Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cocktail

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"I am the last barman poet / I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make / Americans getting stinky on something I stir or shake / The sex on the beach / The schnapps made from peach / The velvet hammer / The alabama slammer. / I make things with juice and froth / The pink squirrel / The 3-toed sloth. / I make drinks so sweet and snazzy / The iced tea / The kamakazi / The orgasm / The death spasm / The Singapore sling / The dingaling. / America you've just been devoted to every flavor I've got / But if you want to got loaded / Why don't you just order a shot? / The bar is open." - Cocktail

I...am a bartender. We are those angels of mercy who wait upon those afflicted with that most terrible of maladies...life. We are the guardians of the castaway spirits; the ne'er do wells; the poets; the prophets; the weapons of wall street; the idle; the lusty; and any and all who heed the call of happy hour. I am one of a brotherhood of night crawlers and men and women at their drinking post. I'm a 'slinger' suffering from bouts of 'flair'...a ready joke...a light for a smoke. A smile. And an ear...

I have been bartending for about 15 years now. It's not really about the money, although a good bartender in the right place can make a good deal of that. In fact, a good bartender in the right venue can earn six figures or more for half the work and time of other professions. But if you are a real bartender, then you'll understand that the money is a perk to the profession.

Over the years I have owned 5 bar/restaurants. I have opened a couple of other bars for friends and freelanced behind 3 or 4 other bars. I have made good money owning bars and lost money to bad partners and the odd criminal along the way. It is the nature of the business.

I didn't start off in life as a bartender. I was accepted at Johns Hopkins but I didn't like the sight of blood, so medicine just wasn't in the cards for me. I studied psychology in college but made a living in business for myself so I just brought the therapy to the bar...and added a shot or two.

I remember seeing the movie 'Cocktail' with Tom Cruise as a kid. It must have made more of an impression on me than I'd like to admit. At that age, I guess I liked the idea of dispensing umbrella laden drinks over a cabana bar to cute young twenty somethings.

I have owned other businesses over the years than bars and continue in my entrepreneurial spirit. But bars are ageless...and in them you just seem to age...less. I have always enjoyed the immediate reward I get when I pass a fresh martini or highball along. I don't seem to get the same rush from sitting at my desk and working on my other company's sales logs. No. There is just something about bartending.

Let's face it. Above all, bartending is social. Every day that accountants or lawyers or other hapless victims of the daily races finish their work, you'll find them hustling up alongside the neighborhood bar...girlfriends in sight...wives in tow. I just start there to begin with and cut out the work in the middle.

You meet a lot of interesting drunk people in a bar. Over the years, I have met rock stars, famous actors and actresses, writers, sports figures, politicians, gangsters and headliners. I've listened intently to all of their stories. And I have found that, on the other side of the bar, we are all really the same.

Yes. There is wisdom to be found in a bar. Few men or women are more worldly than bartenders. We get to see a lot. We experience the best that people have to offer...as well as the worst.

Nevermind the cliche's. Not all bartenders are drinkers. Not all bartenders sleep around. Not all bartenders only bartend. Bartending is just something that gets into your system like music does. When you find that you can play an instrument...you play it.

Never trust a bartender who doesnt drink. I drink the occasional beer or glass of wine. If it's hot outside I'll relish a good Captain and Coke ...even a Pina Colada! Still, a good many veteran tenders like myself don't really drink all that much. Give me a diet coke or a chocolate milk at the end of the day and I'm good. Face it. We're around alcohol more than most people...and anything gets old.

There are few professions more honest in execution than bartending. You give people what they want. And you do your best to make them happy while you're doing that. A good drink is never an empty promise. And a shot at the right time might just make someone's day. We all keep a 'Bartender's Bible' close. Bartending is true religion...to the faithful.

Whatever we do in life...we should insist on having fun doing it. Maybe I'll wear out one day and cave to the mediocrity of invoices and whatnot in my other business. Until then however, I'll do my best to pour some life into a shaker and mix it up a bit across the bar.

You might just find me tending bar at a modest cabana bar on some beach somewhere one day. God I hope so.

I'll fix something special for you, just the way you like it. After all, like everyone else in the world, I knew you were coming.


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