Wednesday
Nov072007

Hiccups

Every bartender worth a damn has a cure for hiccups. A wise bar patron should, too.

Learn this and love it. I'll stake my reputation on the fact that this cure, when done properly, works every time. It's not instantaneous, but after 5 minutes, you'll suddenly wonder "Hey, what happened to my hiccups?" This is great bar knowledge and will come in handy for you, your friends, or whenever you want to play Prince Charming to a damsel in... hiccups.

Splash a few squirts of Angostura Bitters onto a lemon slice. Empty a packet or two of sugar in your mouth, drink as much of a glass of water as you can, and then bite into the bitters-soaked lemon. That's it.

There's always some wiseass in the crowd who swears you've got to try his method. Don't trust him. Trust the wiseass behind the bar. I've been using this method for 10 years and it's worked every time.

Sure I could get into all the fancy scientific, chemical, and physiological reasons as to why this works, but I'd just be making it all up.

Tuesday
Nov062007

My Tip For You

Today's simple tip is this: when ordering a drink, the name of the alcohol precedes the mixer.

Sounds simple enough, right? I thought so, too. But last weekend I served so many "Diet Coke and Morgan's" and "Pineapple juice mixed with Malibu, please" that I was beginning to wonder if everyone in the bar was 19.

It's not a world-ending dilemma. It's just etiquette. The music isn't going to stop and people aren't going to stare at you in silence if you get this one wrong, but order a "Coke and Captain Morgan's" and you'll have no idea why the hot bartender just rolled her eyes at you. It's a "Captain and Coke." You wouldn't order a "tonic and gin." Know the protocol. And the protocol is simple.

Oh, and there's no such drink as a "Grey Goose and vodka."

Thursday
Nov012007

It's Thirsty Thursday!

I have yet to find a mixology book that I would recommend to anyone. Sure, the Mr. Boston's guide owns the title the "Bartender's Bible" and it deserves it. Just about every bar has one kept somewhere behind the bar and just about every bartender has relied on it occasionally to make an Iron Curtain or an Angel's Tip or some other classic drink that no one born in the last 50 years still drinks. And sure, it teaches you how to make a Sex on the Beach and possibly even a mojito, but as far as I know you're on your own when it comes to a caipirinha or many of the shots we pour every night. Mr. Boston's is a classic guide, but it's got a few cobwebs.

So, every Thirsty Thursday I'm going to trot out a drink recipe to share. And for the first week, we're starting with a favorite shot of mine called Nuts In Your Mouth. Go ahead and make the obvious joke and let's move on. I'll wait. Nuts In Your Mouth is equal parts Frangelico and Chambord with a splash of cream. That simple. "Equal parts" here means about 3/4 oz., or just less than a shot - (skip the graduated cylinder and just eyeball it.)

The name comes from the type of liqueur used to make it. Frangelico is a hazelnut liqueur you may recognize - it's the big Aunt Jemima looking bottle. And Chambord is a black raspberry liqueur made in France - it's the little globe shaped bottle with a gold belt and crown. Both of these bottles can retail around $25-30 each. If you're making them at home, you can get away with using Raspberry Schnapps if you want to save a few bucks, but don't skip on the Frangelico. It's truly one-of-a-kind. And it's fantastic.

I always pour them big, and usually serve them three at a time. And make whatever jokes seem (in)appropriate.

This is a great "Hey bartender, I don't know what I want, pour me something good" kind of shot. It's not particularly strong, but people don't seem to care. They just had your nuts in their mouth.

Wednesday
Oct312007

Hangover Remedies

I know I was taught back in 7th grade health class the only thing that sobers a person up is time. And while I'm pretty sure that still holds true, you have a few more options when trying to shake a hangover. Just because you were a complete drunken ass last night doesn't mean you have to pay the consequences.

Sleep is the best, if not most obvious remedy. If it's the weekend, if you don't work in the morning, be smart. Sleep it off. Why be awake for a hangover?

If, like most suckers, you have a day job that wouldn't appreciate you strolling in after lunch, eyes still bloodshot and sweating vodka, the absolute next best remedy I swear by is something called Alka Seltzer Morning Relief. I don't own stock in the company, nor do I receive anything for pimping it, but I should for how much I rave about it. The box doesn't explicitly say, "for when your drunk ass had too much fun swinging from the chandeliers last night," but their website makes no qualms about it. It's a one-two punch of aspirin and caffeine that should bring you back to life in about 20 minutes. If you don't have any in your medicine cabinet yet, stop at Walgreens on your way home and stock up - you know you'll need it sooner or later. If you can't find it at the pharmacy (which is often the case) try here and have some shipped. Worth every penny. Quick note: don't confuse the Morning Relief with any of their other product lines. I don't even know what the other Alka Seltzer products do, but this one tops them all.

I'm assuming everyone's familiar with the "hair of the dog" philosophy. Turns out this practice dates back to Shakespearean times, though let's not forget they also practiced bloodletting. And Jagermeister wasn't around yet, so how serious could their hangovers have been. I've got a couple friends that swear a couple drinks in the morning are the perfect cure for what ails you, but they're both drunks and you want nothing to do with them.

If you're wise enough to plan ahead for your hangover, you've probably heard of Chaser, Hangover Stopper, and a handful of other similar products. Most of these products utilize carbon to absorb congeners while you drink and filter them out of your system, meaning you have to take them before and/or during your drunken rampage. It's been a few years since I've tried Chaser personally, but I recall only slight improvement the next day. I will say the only "pre-antidote" as we'll call this family of remedies, that I've ever been pleased with is something called Xo3. I met the inventors of Xo3 at a trade show in Las Vegas once, and aside from being really cool guys, they won me over by loading me up with tons of free samples - which were well needed on that trip. Very different in chemical makeup from the other ones - it's essentially a nutritional supplement of vitamins and other stuff generally good for you. And it's not a pill, it's a powder you make into a tasty little drink. Know what, I'll say it: if I were smart enough to plan ahead for hangovers, I would keep a box of Xo3 lying around.

I've also been told time and again that any B-complex vitamin, especially B6 and B12 are great at helping your liver metabolize alcohol, but I'm a bartender not a scientist.

I see plenty of people in my bar each night - and by plenty I mean two - that rotate water into their drinking routine after midnight. Gin & tonic, water, Gin & tonic, water, Irish Car Bomb, etc. Never had the discipline for that but I can't see how it would hurt, save for the ticket for public urination.

I've always found bacon helps, too. Still scanning the internets for supportive research, but in the mean time, I'll keep conducting my own tests.

And if nothing seems to help that throbbing eye-headache and constant nausea, enjoy the suffering. As our friends at Modern Drunkard say, "Learn to appreciate hangovers. If it was all good times every jackass would be doing it."

*On a safety note: just because your hangover may be gone doesn't mean your blood alcohol level is. And if you really rockstarred it up the night before, you may still be over the legal limit when it's time to drive to work. Two to three drinks an hour, a last call shot or two, and a nightcap while you're waiting for the pizza delivery, can easily put your BAL anywhere above a .20 (consult handy chart). Since most bodies metabolize alcohol between .01-.02 an hour, if you stop drinking at 2 am you could wake up for work at 8 am and still have at least a .08 BAL, making you over the legal limit to drive. Don't be an idiot. Don't drink and drive, especially at 8 in the morning...

Monday
Oct292007

Welcome Guest Blogger: Ryan the Bouncer

What's up everybody? Ryan the Bouncer posting today because Chris asked me to let you in to my world a little bit. The bartenders aren't the only bar employees that you should try to keep happy if you want favors or just if you want to have a fun night without any problems. Trust me, you stay on our good side, we'll make sure you have fun. So, if any of you have ever had a run in with a bouncer at a bar, or wondered why you got kicked out one night, let me offer you a few pieces of advice that will help you stay on the good side of those friendly people who decide whether you stay or go.

Rule #1: If your mom has ever yelled at you not to do something, most likely, bouncers will yell at you as well if they see you doing it. Basically, don't do anything stupid. Stupid is as stupid leaves.

Rule #2: If it doesn't look like you should be somewhere, like a room with the lights off, or a kitchen, most likely, you aren't supposed to be there. Your best bet is to turn around and head the other way. If you need help finding the bathroom, read the sign on the wall or just ask us, it's our job to let you know, and it saves us the hassle of having to chase you down and tell you where the bathroom is anyways.

Rule #3: Speaking of signs, please read the signs. If there is a big sign on the door, most likely it is there to tell you something, like don't take your drink outside, or what the dress code is. Just because you have been drinking doesn't mean you are illiterate - we all passed first grade at one point in time.

Rule #4: Dress code. Yes, some places have dress codes and some don't. If you haven't ever been to a certain bar before, just assume they have a dress code. That way, when you end up getting there and they do, you don't have to go home and change. If they don't have a dress code, well, then you just look like a respectable person.

Rule #5: Don't touch the damn light switches!! Ooh, if you flip it up, the lights go on!! And OH MY!! If you flip it down they go off too!!! Everyone has used a light switch and will know what will happen if you use it. Lights are on or off for a reason, don't mess with them.

Rule #6: If the bouncer asks you to do something, just do it. If you don't, most likely you will find yourself outside quite quickly.

Rule #7: We are paid to make sure you follow the rules. Don't try to pull fast ones on us by skipping lines and such. We've seen everything, and no, you aren't being clever and sneaky about it.

Rule #8: For those of you who have phenomenal fake IDs, this rule is key. DO NOT KEEP YOUR REAL ID AND FAKE ID ON TOP OF EACH OTHER!!! The first thing I look at is what is under the ID you show me when you pull it out of your wallet. If there is another ID, most likely I am just going to tell you to turn around and walk away.

Rule #9: Standing on stuff is never a good idea. Either you fall and hurt yourself or we pull you off and kick you out. Not much good will come of it.

Rule #10: Don't ever try to start a fight with a bouncer. Even if you are bigger than he is, he still has five buddies who are bigger or the same size as him who have been waiting numerous weeks to kick the shit out of somebody. Don't give them an excuse. Plus, it really makes us mad when one of us gets hit. That's when bad things happen to drunken people. That guy you see lying face down in the alley way behind the bar with a broken nose probably tried to start a fight with a bouncer. Oh, and cops almost always take our sides. We aren't drinking and you are which basically makes you wrong.

Rule #11: When it's the end of the night, the lights are on, and the bouncers are asking you to leave, please do so quickly. We've let you know that you will have to leave in the next fifteen minutes, so when that time comes, it shouldn't be hard to evacuate the building. Drink your drink on the way to the door. No, you can't use the bathroom, it's already closed off, and that's why we warned you fifteen minutes ago. No, that hot chick you haven't said anything to all night is most likely not going to go home with you. The longer you stay, the angrier the bouncers get, and an angry bouncer is not a good thing. Remember, we've been working all day and have been dealing with drunken idiots all night. We want to go home and sleep too.
So, take heed these words of wisdom the next time you go to a bar. It'll keep me happy, and if you get on my good side, you just might get let in the side door ahead of the line.

Friday
Oct262007

Halloween Weekend

Just a quick hello today. I've been working on a long post about bar etiquette (and one on hangover remedies to follow), but I'm going to be working open to close the rest of this weekend so that will have to wait till next week. I've also lined up our first guest blogger - Monday we'll hear from Ryan the Bouncer. Have a great Halloween weekend!

Tuesday
Oct232007

Day Off

I feel a little foolish starting day two of a bartending blog talking about a day off, but I suppose a day off is just as important as a day behind the wood.

One of the nice things about the hours I keep is that sleeping till noon doesn't feel like a crime. Sure, I always feel better when I get up at 9 am and have a productive day off, but when your body is used to working till 3 am and getting to sleep after 4 am, it's damn near impossible to willingly roll your bones out of bed before 10 am if you've got nowhere to be. So an alarm set for 10 that gets silenced till noon is not out of the ordinary. It's those days where you were up till 7 am drinking after work (c'mon, who doesn't like a cocktail after work, even if the sun is coming up.) It's those days you feel guilty about sleeping till three in the afternoon - sleep being truly the best hangover remedy.

Anyway, perks of my schedule other than sleeping till noon (it's just my 8 hours) mostly involve avoiding crowds. I started my day at the gym, which was empty because most of the working class just finished their lunch and went back to the office. Grocery shopping at 3 on a Wednesday means you don't really have to wait in line - though I always miss sample day. Thankfully most of my friends work in the industry too (yeah, I called it the industry), cuz my 9-to-5er friends aren't usually up for catching a matinee or golf on a Monday. And going to a bar and leaving before close, that's for people who work in the morning.

I spent last night at the Annex enjoying a Pat McCurdy show. You can't exactly call Pat McCurdy one of Madison's best kept secrets, because unless you just moved here, you've probably heard of him. However, it sure feels that way since no one I know talks about seeing his show unless it's at Summerfest or the Union Terrace. Nonetheless, his Tuesday night show at the Annex is always packed, usually by the same people. It's come-as-you-are, drink-beer, sing-along-and-be-merry type music - so much better than sitting in the same ol' bar doing the same ol' thing. Perfect for a date or for a night out with friends - just remember to buy Pat a shot. And if you're lucky, he'll stop at the Open Pantry between sets and buy snacks for the crowd.

Speaking of Madison's best kept secrets, if you haven't seen Clyde Stubblefield at the King Club on Monday nights, get a damn babysitter and call in sick for work on Tuesday. Pat is always fun, but Clyde just tears it up. Five bucks gets you in to see the original funky drummer, with a phenomenal 10 piece (?) band, kicking out "Brick House" and "Knock on Wood" among other classics, while a really fun crowd spins around the dance floor. The guy is nothing short of a living legend and the people he performs with put on one of the best shows in Madison, regardless of what day it is.

Tuesday
Oct232007

Day One on the job

Hello and welcome to the bar. This is my first blog - and my very first blog post. I've been a professional bartender for a decade, at various haunts from country club to supper club to nightclub. And in that time, if I've been paying attention, I've learned a few things about people, human behavior, social interactions, and how to mix a proper brandy old-fashioned sweet (James Bond knows plenty about being a spy and absolutely nothing about ordering a martini.)

My plan here is to share with you any and all aspects of bar life: bar culture, nightlife, being a bartender, mixology, current trends, goofy moments, places worth checking out, drinks you shouldn't miss, and anything else that I glean throughout my nights (and days) as a career bartender.

And to contradict Frasier from Cheers, no, it wouldn't be propagating a stereotype to ask a bartender for advice. If you have any comments or questions, fire away anytime. After all, mixing a drink is only 10% of my job.

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