Saturday, April 12, 2014

:: twelve buzz-worthy boston bartenders ::

MC Slim JB bestowed a great honor by including me in his article Pouring Reign: Twelve Buzz-worthy Boston Bartenders Spill All in the Improper Bostonian. The magazine itself comes out Monday but the online version came out last night! Check out the link for the interviews and the photos of myself and 11 other Boston bartenders who Slim picked out, but here are some of the interview questions that ended up on the cutting room floor (or were greatly abridged):

Measure or free-pour?
I originally thought I was only going to jigger everything, but after working a few busy brunches, I got tired of the amount of washing it took to get all traces of serrano pepper-infused mezcal that we use in our Mezcal Mary out of a jigger. I tested out my free pour, and my count is pretty solid for a 2 ounce pour. I will not free pour for anything other than simple drinks like Highballs and Bloody Marys though.

Most annoying customer behavior?
Impatience, feelings of entitlement, and lack of sense of humor when things get busy. If guests want a more perfect experience, they should go on the off hours and slower nights. Then again, that suggestion would fall on deaf ears to those types.

What’s the best day of the week and time of day for a customer to engage you in a leisurely, educational five-minute conversation about drinks?
Lately, I work mostly day shifts during the week that only can get busy during the lunch burst and the pre-dinner rush. Still, I can generally find time to talk to guests at length save for some Fridays, holidays, and brunch shifts, especially if they are fine with interruptions as I attend to drink tickets and other guests. (Postnote: since I did the interview, I gained a semi-regular Wednesday night 6-10pm shift -- check the OnTheBar app for confirmation.)

What’s your typical end-of-shift drink?
When I have worked nights, it has been Fernet Branca and/or a shift beer from our bottle and cans collection. During the day, my shift drinks have to be done elsewhere. Often, I just wait until I get home, but on a bad day, it's often stopping in somewhere close by or on the way home for a beer unless I can think of an out of the way place that has a new cocktail on their menu to check out for the blog.

Dr. Bartender, what’s the best cure for my hangover?
For settling the stomach, ginger beer or Angostura Bitters works well, as does dried candied ginger. For the headache, Advil and coffee will be your friend. Getting fluids is key, but water alone will not provide the lost electrolytes. I am a fan of toughing it out, but if the malaise cannot be shaken by mid-afternoon, sometimes a single drink can even things out.

What bartender or bar manager, currently working or retired, is your first-ballot lock for entry into Boston’s Bartending Hall of Fame?
John Gertsen for having a vision and enacting on it to elevate Boston’s stature in the cocktail world, and Josh Childs for showing that keeping it simple and focusing on warmth and hospitality is just as important as what is in the glass if not more so.

Offer a sentence or two of advice to aspiring bartenders:
Two sayings that stick in my head are Sam Treadway's "Bartending is about watering down spirits and babysitting adults" and John Gertsen’s "If you know where everything lives and know how to smile, you'll be a great bartender." Both of those sayings remove the ego-driven ideals that plague a lot of bartenders, for a great bartender is one that makes the guests feel special and not one that reinforces the idea that the bartender is the star. And lastly, always keep learning. Read, taste, discuss. And know when guests just want a drink instead of even a hint of pleasantries much less a lecture.

Say a few words about your most influential bartending mentor; name them if you like, too:
I would be remiss if I did not name Sam Gabrielli who helped shape me from a restaurant industry newbie into a bartender. I am also thankful for fellow bartender Adam Hockman; when I have complained about certain situations, instead of just giving me a "that sucks" reply, he offers solid advice gathered from his years of experience behind the stick.

What's the most surprisingly useful life skill that bartending has taught you?
Always be closing. Bartending is a job that relies on salesmanship, and less about glorified ideals. Success at previous jobs meant completing projects by a deadline, but that was not tied to my salary which was pretty much fixed. One of the barbacks agreed that learning to close is an important life skill, whether for money or for romance, that should be learned as early in life as possible. Indeed, the movie Glengarry Glen Ross has taught me that coffee’s for closers.

1 comment:

MC Slim JB said...

Thanks for posting this, Fred! Even having begged my editors for more length (which they generously granted), there was way too much good stuff in the interview responses I got from you and the other 11 bartenders featured in the piece. So many thoughtful, entertaining answers had to be cut or condensed. This is a great example of what I reluctantly had to leave out.