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From Behind the Bar: What Not to Say to a Bartender

Bartenders are—pretty much by definition—human beings, thus are subject to the same moods, whims, quirks, and personality disorders that others of our species are known to exhibit. The job requires us to suppress these foibles for the sake of hospitality, pretend we've had the greatest day, and spend the bulk of our night being nice to complete strangers. But some people make it really difficult to keep up the facade. More

Tales from Tales of the Cocktail: It Begins

It's raining in New Orleans and the intensity has begun. Thousands of people attend Tales of the Cocktail, and they all converge on one place for much of the week. The lobby of the Hotel Montoleone is stuffed full of people. It's hard to move in the best of circumstances. It's impossible when people stop every few feet to hug their long-lost friends. More

From Behind the Bar: On Speed

Bartenders throw things in the air. We flip bottles. We run around behind the bar like madmen, pulling pints, shaking cocktails, dodging co-workers. When a bartender is working in a busy bar, speed is the entire point. It is both the show and the execution of the show. More

From Behind the Bar: On Drinking Alone

There was a time when I left New York, and left bartending altogether, not certain if I would ever return to either. The months that ensued contain stories for another day, but when I did come back to the city it was pretty clear that the craft and trade of tending bar had once again called my name. More

From Behind the Bar: On Naming Cocktails

When I was young, I worked in a drug store in the mall, which wasn't nearly as hellish as it sounds to me now. Malls were fantastic back in the days before the internet; every one of the stores had both a bunch of products we couldn't afford to buy, and there were also pretty girls who we could moon at through the windows. I found my first "serious" girlfriend at the mall at the ripe old age of fifteen (if you must know, she worked in the Hello Kitty store). I loved my job, but as good as I thought I had it, I always knew my friend Bill had it better. Attached to the mall was a restaurant in which he worked as a busboy. More

From Behind the Bar: On Balance

I've got one hand on a stroller, and one keeping a pre-schooler from falling off of my shoulders, which is a perfect time to talk about balance. "It comes from the stomach," I told her. "You've got to keep your head up, your eyes forward, and stay flexible enough that you can move around as I'm walking." More

From Behind the Bar: On Being in the Mood

If you're having a bad day when you work in a bar, you don't have the luxury of retreating in to a corner and warning everyone to back off. We work in public, and have our customers' eyes on us at all times. They watch what we do, notice when we bark at one another, comment when we're not performing at our best, and make decisions about where they choose to spend their time and money based on what they see. More

From Behind the Bar: In the Weeds

Let's say it's early in the shift and your fellow bartender won't be in for another hour. You've got a few people at the bar, and suddenly ten people come in and they all want cocktails, and then the waitress puts in a few tickets. People who have been sitting at the bar already are waiting for another round. You start one order, talk to new customers, pour a couple of beers, and suddenly you realize that everyone is staring at you because they all want something and there's no way you'll be able to get to them until you get caught up. There's a phrase that we use to describe this kind of scenario: being in the weeds. And being in the weeds is never pretty. More

From Behind the Bar: On Barbacks

People often ask me how I got started in the bar business, and the short answer is: "I lied." Back in the 90s, you could get away with that kind of thing; if you could make a cosmopolitan, a sidecar, and a decent margarita, you were most of the way home. More

From Behind the Bar: On Craft Distilleries

I've been thinking a lot about distilleries lately, which means I've been thinking a lot about yeast. These single-celled microorganisms are gracious enough to eat carbohydrates we lay out for the purpose, converting them to carbon dioxide (which makes our sourdough rise) and alcohol (which deflates our grades in college). More

From Behind the Bar: On Drinking for Free

Things get complicated when you factor in one of the major tools that bartenders use to connect to their clientele: the buy-back. Buy-back, comp, promo; call it what you will. In every bar, there is a certain budget that allows for giving a customer a drink that they do not have to pay for. For those of us who work behind bars, the buy-back is a double-edged sword. More

From Behind the Bar: On Running Two Bars

Just under a year in, I was opening up one afternoon and a friend walked in with someone else in tow. The man was introduced as the owner of a hotel in Times Square which had an old bar on the first floor. After telling me in no uncertain terms how negatively he regarded his hotel's bar, he mentioned that its current owner would be losing his lease after more than forty years, and would we consider stopping by to check out the space? More

From Behind the Bar: What is a Bartender's Job?

There has been an interesting comment that that keeps popping up in the threads of these columns. It goes something like this: "I'm sick of the trend where bartenders think that they are god's gift to humanity. Your job is to make drinks, not to educate, babysit, or judge people. So do us all a favor; stow the attitude, and do your job." More

From Behind the Bar: On Not Being Creepy

Bars are societies writ small, and each has iron-clad regulations governing what will and will not be considered acceptable behavior. At one bar, patrons might be encouraged to dance on the bar and take shots with the bartenders. At others, the slightest exhibition of rowdy behavior might get a guest shown to the door. More

From Behind the Bar: So You Want to Open a Bar

Your life sucks. Sure, you make good money, but you're never home, you hate your boss, whatever industry you're in is either uninspiring or downright evil, and you want to take your ill-gotten gains and leverage them in to something that gives you the lifestyle you've always wanted. Do you open a Subway franchise? No way. Where's the fun in that? You want to do something fun. You want to open a bar. More

From Behind the Bar: On The New Year

It's 2012, and bartenders the world over are heaving sighs of relief after successfully surviving the mother of all nights out. I have been a bartender too long to hold much sentimentality for the champagne, horns, and streamers that comprise New Year's Eve, but it is a party, and someone has to throw it, so I spent this year the same way I've spent most others: slinging drinks and counting down to midnight. More

Ask A Bartender: What Can You Tell About Someone By Their Drink Order?

There are a few "no deal" actions a first date can do to insure there will be no second. The first, is a date to Olive Garden, the second is an affinity for vodka/soda. Nothing says superficial like vodka/soda. Past dates who have ordered this have been: web designers, graphic artists, models, personal trainers. A cocktail is worth the treat and calories, more importantly it's worth the experience, not unlike a first date. Drink something that tastes like SOMETHING! Otherwise stick with water. It's possible you might be more charming sober, but I doubt it.

Bottom Shelf Beer: Bud Light Platinum vs. Bud Light

I'd waste five minutes on your column any day, Will Gordon. I might even waste ten. Well done as always, sir.

What Is the Difference Between Single Malt and Blended Whisky?

Well said, Mr. Dietsch! From my friends at Compass Box, "Finally- someone gets it right on blends vs. single malts, stated simply."

Legal issues with nomenclature of whiskeys can be incredibly confusing. Nice work helping to clear those muddy waters.

7 Cocktail Party Tips from Sasha Petraske of Milk & Honey, NYC

Interesting perspective from a legend in the business, though I might take exception with the quote, "Making people wait is bad bartending." For anyone who has been to the many bars that Mr. Petrarske has either opened or consulted on, waiting for a cocktail is endemic to the process. I don't think, and I doubt Sasha means to imply, that those bartenders who make me wait for my cocktail are bad.

Personally, I think building each cocktail is part of the fun, both for the guests and the host. This is also from a guy who spends all of his time at parties making drinks, so I'll take that margarita with a grain of salt.

How Mr. Potato Head Can Help You Make Better Cocktails

I think more in terms of Legos, but the Potato Head method works as well. I might recommend keeping a bottle of Amaro on hand (something like Meletti or Averna works, if you can get it). Cut whatever sweet element goes in to the cocktail by half, and replace with an equal portion of Amaro. Adjust to taste. The slight bitterness can add a complexity to something that started out life as your go-to cocktail.

From Behind the Bar: My Cocktail Costs How Much?

Funny! That last comment was posted by Kenneth Mccoy but was posted under my name.Weird.

From Behind the Bar: My Cocktail Costs How Much?

Most people who are not owners will never know what it takes to run and monetarily operate a bar,i agree when Michael points out that most folks think bar owners are doing quite well because of the mark up but that all comes from extremely hard work done behind the scenes that the customer never sees.The life of a bar owner is not that glamorous.

Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Bartles and Jaymes Wine Coolers

Always enjoy the read, Will. You're welcome at my bar any time. Hope you all have a dry celebration, but only in the weather-sense.

Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Old Overholt Rye

I'll always hold a special place in my heart (and liver) for Old Overholt. They made rye before it was cool, back when rye was the most Old-Man of Old-Man Whiskies. It's mild though; if I want a bit more of that rye spicy kick, I'll reach for the High West Rendezvous Rye, or Templeton.

PS: Happy Birthday.

From Behind the Bar: So You Want to Open a Bar

Your life sucks. Sure, you make good money, but you're never home, you hate your boss, whatever industry you're in is either uninspiring or downright evil, and you want to take your ill-gotten gains and leverage them in to something that gives you the lifestyle you've always wanted. Do you open a Subway franchise? No way. Where's the fun in that? You want to do something fun. You want to open a bar. More

Schrodinger's Cat

Schrodinger's Cat was a thought-experiment postulating a simultaneous state of existence of non-existence. For some reason, this led me to pair Mezcal and Bourbon. Remember, a cocktail is both perfect and undrinkable—until you actually taste it. More