“Shake, Rattle And Roil!”

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.

22 Responses to ““Shake, Rattle And Roil!””

  1. 1 chris December 11, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Really this isn’t new Scrib, remember the movie Cocktail? Kinda the same thing. I didn’t read the article but I’m assuming these are new bars trying their best to drum up business. Possibly due to the economy? Who knows. As for me personally I don’t want a show when I order a drink, I want the damn drink, maybe a conversation if neither of us are busy. BTW Scrib just how old are you if you don’t mind me asking? If you don’t want to say I understand, just curious. Have a good weekend.

  2. 2 scribbler50 December 11, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Chris: Of course performing behind the bar isn’t new, I saw “Cocktail” which is the worst movie ever made. But getting injured while performing that shtick IS new, at least as described in that article which is flat out nuts. And as far as my age is concerned, what’re YOU nuts??? 🙂

  3. 3 jc December 11, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Crazy monkey shake should be a drink, not a fucking bar dance! Hell no to Coyote Ugly 2.0.

    I wonder if there’s a mandatory tip added to the Tumblers’ service. I fail to see the benefit of drink acrobatics, other than the manly martyr bragging about being on the DL for making a banana daq while doing a keg stand 3/4 twist triple loop Boitano style resulting in a groin pull. [insert Tim Allen grunt]

  4. 4 scribbler50 December 11, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    jc: You’re a riot. I was going to insert one of those moves, a made up deal with gymnastics instead of ice skating, now I’m glad I didn’t as yours is funnier. Far funnier. {insert sigh} and thanks as always for your comment.

  5. 5 Ken December 11, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    If I want to go to a show, I go to the place called a theater. If I want a drink with a friend, or a drink by myself, or a drink with a total stranger with whom I strike up a conversation I go to a bar.

    I’ve been going to my favorite bar since Reagan was president. It’s a Greek place in the middle of a busy commercial street that serves our Famous Ivy League School and our Famous Art School. The only show there is the flat screen TV. The audio is always off. The bartenders are young and friendly and efficient.

    And yes, it has big plate glass windows. You can sit on your stool and watch the passing parade of the street, which never stops. The music is never too loud, and you can talk.

    In other words, it’s just a great bar.

  6. 6 Comrade PhysioProf December 12, 2010 at 8:09 am

    So how do *you* shake your martinis to avoid injury?

  7. 7 scribbler50 December 12, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Ken: Damn that sounds like a great bar. Good for you. I especially like the large windows to the street, even more than the large flat TV screen. Who needs a show on top of that?

    Comrade Physioprof: “How do you shake your martinis to avoid injuries?”
    Exactly unlike the guy pictured in the article. Obviously a lot of what he’s doing has to do with show more than substance, so every act is drawn out longer than necessary. Which heightens risk. And with the introduction of larger ice called Kold-Draft cubes (something I’ve never even heard of) they’re also bringing sound into the picture… (“ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk”!)… a rhythmic cadence which also garners attention. So he drags things out all the more to hold that attention.

    In actual answer to your question, Prof, (how do you avoid injury?) you give it a couple good shakes, pop the tumbler, separate and pour. That’s all. The way it’s always been done. Now can you still get injured from old school martini shaking? Yeah, over time maybe tennis elbow, but nothing like if you’ve just played the marimbas!

  8. 8 physiobabe December 12, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Loves me the ole’ saloon guy!

    Caio, cutie.

  9. 9 Petro December 12, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Get off of my lawn!


  10. 10 scribbler50 December 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    physiobabe: And he appreciates. Thanks, “babe”.

    Petro: I know, Grumpy McTavish, right? But I gotta call ’em as I see ’em.

  11. 11 Anonymoustache December 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Ah, so that’s how bartenders get on the PUP (physically unable to pour) list! Or I suppose if you had a constant TV update on these injuries at the bottom of the screen you could call it a PUB (physically unable to bartend) crawl…(i know, i know, that was bad, even for me…)
    Also, we need to come up with some good names for these injuries — Tanqueray elbow? Amaretto Heel?

  12. 12 scribbler50 December 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Anonymoustache: It’s halftime of the Steelers game so here I am doing “Comments” while I wait. Love “PUP”, like “PUB”, thoroughly enjoyed your injury list (Amaretto Heel is hilarious) and all I can add is Dewar’s Disc and maybe Sapphire Shoulder. Back to the game, Bro!!!

  13. 13 Jennifer December 13, 2010 at 8:54 am

    craft cocktails


  14. 14 scribbler50 December 13, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Jennifer: But how do you really feel? And could you say it with fewer words this time? 🙂

  15. 15 Scicurious December 13, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I’d rather have something made the old fashioned way! That is, until “craft cocktails” contain ACTUAL macrame and batik. 🙂

  16. 16 everythinginbetween December 13, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    My brother is refusing to try this new restaurant in Pittsburgh because to drink anything beyond beer or wine you are limited to the “craft cocktail” menu – you can order one of eight craft cocktails but you may not, for instance, order a plain martini or manhatten or what have you. This is just too much hubris for my brother. I agree with him in principle but will probably try the restaurant myself since it is in my neighborhood, and my neighborhood is sketchy, and I am determined to support it.
    Still, though – the idea rankles.

  17. 17 scribbler50 December 13, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Scicurious: I’m with ya’, my friend, though I might take up macrame’ just to get you to visit our bar. 🙂

    everythinginbetween: And though I agree wit YOU in principle… you want to support your local business… for them to not serve the traditional drinks as well is downright snobbery. Or foolish, especially if you’re struggling, because you’re alienating a lot of potential customers. Why not serve both? You can still be a specialty store yet carry the staples.
    Thanks, Courtney, always appreciate words from the old home front.

  18. 18 HyeFye December 14, 2010 at 11:54 am

    I’m feeling old-school myself these days, having watched my local (as the Brits say) recently go from what’ll-it-be-pal to mixology as performance art. I get exhausted just watching all that shaking.

    That’s when an equally exhausted Mrs. HyeFye asked me what the deal was with all that shaking. But I only work my side of the stick, so I turned to the miracle of the Google.

    Hope you don’t mind a link, Scrib, but this is great for the geek in all of us:


    Scientists study shaking and stirring, complete with data and charts!

    My favorite line: Shaking for more than 15 seconds does nothing. The “style” of the shake does not matter in the slightest as long as you’re actually mixing it up.

    Sorry, torque guys, you’re on the DL for nothing.

  19. 19 scribbler50 December 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    HyeFye: No I don’t mind the link, in fact thanks. Lots of good stuff here. I haven’t read it all yet but I’ll put on my white smock, grab my clip board and get on it. And as far as the “longer than 15 seconds” business goes, as I suspected and you confirmed, that’s really more to do with performance.
    Thanks for this, man, I’ll check it out.

  20. 20 Irishirritant December 15, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Plymouth on the rocks with olives…wouldn’t want to hurt a bar man.
    I hope this insanity deflates as quickly as the local dome, and folks can just get back to honest drinking and proper bar behavior. (No, I’m a Packer fan.)
    Thanks, all the best.

  21. 21 scribbler50 December 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Irish: Plymouth on the rocks it is… I think I can handle it.
    Meanwhile, Packer fan, bad news about Aaron Rodgers, hope his (second) concussion isn’t serious.

  22. 22 Chris April 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Nixon! That was Nixon, nor Kennedy. 😉

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