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Drop the attitude
Published:  24 March, 2017

Jan Warren is perplexed by a bartenderís attitude and wonders what elicits such reactions

MIXOLOGISTS. PROFESSIONAL STARTENDERS. Cocktailogists. Cocktailians. Itís 2017. Attitude has jumped the shark. Give it a rest.

My girlfriend got home from a night out with a friend and had a sad story to tell. She went to a bar, that I personally know to be excellent, owned by one of the luminaries in my small but respectable local cocktail scene. My girlfriend and her friend approached the bar and were given menus.

Needless to say, my girlfriend has some experience with drinks, as I met her in one of New Yorkís best cocktail bars, where she both worked the floor and bartended. Her friend, however, had very little experience with cocktails, so my girlfriend spent some time trying to explain the menu to her. The bartender came over no fewer than three times, trying to suck an order out of them. Mind you, this was not on an especially busy evening (it was a Wednesday).

My girlfriend ordered a rye Old Fashioned and the response was: ďOh, so you wanna go down that dark and evil road.Ē She responded by asking if the bartender preferred bourbon in his Old Fashioneds. He said he hates bourbon. She was left to wonder what, actually, the point of his remark was. Next, her friend ordered. She wanted a beer (this is a bar with a very well chosen beer list). She was told she had to order a cocktail, because she was in a cocktail bar. What. The. Fuck. She insisted on having a beer. The bartender visibly rolled his eyes.

The crux of the issue is this: Iíve dealt with this bartender before. He has been professional and friendly, and not at all pushy as described above. There are a few questions to answer then.

Was this guy simply having an off day? Maybe, and honestly this is not so problematic. We all have days that donít feel good and have done and said things behind the bar that we wish we could take back.

If that isnít the case, you arenít examining your interactions with guests in an objective manner. I certainly havenít been right in every situation. Neither have you, probably.

Was the bartender intimidated by the radiant beauty seated in front of him? That is possible too, and again, forgivable. I know weíve all had trouble dealing with guests of the opposite sex that are so attractive they unwittingly make fools of us. I know that Iíve stuttered and stammered through more than one service situation with a PGOAT (this both stands for Ďprettiest girl of all timeí and is a way to tell you that yes, Iím smart enough or masochistic enough to have read David Foster Wallace).

The third possibility is that the bartender in question has a standard idea of who and what customers are, based on their physical appearance. Iíd be lying if I told you that I wasnít guilty of this to some degree as well, and I think that we all tend to prejudge guests.

In fact, Iíd say that some amount of presumption is useful to a bartender in service. Having a quick idea about who a person is ultimately helps us serve that person.

However, assuming two women donít know the first thing about bars or cocktails is both foolish and dangerous, especially considering our current political climate.

Fourth and, for me, most troubling, is that, as I have seen in other situations, people known to be members of industry get treated in a different and better way than people not known to be in the industry.

I have always gone the other way. If you come to the bar and I know you as a bartender, Iíll quickly drop a beer and the spirit of your choice in a glass in front of you, while I make cocktails for all my non-industry affiliated guests. If I am at a friendís bar, I expect them to be a little more courteous and giving to other guests, and expect a little less attention than a Ďrealí guest.

Attitude is old news, and I hear a ton of lip service about hospitality. Letís make it real.