By any other name…

Unless your reason for entering a bar is to meet someone in a tryst, to go undercover for the C.I.A. or to sit by yourself in the corner and cry in your beer, then “You wanna go where everybody knows your name.” For, just like the message in that theme song from Cheers, camaraderie is usually the name of the game and it helps to pull up a stool where you are known. But if your name is not on everyone’s lips… you’re at best a semi-regular… do you know what throws down the welcome mat just as effectively? A bartender knowing the name of your drink instead. If you don’t believe me, check out this little exchange of a few weeks back. It surprises even me.

This couple in their early sixties came in, having only been in once before, and the time of that initial visit was almost a year ago. So they slid onto their stools, handed me two warm smiles, then the woman put down her purse and leaned in to order. “I’ll have a Pinot Noir,” she said, taking the lead in their dance, but before her husband could follow I quickly cut in. “And are you still a J & B rocks, Sir, with a twist?” Well, after picking them both off the floor (so to speak) they recovered enough to have the following conversation…

Him: “Jesus, man, you remembered that? You re-mem-bered that?”

Me: “Based on the way you’re acting, looks like I did.”

Him: “But how? I was only in here the once and that was a year ago.”

Her: (teasing) “Are you sure about that, dear? Are you sure it was only the once?”

Me: “I’m sure of it, Ma’am, I met him the time the two of you came in last year.”

Him: “But how do you remember one guy, one drink, almost a goddam year ago? I’m flabbergasted!”

Me: (serving up bartender B.S.) “Hey, classy people are memorable, what can I tell ya’?” Then, my healthy tip rather neatly assured, I moved down the bar leaving in my wake one very happy, very “welcomed” couple.

Now I don’t bring this up to brag, dear reader, (more B.S. there!) because I’m not really sure just how I was able to do that.  And though the story just told was clearly a home run… that rarest of feats in my game… what isn’t so rare are my frequent doubles and triples. Nailing the drinks of my occasionals… those people who come in every two or three months… is almost as common to me as that home run is rare. And I’ll bet almost every other bartender can make the same claim.

Names? That’s a different story. If I don’t write the names at the top of the tabs of the people who don’t come in often, Ben will invariably become Barney, Joan will be addressed as Janet, and Luke will morph into Lenny or freaking Aloysius! Which brings me (maybe) to a theory on how this all works.

See, a drink somehow carries a built-in identity, it pigeonholes the person who is ordering, and when the person orders that drink an association is made. She’s a Sapphire and tonic, he’s a Johnny Black rocks… painting an image more vivid than Janet or Lenny. For you don’t actually “make” something based on a person’s name, it’s just a handle in the ether, but you do make something based on the name of a drink. You perform a thirty second task matching face with that task. And it sticks. At least that’s how I figure it, else how can a guy who can’t find his keys two or three times a day, do the stuff I just stated with any regularity?

Now where you don’t want use this drink memory prowess, a mistake I’ve made in the past, is when someone comes in with a client and wants to be low key.  “Hey, man, the usual? Belvedere martini straight up?” is not what the guy wants to hear when he’s wearing his serious suit. He doesn’t want it to look like your bar is his office and jumping the gun on his drink can often convey that. A furrowed brow and a detached delivery is usually the signal he gives, but if you miss that signal you’ve clearly blown the man’s cover.

Yes, to identify a drink when the name does escape is often the perfect equalizer. And a rose is a rose by any other name but a drink is definitely who you are when you walk into Bar-land.

So in closing (and if you feel like it) how about telling your friendly bartender who you are. In other words, if you have a regular drink tell us what it is. It might just give us a mental picture to have fun with. Are you a dirty martini? Are you a whiskey sour? Are you a pint of Guinness? Are you a Side Car? Are you (good grief!) a frothy Pink Squirrel? Just for the record… your friendly bartender happens to be Jack Daniels rocks.

Over and out from Bar-land… see ya’ next week-end!

PS: For those of you not familiar with Tony… my eighty five year-old colleague and walking malaprop… see my post of December 21st called “Say What?”. For those of you who are familiar, this just in…

The other night Tony had a disagreement over policy with our benevolent owner, a woman who inherited the business from her father, so to show his clear disgruntlement he declared the following. “I can’t believe you’re doing this. If your father was alive today he’d be rolling in his grave!”

43 Responses to “By any other name…”

  1. 1 Donna B. July 18, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Bless Tony! That one got the “what are you laughing at” from the next room.

    I’m a scotch rocks unless I go to a biker bar with my husband and then I drink beer because it’s usually so loud that’s what you’ll get no matter what you order.

    If I aim to get drunk (which I stopped actually aiming for 30 years ago) it’s a martini. Clean.

    With family at home, it’s wine. I’m a multi-faceted drinker.

  2. 2 leigh July 18, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    leigh is a long island iced tea kind of girl. but the champagne is coming out fairly soon too.

  3. 3 scribbler50 July 18, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Donna B.: It looks like you’ve got it covered on all fronts! And yes, Tony is a hoot.

    Leigh: That’s quite a transition… from the down and dirty Iced Tea to the classy bubbly. And speaking of the Long Island Iced Tea, I prefer to charge two dollars for the drink and six bucks for labor!

  4. 4 Comrade PhysioProf July 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Now where you don’t want use this drink memory prowess, a mistake I’ve made in the past, is when someone comes in with a client and wants to be low key. “Hey, man, the usual? Belvedere martini straight up?” is not what the guy wants to hear when he’s wearing his serious suit. He doesn’t want it to look like your bar is his office and jumping the gun on his drink can often convey that. A furrowed brow and a detached delivery is usually the signal he gives, but if you miss that signal you’ve clearly blown the man’s cover.

    Dude, that’s some subtle shit.

  5. 5 goosenyc July 18, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    California Chardonay for me!!!

  6. 6 Anonymoustache July 18, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Great post again, Scrib50!
    And Tony’s line is freaking hilarious—Yogi himself couldn’t have done better!

    A good scotch with a splash of water.

  7. 7 jc July 18, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    scrib, could you slide leigh-soon-to-be-PhD some bubbly on me? I’ll have a sweet tea, extra sweet, with a shot of Peach Schnapps added.
    This drink identity stuff reminds me of palm reading.

  8. 8 scribbler50 July 18, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Anonymoustache: You said it, Tony is Yogi Berra without the catcher’s mitt. I treasure every day I get to work with the guy.

    JC: The champagne has been sent, Leigh deserves it! And as far as the palm reading goes, “sweet tea with a shot of Peach Schnapps” says you’re going to throw “scones” at holy pictures. Or you’ve really gone soft!

  9. 9 JaJa July 19, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Scribbler – Let me chip in with jc on the bubbly for Leigh. Leigh, it’s chillin, let us know when we can pop the cork!

  10. 10 scribbler50 July 19, 2009 at 10:05 am

    JaJa: Done. Just waiting for the word when to pour…

  11. 11 Isis the Scientist July 19, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Fantastic post, Dr. Scribbler. Ping!

    See how easy that link was? 😉

  12. 12 leigh July 19, 2009 at 11:09 am

    hah, i never shy from the down and dirty. 😉 i do love the show a good bartender can make out of mixing my drink… happy to pay the labor for it!

    and thank you, friends… we’re down to about 2 weeks now.

  13. 13 scribbler50 July 19, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Isis: Bless you, dear friend, and thanks for the kind words over at your place. You’re too kind!

  14. 14 Katherine July 19, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    I used to be a Baileys rocks, moved on up to Peach Schnapps straight, sideways to Long Island Iced Teas, casually hung out at Vodka and Orange for a while, and now I’m usually Midori and Pineapple. Though I usually accept anything as a shot when someone else’s paying (unless it’s absinth). 3 Wise Men was pretty tasty.

    I’m not sure if Midori and Pineapple has a fancier name, but as different places call drinks different things I prefer to ask for what I know is in it. So what does that say about me?

  15. 15 scribbler50 July 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Katherine: It says you’re smart, that’s what it says. You’d be surprised how many variations there are on a single cocktail, so it’s good to specify the ingredients just to make sure. Even the ubiquitous Cosmopolitan I’ve seen made five or six different ways. By the way I’ve never heard of a name for your Midori and pineapple cocktail but it sounds a little sweet for my taste. Personally I would throw a dash of vodka in to cut it, that would make it close to the drink called the Melon-ball. The only dif being your pineapple instead of O.J. which the Melon-ball calls for. I also never heard of the drink 3 Wise Men either but I just looked it up and all I can say is you are one brave lady. That’s some serious stuff!
    Thanks for checking in.

  16. 16 LostMarbles July 19, 2009 at 9:00 pm


    I’m an amaretto sour.

    I’ll also second Katherine on the shots. My favourite is Liquid Cocaine. I already know what that says about me, mainly that I’m a masochist (It burns. It really, really burns).

  17. 17 scribbler50 July 19, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Amaretto sour – nice. Liquid Cocaine – vice. Yikes!!!

    Never had one, never made one. If not a masochist you’re certainly adventurous. I suspect it’s the Jaeger, by the way, contributing to that burn. “Water back, please!!!”

  18. 18 Pieter B July 20, 2009 at 3:51 am

    I’m usually a whisky drinker, Speysides my favorite, though if you’ve got Woodford Reserve Bourbon and not a great variety of Scotch, I’ll take that. Neat, tall soda back, easy ice. Sometimes a vodka martini, stirred, with a non-homeopathic quantity of vermouth and a twist, no olive. OJ-tequila once in a while, though at home red grapefruit is preferred. And if I’m going to be yakking with a bunch of science-y types, that calls for several pints of Newkie Broon. One at a time, of course.

    And send the hot scientist with the killer shoes a dirty martini on me

  19. 19 scribbler50 July 20, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Pieter B.: Sounds like you know what he’s doing, some very impressive brands there. Especially the Woodford Reserve. Newkie Broon I’m not familiar with, I’ll have to look into that one. And as for the woman with the killer shoes… I’m sending her several dirty martinis on both of us. (One at a time, of COURSE!)


  20. 20 scicurious July 20, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Sci is this! It was delicious!

    But it does depend on the circumstance. I used to be a dry vodka martini (so dry it is merely waved in the direction of the vermouth) with extra olives, but now PP has ruined me and I love Jameson on the rocks. When speaking with many scientists, however, it is best to stick with something light like a wheat beer. Sci is not old and grizzled enough to get drunk and STILL talk good science.

    I would bring some champagne for Leigh, but it appears she’s inundated. Slide that awesome chick some scotch for me.

  21. 21 scribbler50 July 20, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Sci: Well, well… it looks like you’ve arrived, my friend. Ohm’s had a Law, Einstein had a Theory and Sci has her very own cocktail Recipe! Check this out… I was Googling “Stonge’s Ginger” (I never heard of Stone’s Ginger so I misspelled it just like you did, putting a “g” after the “n”) and what to my wondering eyes should appear? The “Sci-Curiously Ginger Cocktail” that’s what. No need to rename it, your delightful concoction is already out there in cyberspace.

    PS: Be careful with that Jameson though, could cause excessive cussing… as one of our favorite physio prof’s will attest.

  22. 22 scicurious July 20, 2009 at 10:14 am

    YAY! Sci is important! More importantly, can you make it for me, Scrib? I think it’d be even better when made by my favorite bar-man.

  23. 23 Toaster July 20, 2009 at 10:29 am

    My standby drink depends on the social context at that time. Around scientists and superheroes, I go with a couple pints of Guinness and cinnamon graham crackers (if you see Toaster placing said crackers into said beer, it means n(pints) > 5 and it’s time to cut him off*). At slow dinners, I prefer generous volumes of neat whiskey.

    *Don’t be fooled by his ability to still speak accurately and eloquently about science.

  24. 24 scribbler50 July 20, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Toaster: Thanks for the heads up, the “accurate and eloquent” science talk would’ve fooled me indeed. That kind of stuff impresses me so, not knowing, I probably would’ve brought you more crackers. Got it, pal…. cracker dunkin’ means Toaster’s toast!

    Sci: If I ever go public with where I work, your friendly bartender would love to make you a Sci-Curiously Ginger Cocktail. You bring the St. Germain.

  25. 25 Jennifer July 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    This brings back memories from both sides of the bar…

  26. 26 Isis the Scientist July 20, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    It’s not so difficult to create your own drink. Isis the Scientist once did that. See?

    But, boy was I drunk by the end of the post.

  27. 27 scribbler50 July 20, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Isis: Loved the part where you, “asked for ‘Motherfucking Jameson’ but all they had was the regular kind”. Perfect!!!

  28. 28 Zan July 20, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Very few places seem to have heard of my favourite drink, the Moscow Mule. It makes me pout a little bit, but I’ll usually console myself with a nice dry cider or an unfiltered beer (Okanagan Spring’s Hefeweizen being my favourite).

  29. 29 chezjake July 20, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Hi Scrib,

    FYI, Pieter B’s “Newkie Broon” is local (Northumberland) speak for the hop-deprived Newcastle Brown Ale.

    As for me, after a misspent youth drinking Dewars/rocks/splash, I’ve toned down to a search for the best ales, preferably on tap, with an occasional single malt after dinner.

  30. 30 scribbler50 July 20, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Zan: I’ve heard of the Moscow Mule, problem is there are very few places (that I know of) that have ginger beer. Guess that’s why God created Okanagan!
    Thanks for checking in.

    Chezjake: Welcome back, Bud, and thanks for the info on Newkie Broon. I can always bank on you for a back story. I was a Dewar’s man myself once, Dewar’s and soda tall… tall so it would take me longer to get there. Didn’t want to leave the party too early.
    Good to hear from you.

  31. 31 bluefoot July 20, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    My preferred drink depends on the bar, the weather and my mood. When appropriate, my preferred is a peaty single malt (like Laphroaig or Lagavullin), or a Johnny Walker if the bar doesn’t have single malt. Also a Guiness or a good IPA. In the warm weather, it’s likely a vodka tonic or occaisionally a caipirinha.

    P.S. And somehow this post also reminds me of Wodehouse….referring to patrons of the bar in the Mulliner books by what they drink.

  32. 32 scribbler50 July 20, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Bluefoot: Two good choices there in the single malt category, we carry both. And yeah, I agree, vodka or gin and tonic are more summer-suited. But forgive my ignorance on the IPA, what is that?

    And as far as the Wodehouse association…. “Any association with him is most appreciated,” gushed a Jack Daniels over ice!

  33. 33 chezjake July 20, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    But forgive my ignorance on the IPA, what is that?

    Here I am with the explanation and the back story again. 😉

    India Pale Ale, so named by the Brits because it was first developed to survive the long, tropical ocean voyage to the troops in India during the 19th century. It’s magical preservative ingredient is nothing more than lots of extra hops. There’s been a great revival of various IPAs by American microbrewers in the past few years.

  34. 34 scribbler50 July 20, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    And here I am with another “thank you”, Chezjake! You’re the best!

  35. 35 ambivalent academic July 24, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    AA is a Bombay Sapphire G&T when it’s hot, and a Bunnahabhain neat when it’s not. Scribbler, if only I could find a bartender like you here in PhD city…I’d love to find a bar where anybody bothered to know my (drink’s) name.

  36. 36 scribbler50 July 24, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    AA: If you frequent a place on a semi-regular basis there’s no excuse for them NOT knowing your drink… I don’t get that. Unless they change bartenders every week! Good luck there, Sapphire, and thanks (as always) for checking in.

  37. 37 Donna B. July 24, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    I’m getting into ancient history here, but I remember fondly a bar near downtown Dallas that I and everyone else simply called Joe’s. It may have had another name and I’ve wracked my brain this week to think what it was.

    But Joe was the owner and it was his place. He looked like Peter Falk and Columbo was his behind the bar talent. His clientele were almost exclusively judges and lawyers and it was a place where newcomers had to be “introduced”. I was the guest of my brother, an appellate attorney. My second visit was six months after the first and Joe asked me if I still wanted scotch rocks.

    Since my jaw was in my lap, my brother answered, “she does.” I’d just moved to Dallas and I became a regular and could tell tales, but won’t. It probably wouldn’t matter now since all those judges and lawyers are retired or dead by now… but still, a confidence is a confidence. 🙂

    Joe died of cancer about 5 years later and the place closed. In essence, it really was all about him, you know?

  38. 38 scribbler50 July 25, 2009 at 2:52 am

    Donna B.: Wonderful stuff, thanks for passing that along. Yeah, there are places like that where the guy or the woman is the place and when they go so does the business. I often think of this reataurant called Elaine’s where I sometimes go, it’s hugely famous and she’s a legend, she’s also in her eighties and when she goes I can’t see the place keeping on. Sad.

  39. 39 Eugenie July 26, 2009 at 9:44 am

    I’m a rum and coke kind of girl, sometimes I’ll go for a midori sour. I’ve yet to start frequenting a particular bar yet, but the people at the dunkin dounuts I go to remember how to make my coffee and bagel which is pretty damn impressive.

  40. 40 scribbler50 July 26, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Eugenie: I love that, you’re huge at Dunkin’ Donuts! And it proves my point… regardless of where you are it’s nice to be remembered.

  41. 41 Candid Engineer July 26, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Late to the party, but it’s worth mentioning my love of lemon-drop martinis. When I’m in the mood to get sloppy and have lots of fun, though, the Irish gal in me adores her Irish Car Bombs. I usually ask the bartender for a dish rag to tuck into my shirt, and away I go! 🙂

  42. 42 scribbler50 July 26, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Candid: You’re not too late to the party, I haven’t given “last call” yet on this post. Thanks for checking in.

    But I have to admit, Irish Car Bombs are a lot more fun for the drinker than they are for the maker. What a mess! I hate the damn things. If you ever come to my joint you’re drinking lemon drop martinis… Cheers!

  1. 1 ScienceBlogs Channel : Life Science : Trackback on July 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm

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