Bar Savvy

Friends, it has been awhile.  I have decided to take up the torch again as there are some large changes coming down the road and this seems like a great forum to keep people informed, and my vision/version of what is happening in print and in order.  To kick things off, here is an absurd little article I drafted  for a publication that we ended up not publishing, hope it’s a fun little read.

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It’s the confidence, the social ease and the witty banter—though it doesn’t hurt that bartenders are the smooth-moving gatekeepers of our liquid courage. Set up on a romantically lit stage, a bartender is poised to capture your now-fuzzy attention with a winning smile and a cold drink. Yet despite the lighthearted setting and free-flowing libations, it’s never easy to know how to make a move on your favorite drink-slinger.

Around you, everyone at the bar is vying for his attention. If only that gorgeous pourer of spirits knew that you wanted more than just your tab!—but amidst the chaos of waving dollar bills and clinking glassware, you’re faced with the common conundrum: is he being nice because it’s his job, or could there be a little something more behind that extra-tall pour of whiskey? Sit tight, hold your ground and protect your claim to the barstool nestled into that corner—you may just find the seven numbers you were looking for at the bottom of your bill.

It’s a round of questions that we all know too well, that rip though our thoughts as we gaze over at a barkeep whose shot-pouring technique is more interesting than any conversation coming from our slurring roommates. Is this something that’s going to happen tonight? Is there something long-term here? How much do I like this bar, what time is it and how much have I had to drink?

I want this to happen tonight:

One evening, as a colleague of mine made his way from behind the bar for the only restroom break he’d have time for, he turned to shut the door behind him and met with a puckered pair of lips as the girl who’d captured his glances all night finally decided words were a waste of time. Come closing time, as the last guests were ushered out and the lights flickered on to full blast, she ambled over to the bar and urged him to teach her how to pour a proper pint. He recalls a beautiful sunrise over the East River that morning.

For the bold and infatuated—especially those with short-term goals—capitalizing on the very fleeting free moments a bartender has may be your best chance to see the gates being pulled down at the end of the night. But be prepared: the bartender is usually the last person out of the building, and although the bar closes at 3 a.m., bottles still need to wiped, chairs stacked, messes mopped and cash counted. You may be stuck for some time under the bright lights, twiddling your thumbs over a cheap beer, before you get the chance to violate some health codes.

This isn’t a fleeting night, you’ve got potential:

Carving out just an extra second of banter with a bartender on a busy night is near impossible. As they try to recall a list of orders, obscure recipes and tabs, their focus is on moving efficiently and helping the next thirsty patron. That said, over a wall of people emanating “hmm”s and “umm”s, the prepared, confident order gets attention. It is forever a pleasure (and exceedingly rare) to hear an order from someone who knows what they want, delivered to you calmly with a lingering smile and a please. It’s almost as if that someone believes that the one serving them is a real person—and that’s enough to lift the spirits of any bartender. Given the number of well-meaning customers we meet with who are focused on losing themselves to their own style of fun, composure is often the only thing that will shake up our steady façade. When you return to the bar early on a weekday to pick up where we left off, there’s no doubt I will remember who you were, find you a seat in front of me, welcome you with a drink on me and, if we’re both lucky, join you in a long conversation.

As a new bartender muddling away at a job I most likely embellished my résumé to get, I often found myself behind on time and flustered, attempting to field everyone’s ill-advised mojitos in some semblance of the correct order as tickets piled up around me in drifts. On one such night—arriving from heaven, I’m convinced—she came forward, with a quick glance up and down the bar; built a barstool from nothing, all the while boxing out a sizeable portion of the crowd—an impressive feat for five-foot-zero—and, with a reassuring smile, calmly dealt out a “Don’t worry about me for a few—come find me when you can.” After ten minutes of blue-eyed-girl-fueled determination, I had cleared my board and was able to carve out some time to talk to this selfless and wonderful creature.

Even lubricated with your poison of choice and exonerated for all your poor decisions, you may find the list of hurdles long and frightening that holds you back from putting it all out there. But though it’s true that any bartender worthy of your attention is going to show you if they’re interested, it’s important to remember also that you’re a guest at their place of work, and one they won’t want to alienate, even should their hopes prove misguided. So after a free round and a bout of witty quips, the weight falls on your shoulders to take that near-impossible last step to leave them your number, and make sure they know you’d love to see them on the other side of the bar.

 

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