Drop the attitude

Jan Warren is perplexed by a bartender’s attitude and wonders what elicits such reactions

MIXOLOGISTS. PROFESSIONAL STARTENDERS. Cocktailogists. Cocktailians. It’s 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 York’s 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: “Oh, so you wanna go down that dark and evil road.” 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: I’ve 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 don’t feel good and have done and said things behind the bar that we wish we could take back.

If that isn’t the case, you aren’t examining your interactions with guests in an objective manner. I certainly haven’t 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 we’ve all had trouble dealing with guests of the opposite sex that are so attractive they unwittingly make fools of us. I know that I’ve stuttered and stammered through more than one service situation with a PGOAT (this both stands for ‘prettiest girl of all time’ and is a way to tell you that yes, I’m 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. I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t guilty of this to some degree as well, and I think that we all tend to prejudge guests.

In fact, I’d 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 don’t 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, I’ll 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 friend’s bar, I expect them to be a little more courteous and giving to other guests, and expect a little less attention than a ‘real’ guest.

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