”The customer is always right.”  I have always though that to be very one-sided, personally.  Years ago a mentor and friend said to me,”The customer is not always right, but they are never wrong.”

I liked that.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark Turrieta permalink
    May 1, 2011 4:09 pm

    I agree w/ you to an extent. My maxim is, “The guest is not always right, but they do come first.” It seems to me that as practitioners of the art, one of our responsibilities is to the art. We are tasked w/ educating and guiding the guest through their drinking experience w/ a mind toward the history AND trends of the industry.

    Would I shake a martini for a guest? I think only after determining that he’s aware of what that will do to the gin.

  2. May 1, 2011 4:47 pm

    Very true. But if the guest is one that is non-responsive, set in their ways, and determined, it is not our place to deny their wish. Usually I will do make the drink as requested, and either I or one of my other guests will break the ground for “refinement”

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