Local barkeeps sound off.
My girlfriend tended bar last summer. Right off the street, she managed to land a gig in a Cape May bar with zero experience or connects, a feat in itself but plausible because she’s cool, smart and looks like Kelly Kapowski.
In the beginning, she was bubbly as a Champagne cocktail. A virgin in the restaurant industry, cash in her pocket every night was a beguiling newfound prospect, one that, I can admit as someone who has tended bar myself, makes you question everything you know about college, careers and the 9-to-5 grind.
But bartenders are like reservoirs, big tanks filled with patience, kindness, rainbows and butterflies that start draining soon as their first drink is poured, and it was in July when my girlfriend, sunny, rookie bartender, started saying things like, “I just want to punch all these people in the face.”
It’s not her fault. When a customer scatters spent chicken bones around the bar top, leaves a shitty tip, name-drops, big-times, asks too many questions, just drinks water (or worse, milk), flags a bartender down without having their drink order ready, orders drinks without having their money ready, complains drinks are too weak, complains about the head on a draught beer, asks “what’s the cheapest thing you got,” orders a Bloody Mary after 1 p.m. or exhibits any number of other annoying behaviors, it’s like a little dam breaking in the reservoir. Each well has a different capacity, but they all run dry sooner or later.
Bartending, one of the great social professions, just has a way of making you hate people. Thanks to bartending, the groups I hate now include the elderly; recovering alcoholics; business travelers that make awkward small talk with each other; graduates of Penn State; NASCAR fans that want to watch the race when, say, the Phillies are playing in the World Series; airline employees and women still drinking cosmos and apple martinis. You are not Carrie Bradshaw, give it a rest.
I don’t hate all people—just most. And often, tending bar can be great fun. But fuck if it isn’t a challenge.
If you pour drinks, then you understand. If not, then know your favorite bartender at your favorite bar probably hates your guts.
But never fear, for below are truths of some of the best bartenders in the city. My thoughts on bartending don’t necessarily reflect theirs, but pay attention to what they have to say anyway, and maybe you can get into their good graces. For those that do, know that your future holds free drinks, extra-speedy service and comfort in knowing that when you leave whatever bar you haunt, the staff isn’t talking about how they wish a SEPTA bus would take you down once and for all.
Mike Ojeda, Pub & Kitchen, 1946 Lombard St. 215.545.0350. thepubandkitchen.com
Likes: Customers that shower him with gifts of golden statues, emeralds, diamonds, rubies, exotic spices and animal pelts. Or just nice people who introduce themselves and remember most bartenders are human.
Dislikes: Customers that hang out after last call. “As a matter of fact, I hate having to yell out last call and do that whole stupid ritual. If you are at the bar, you are old enough to drink and should know what time you can drink till.”
Behind the bar: Wed., Thurs. and Fri. nights; Sat. double.
Douglas Fitz, snackbar, 253 S. 20th St. 215.545.5655. snackbarltd.com
Likes: Pleasant people. “If you open our interaction with a greeting rather than responding to my ‘Hello! And how’s your night going,’ we’re gonna have a much better time together.”
Dislikes: People with a group who approach a busy bar and upon getting the bartender’s attention, turns to their friends and asks what they want. “Have your order ready! You just waited four minutes for my attention and you don’t know what you want? Get it together.”
Behind the bar Mon., Tues., Fri. and Sat. nights.
Phoebe Esmon, Chick’s Café & Wine Bar, 614 S. Seventh St. 215.625.3700. chickscafe.com
Likes: Friendliness without over- familiarity and a willingness to try new things.
Dislikes : The phrase “when you have a chance.” “When the only person at the bar decides he or she wants the check and asks for it ‘when I have a chance,’ it comes across more sarcastic than courteous.”
Luckily for Philly, Rob Cassell found a way to get past early challenges to start turning out Bluecoat Gin in April 2006. That blue glass bottle has become ubiquitous wherever mixologists turn out labor-intensive cocktails.
You’re hungover and you need a fix. Let this list be your go-to guide when you need to get through the worst of it. And try to look on the bright side: You didn’t bring home a fugly … this time.
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