Archive for the ‘Customer Etiquette’ Category

When my good colleague and Head Bartender Erik stood behind the unfinished American Bar last week, the impromptu gathering that had formed were about to witness something very special.

The American Bar was finally getting the renovation it needed, with the builders fitting new work stations behind the bar, as well as a new bar top, and had left a small section of the front of the bar uncovered. Seeing the opportunity, one of my managers sourced a couple of camera phones and several members of staff to witness Erik deliver a speech about the legacy of Harry Craddock and his famous action of burying  shakers full of cocktails into the walls of the hotel.

Within a few minutes, Erik had made a Norman Conquest – one of his signature drinks, and a drink not unlike the Vieux Carré – had poured it into a Savoy-sloganed hip flask, and placed it inside the bar, along with a dated and signed copy of the current menu. The bar was then sealed up the next day.

A flask filled with 'Norman Conquest' one of Erik's signature drinks, and a signed copy of The American Bar menu.

A flask filled with ‘Norman Conquest’ one of Erik’s signature drinks, and a signed copy of The American Bar menu.

History had been made for the first time since the pre-World War Two era of Craddock, though the magic of the event was emphasized by the impromptu gathering; only a few members of staff were there to witness the whole event, which was recorded on video phones in a place that resembled a building site. No members from the press or on-trade were present, and there has been no official PR with regards to the event.

As we all mused what a great start to the year the even was, both with the event and the renovation of The American Bar, it got me thinking of another influential bar that is also also going through a similar state of refurbishment.

In the next couple of weeks in New York, Attaboy will open its doors to the public after taking over the space vacated by Milk & Honey, who have relocated north to Midtown. Sam Ross and Micky McIlroy will head up the bar like they had done over the previous years, only this time without the ‘reservation only’ policy, and with an increased capacity.

Personal opinion it may be, the now ‘old-school’ Milk & Honey was not only important to the neo-speakeasy trend; it also played a fundamental part in the resurrection of both classic and classically-styled drinks in the naughties, in the same way  The American Bar at The Savoy was influential in giving an identity to the American cocktail in Britain and Europe (and, just for the record, anyone who hasn’t checked out the’Bartenders Choice’ cocktail app should so immediately; drinks from Milk & Honey over the last 10 years, as well as numerous drinks from The Savoy Cocktail Book and other old famed drink bibles are modernized and updated).

Though why is the renovation of The American Bar and the opening of an already established premises by two established bartenders such a big deal at the beginning of 2013?

Well for me, a few reasons; two of the most important venues within the history of the drink making profession are having a much-needed facelift in an industry that could see classic drink making return to the fold, alongside the ‘back-to-basics’ rule of bartending.

Is it a coincidence that these two bars are being refurbished at the same time? Absolutely. Though what isn’t a coincidence is that  an increasing amount of thought is being given to the most basic of bartending principles; the ergonomics of the bar set-up, which have an effect on speed of service and the quality and consistency of drinks, are important factors that now more than ever need to  be considered when setting up bars from scratch, as well as working behind them night after night.

Last year saw some great movements within the drink scene; this Cream Gin from the guys behind The Worship Street Whistling Shop helped push the boundaries within the world of an already established spirit, and bottled cocktails became more popular, as much for speed of service as for flavour development. Set against the backdrop of society where consumers are supposedly drinking less but drinking better, it’s understandable to see why the international mixed drink scene is in good shape and heading in the right direction. But in such financially sensitive times, it would be refreshing, if not expected, for 2013 to be the year that simple, down-to-earth drinks make a welcome return to the cocktail scene.

Nowadays, customers want to feel that they’re getting value for their money, whether it be at a cocktail bar in Soho or a five-star venue in Mayfair. People are still flocking to bars during the week and on weekends, but what they perceive to be value for money has changed since the recession. And it’s not just about the liquid in the glass; sure, a pretty garnish and a coupette straight from the freezer make us feel as though that the money we pay for a drink is shown by the love that goes into it.

But, just as importantly, the return of the bartender as a host, as well as the time it takes for a cocktail or a round of drinks to be put in front of them, are both important contributions to the whole package of the customers perception of feeling valued and that the amount of money spent justifies a drinking experience that starts as soon as they step foot on a licensed premises.

Despite the great strides that drink making have made over the last 20 years, especially within the realms of a wider category of products and the arrange of new flavors that have become available, the recession might well be the best to happen to the classically styled cocktail and the way the bartender responds to the fulfillment of a customers expectations.

It’s important that we don’t lose touch with evolutionary elements that have helped propel bartending into a respectable career that has seen it gain an increasing amount of press coverage over the last couple of years. But for the scene to stay fresh and to help newcomers on the path to sophisticated and educated drinking that’s approachable and unpretentious, it’s important that the basics of bartending are always adhered too, and that solid, honest-to-goodness drinks and snappy service are within every bartenders repertoire, regardless of which venue they work at or what kind of style of bartending they chose to follow.

The flask of Norman Conquest will stay within that space in the bar for years to come, maybe decades. Let’s hope that bartenders going into the industry now, and that those who intend to stay in the trade for the foreseeable future, realise the value of the fundamental skills of what makes a bartender good at his or her game, and that they continue to be followed, both once the recession has eased and when that flask is finally opened.


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Two opposite-sex day walkers doing a 'christmas hang'.

And so here we are, eight days before Christmas, 14 away from New Years Eve and 15 away from broken resolutions in the second year of the start of the second decade in the new millennia.

Grim openings aside, if you want to be cooler and more liked in your working environment, then this posting is the most important thing you will read this year.

As the eve of the last Friday before Christmas descends upon us, the industry gears up for the multi-round, order-one-drink-at-a-time, one-in-the-corner-that’s-blind-drunk work parties that descend chaos on the usually calm and sophisticated hospitality industry (however, for those of you who’ve looked at the calendar, will know that next Friday is actually Christmas Eve, though work parties on those days are usually non existent).

Also known as, ladies and gents, Black Friday.

But why is it called so? And, more importantly, why is this post so important to you as day walker wanting to be cool?

Black Friday originates from the fact that it’s the last working Friday before Christmas, and for those normal sane people who have day jobs and operate during the daylight hours, it’s their once-a-year knees-up which usually spills over into the environments cocktail bars, pubs and other general drinking establishments.

In short, shit gets messy, people get drunk, there’s usually a little vomit, a lot of talk back to the bar keep (bare with me here), and a whole heap of rowdiness.

As a responsible person with normal working hours, you can make our evenings at work easier by following these simple steps, which result in you receiving quicker and better drinks, and an appreciative smile from your tired and fatigued bartender.

Rule No.1Order all your drinks at the same time

If you’re in a large group, this can be problematic, but it’s not impossible. If you know what kind of drinks your work mates want before hand – spirit and mixer, wine, beer, etc. – this can save everyone a lot of time and make you look cool, but only if you manage to order all at once.

If you go into a cocktail bar, ask for a menu. Most cocktail bars, or bars that serve more than beer, wine and basic spirits, will have a menu with a complete list of all drinks available. If you decide to go down the route of ordering cocktails, give them to your bartender all at once. Separate orders are really fucking annoying, and will in turn piss your bartender off, which will piss you off, which… well, you get the idea.

Rule No.2 – Order your drinks, be polite and stay patient.

Unless it’s a newby, bartenders won’t mind big orders or get flustered, even if they won’t be ecstatic. Explain what you want to your bartender, apologize for the long order and relax. This in turn will make your bartender relaxed, your drinks will be that bit quicker, and should encourage a decent rapport. Bare this in mind if you decide to stay for more than one drink at one establishment.

Rule No.3 – Tip where possible.

As bartenders, we love our job, no matter what time of day, week, month or year that we’re working. Money is not top of our agenda in this profession, though the tips we receive make an unlimited amount of difference in our personal and work lives.

This is a strict no-no.

However, like 99% of businesses in general, we get busier, and shit gets stressful. Even though it’s our job to serve the general public, we’re also human, working at night, sleeping during the day and working long hours. If you feel like you’ve received good service, tip accordingly. If you’re on a company credit card, then even a little bit out of your own pocket will make a big difference. And if you can’t do that, explain why (i.e. company credit card). Especially if you’ve drank 20 mojitos in an hour without a mutter from you’re bar keep. They will be appreciative if you’re apologetic about the lack of tip off the back of making 12 French Martinis.

Rule No.4 – Don’t wave your cash to get the attention of the bar keep.

It’s no guarantee for us that you’ll tip, it’s the rudest thing you can do other than clicking your fingers, and makes you look like an ass. And you can’t complain if anyone snatches it out of your hand.

Rule No.5 – Don’t wave your credit card to get the attention of the bar keep.

See above. And it takes longer to put credit card transactions through.

Rule No.6 – Drink water throughout your evening and keep an eye on your work mates.

Self-explanatory. You’re all out together as a group, not a bunch of individuals. Look out for each other and make sure no-one ends up lying in their own poo in the toilet after 56  Jagerbombs.

Rule No. 7 – If it’s busy, don’t order 12 different cocktails.

Again, self-explanatory. If it’s busy, stay for one drink, and don’t over complicate matters. Ordering numerous Old-Fashions may actually end the world as we know it.

If you have to put a cocktail in their, then make sure you know what you want. For the record, if you order something sweet and fruity, it will either come off the menu or be a French martini. If you want something unique, specify your spirit, how ‘stiff’ you want your drink, and if you would like it in the flavour realms of sweet, sour, dry or bitter.

Rule No.8 – After ordering your drinks, stay at the bar.

Ordering drinks and then disappearing is utterly annoying, especially if you’re out of sight and someone takes your place at the bar. To boot, it’s embarrassing for a bartender to make drinks for no-one in sight when other people are waiting. Unless told otherwise, stay insight of the bar and your drink maker.

Rule No.9 – If you make a mess, tell your bar keep immediately.

This can’t be stressed enough. If some other person slips on your accidentally spilt crap, it’s us that gets the court case. Making a mess and then leaving is one of the rudest things any person can do, work party or not. We may be busy, but at least it’s brought to our attention. And one more thing – don’t pick it up. If you have to help, clear the area, move, and put a serviette or whatever is close to mark the spot. That will put an appreciative smile your bartenders face.

Rule No.10 – Enjoy your night out, but not at the expense of your bar keep.

Which pretty much means follow the above when you can.

Happy holidays folks!

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