At my job on Saturday, they were in need of someone to cover a bartending shift. They turned a barrel to its side, got a putty knife and proceeded to scrape the bottom of it. What they come up with was me. For ten hours, I was The Bitchy Bartender. I have bartended in the past but only occasionally. When I worked at Houlihan’s I covered the bar on Tuesday lunches so it was really never that busy. The occasional frozen margarita that came from the Island Oasis machine and some beers was all I ever had to deal with. However, if you count my experience making cocktails at home, I am full fledged professional bartender with fifteen years of experience. But doing it at my job was going to be a challenge. And I love challenges. I also knew that it would give me something to write about.
We had three shows that day. The first one had about 35 people at it, the second one had 102 and the final one had 50. If each of those folks had their required two-drink minimum, that is 374 drinks that went through the computer. I didn’t make coffees or teas or most of the sodas, but that is still a lot of drinks to make for someone who had to keep looking at the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide. (I have one thing to say to the editors of that book: you’re font is too damn small.) As the printer spewed out dupes, I focused on the drinks that I knew how to make, like Chardonnay and Sam Adams. But then came a Chinese Lantern which is a specialty cocktail at the club. “I’ll make that one in a minute.” And then three Razzle Dazzles. “I’ll make those in a minute.” And a Key Lime Martini. “What the fuck is in a Key Lime Martini? Are you sure they wouldn’t like a Corona with lime instead?” I spent about five minutes looking up what a Rob Roy was (scotch, sweet vermouth and bitters) and by the time I made it, the tickets from the printer were all the way down to the floor making a paper puddle of drink orders. The “whirr whirr” of the printer screaming at me as if to say, “You will never get out of these weeds, bitch. Never.” I made a gin and tonic and a margarita on the rocks (finally the bartending at home experience pays off) and handed them to server, Lo. She put them on the tray and then was bumped into by a customer who was unaware of his spatial relationship with others. As the tray began to slip from Lo’s hands, she beat gravity to the punch and threw the tray on the floor. “Would you like another gin and tonic and margarita?” I sweetly asked. At this point some stupid twat came up to me and asked me if I could take a picture of her and her friends. I was holding ten bottles of liquor and was wrapped in a roll of paper from the printer. I said “no.”
By this point, the weeds are so high that I can longer see over the bar. I hear the servers sreaming things but I can’t see them through the sweat in my eyes. “Someone make coffee!” “Where’s my cranberry and seltzer?” “There’s a sale at Penny’s!” It was a giant cluster fuck of aggravation and I loved it. Not once did I lose my cool or get stressed out because I kept this mantra in the back of my mind: “it’s just cocktails, it’s just cocktails.” It wasn’t as if someone was going to die if the Maker’s Mark Manhattan didn’t get to the table right that second. I focused on one drink at a time and eventually we got the whole first round out. Then the second round started and it happened all over again. But I did it. I was thrown to the wolves that night and came out victorious. I dunno if my co-workers and managers were as pleased with my performance as I was, but I did it. You know how Tom Cruise was in that movie Cocktail when he tossed the bottles around all fancy and shit as he made drinks? I was just like that. Except I was not smooth or confident, and not sure if the drinks were being made correctly. I was also not hot like he was in that movie but no one sent their drink back and then they even asked for seconds; even that Key Lime Martini (vanilla vodka, Rose’s Lime, pineapple juice and Coole Swan Dairy Cream Liqueur.)