Just when your friendly bartender fears he’s a dinosaur within his profession, an “old school” guy confronted with new math, something comes along that makes him glad that he is. That he is from another era and that he works in a place that doesn’t require an advanced degree in alchemy, or a tumbling degree from an offshoot of Circque du Soleil. And not because of the age-old myth that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, but because it’s getting dangerous out there in Bar Land. Real dangerous! For in addition to the usual perils of the gig which have plagued the profession for years… a necktie grabbed, a flying bottle, the rampaging wife, lied to on the phone, who shows up to find that her husband is indeed there… barmen are dropping like flies from their very own hand. And it borders on the comical…
It has come to my attention via (an article in The New York Times), that cocktail making in certain establishments is close to an Off-Broadway show, and the drinks being made in those bars are now called “craft cocktails”. That’s right, not drinks but “craft cocktails!”, as if putting the drink together involves fucking macrame’. Or a keen knowledge of batik or earthenware casting! But, alas, also abound at this time on these Off-Broadway stages, where these “artists” are shaking and stirring out their master works, they’re also putting their careers at risk for their art. And here’s how…
Apparently in preparing these craft cocktails, again according to the article, injuries ranging from popped tendons to tennis elbow, rotator cuff to wrist and forearm injuries, not to mention the damage to income from work lost in rehab, have made the damage sound like a Monday morning football report. The veritable Inactive List. And sadly for those who’ve joined this cast (who’ll likely end up in a cast), too often it’s going to be a limited engagement at best. A woefully brief run not destined for Broadway. Or to compare it to the sports world again… a brilliant rookie season cut short by injury. And here’s where the crazy comes in and why that’s the case.
When I read the part about a shop conversation, or argument, which better describes it, between bartenders who disagreed on their shaking processes… “speed-versus-thrust-versus-torque-versus-twist-or-roll”, I thought I was reading an article in Popular Mechanics. Or The International Journal of Fluid Dynamics. And therein lies the danger. For these kids in trying their best to please are “torquing” their very asses right off of the stage. And it’s fucking ridiculous. Settle down, boys and girls, settle down!!!
I mean we’re not talking lift-off to the moon we’re talking cocktails. Am I right? And if preparing those various cocktails involves hiring a physical therapist, or flying a freaking consultant in from the BALCO company, you might just want to rethink your long range goals here. Because if you’re only in this for the short term… you’re an actor or actress just trying to pay your bills… then shake and torque away til you’re blue in wrist. Or ’til Broadway beckons. But if you think you might get to like this stuff… a decent income which ain’t going away (people will always drink), free meals savored each night from a well-trained chef, and all kinds of interesting people filling your evenings… then you might want to pick a bar that is far less theatrical. Or less dangerous! Cause if you’re already blowing your elbow out over a fucking banana daiquiri, or dislocating your shoulder on a sour apple-tini, it’s time to recast your role before it’s too late. Where “shaken not stirred” is not a decision where your health has to be considered, but simply a customer preference with equal non-risk.
Which brings me to the other business via this article. And that involves stirring. When these guys and gals are spared the risk of having to shake their drinks, which means not having to say things like this which I quote… “Eventually I had to drastically alter my shaking motion. Now I’m shaking around chest height. If you have poor ergonomics and poor form, you’re going to be hurting the next day.”… here’s the consideration regarding the stirring process. For maximum effect when preparing a drink they’re asked to stir at least “thirty to sixty revolutions”. That’s right, thirty to sixty revolutions for your drinking pleasure!!! Now if you take that task to its absolute max as directed, the full thirty-plus-thirty and not a stir less, think about just how long that stirring might take? Not in real time but in feel time. When you have “thirty to sixty” patrons clamoring for liquid. Torqued not stirred!!! It would feel like you’re stirring a crock pot set for dawn… that’s how long!
Whenever I cover these topics which I certainly have in the past, these trends which have come into Bar Land replacing the old, I always think of the guys I met starting out. Guys like (Jimmy). And I think to myself while pondering that fact just how he would react in these new situations. How he’d react if asked about his personal “ergonomics”. Or his “torque”. Or his “twist and roll”, for crying out loud, or how he’d react if you asked him for sixty stirs. Well I’ll tell you how he’d react, you’d be sitting on the curb within sixty seconds after thirty revolutions out the door, and maybe with a lump on your head for your “ego-nomics”.
But as I’ve also said in the past when I’ve (discussed?) these changes in Bar Land, I don’t mean to sound like Father Time or to put down those who do this, in fact, God bless them, it’s just that I find what they do to be downright silly. Or bullshit. And if actual physical harm results from having to “perform” these drinks, and it’s required by management, then it’s no longer silly or bullshit but downright abuse.
So in closing “let me say this about that” (to quote Kennedy). Cheers indeed to this new breed of bartender, I do wish these young Turks well, it’s just that I’m glad I’m part of the old guard. That’s all. I’m a saloon guy not an Off-Broadway show, a pourer not a performer, and even if starving I wouldn’t want to join that cast. It’s far less pain for the gain over here, even though my shoulder hurts as I type this! 🙂
See ya’ next week-end,
PS: Thanks, Mitch, for the heads-up on that article.