From Behind the Stick: Ten Reasons Why I Love Bartending
Recently in the New York Post and on Jezebel.com there have been a few concerning articles that have severely influenced the public's perception of the bartender's role. Titles such as "10 things the bartenders hates about you" not only portray bartenders as individuals with attitudes who hate their jobs and their guests, but also compromises the integrity of this career which is a source of pride for many bartenders across the country. These type of published pieces not only anger me, but also bring so much shame to an industry that possesses boundless creativity, positivity and intelligence. This is not a job for everyone. Not all people are meant to work as bartenders, similar to the fact that I am never supposed to be a doctor, accountant or construction worker. Certain lines of work fit certain personality types and skill sets and the job of a bartender is perfect for those who are outgoing, ambitious, creative, inquisitive and patient. It's a career that has numerous and rewarding benefits and it's about time that we highlight these areas.
Therefore, in response to these pieces that have been circulating the "interwebs," I present my retort:
1) It's fun: Case in point - bartending is fun. It is one of the few careers that gets me excited for work every shift.
2) I don't have to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day. I remember when I worked a desk job and my body felt the strains of the cubicle's confines. Studies indicate that sitting for that length of time is dangerous for the body and it is imperative to take breaks every 20 - 30 minutes to stretch. Sure, working on my feet anywhere from 8-12 hours may not be the best for my legs and joints in the long run, but I certainly feel healthier walking around for the entirety of my shift rather than sitting.
3) Meeting people from all walks of life: The bar is one of the few places where any type of individual could be a guest. Regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economics, age (as long as over 21), celebrity, or gender, I will treat each person with the same level of respect and service as the guest sitting next to them. Bartending has led me to forge some incredible friendships I would I have never encountered otherwise.
4) The happiness factor: It's amazing how one cocktail, a few minutes of listening to someone vent, or even a quick compliment could make a guest's day. I work in the service and hospitality industry - this is my job! There is nothing more satisfying than serving a drink that causes a guest to grin from ear to ear (whether it be a well made Old Fashioned, Malibu Bay Breeze or even a Coors Light). I don't care what you order, as long as I can serve it to you to help ease the pains of your long day and create a comfortable environment and experience.
5) Local resource: A wonderful perk of bartending is my extensive network and knowledge of fantastic bartenders and venues around the country. I take great pride in being a mini "Zagat" or "Yelp" for my friends who are looking for a place to drink or eat on a night out on the town.
6) Artistry: Bartending allows me to exercise my cocktail creation skills. The worst grade I ever received in life was from my middle school art class (a "C"), and since then I believed that I pretty much had no future in the world of art. However, over the past years bartending has taught me that my eye for aesthetics maybe wasn't the best for sketchbook assignments but certainly transfers to the creation of new drinks. There is no greater feeling than serving a beautifully crafted cocktail in front of a guest and watching their tantalized eyes widen in amazement, partly due to the look and style of the drink including the color, glassware and garnish. Every time I dream up a new drink I take these three categories into account to develop a cocktail that will evoke this response from guests. I only wish Barbara Weiss (my art teacher) could see me and my creations now.
7) Being unconventional: Professional bartending is certainly a very "off the beaten path" profession. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, career bartending was a well established and highly respected job by society. It will take time for bartending to be seen as a career that a well educated college student may want to pursue. Hey, I have 2 BAs, am working on a Masters degree and I see a huge future and much potential for this line of work. I am proud to be a part of the hundreds of bartenders who are leading the way to making this industry well established in today's workforce.
8) Working for what I get: I work in the service industry. I do not roll up 40 hours a week and automatically get a paycheck for the same amount deposited into my bank account every Friday. It's a line of work that has a direct correlation - the greater effort I put into my job results in a greater financial benefit. You don't like talking with people, have low energy, despise long drink orders or lack patience for all types of people? Well then honey, bartending is NOT for you. Bartenders should not expect or feel entitled to a certain amount of tip from guests. That number should be (and hopefully is) a direct result from their interaction and how well the bartender did their job. I know, sometimes bartenders feel that tips are unjustified such as those times when you make 6 different craft cocktails in under 8 minutes for a group and get a $4 tip for your time. But remember those moments when all you did was pour a beer and some nice individual left you $2. I try my hardest during every shift to make sure my guests have incredible experiences and even when they sign out their tabs, I never look at the amount that they leave for tip. I know that my actions will result in a justified financial outcome because of the service I provide and my experience has proven my theory correct.
9) The knowledge: We work in a industry dripping in historical value that is often underutilized. Bartenders - take a second to pick up a book or two about our line of work and how it shaped policy and influenced the development of societies. I mean, America's first taxation was on grain whiskey because so much of it was being produced. Drop that little bit of knowledge on some guests as a conversation starter, I guarantee they will be amazed and will remember that fact.
10) I bartend for the phrase, "So, what shifts do you work here and when can we come back to visit you?" This is the ultimate compliment a bartender can receive. Sure, it's nice to hear that your drinks are fantastic and the atmosphere is unmatched, but if you are snooty, arrogant and don't interact with the guests, they won't return for another round of drinks. We create experiences for these people and an escape from the real world right outside the doors to our bars. You may be serving vodka sodas all night long and will still be hailed as one of the best bartenders in town because of your actions and steps of service. To me, this embodies the ideals of the best bartender because they are the ones well revered by the public.