Ten Myths You’ve Probably Heard in Bars

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The world of booze can be mystifying to people that don’t work in bars or around alcohol all the time. I hear a lot of assumptions about the industry I’m in that are — much like 90% of what you hear in bars — completely false. Here are a few you’ve probably heard yourself.

1. Amaretto is almond liqueur.

I’ve been hearing this one a lot lately. One never really thought much about amaretto ten years ago, but now it’s all over the place. I suspect this is not so much because amaretto is a wonderful liqueur as much as those ads (“DiSaronno on the rocks…“) are:

  • on all the time.
  • horrible.

Sure, okay, it tastes like almonds, but did you know that amaretto is actually made from apricot pits? It’s true.

Disaronno Originale is from the town of Saronno, Italy and is most likely the original amaretto liqueur, dating back to 1525. It is made from apricot pits steeped in either brandy or neutral spirits, with the addition of herb flavors and sweeteners. So the next time you hear someone refer to amaretto as almond liqueur, set them straight.

And DiSaronno, please do something about your ads.

2. Gin and vodka are completely different liquors.

There’s a real myth about gin, that it’s alcohol made from juniper berries. While this is partly true, gin and vodka start life pretty much the same way: as grain-based neutral spirits. The difference with gin is that it undergoes a final distillation — or sometimes just an infusion — that flavors the spirit with juniper, cinnamon, lemon peel, cardamom and other exotic flavors.

Sadly, gin often gets a bad rap from neophytes who only drink vodka. However, if you’re one of those considering a leap past flavorless grain alcohol, think of gin as a form of infused vodka and you will begin to explore the beauty, sophistication and exotic flavor of a truly wonderful spirit.

3. Any drink served in a cocktail glass is a martini.

A Martini is a drink made with gin or vodka, vermouth, and olives or a lemon twist. That’s it. (More Here)

A Martini does not involve:

  • apple schnapps
  • raspberry liqueur
  • lemongrass-infused ginger vodka
  • fresh lime juice
  • grenadine

A Martini is not:

  • “shaken to perfection”
  • served with a graham-cracker rim

There is no cream in a Martini. A Martini does not have jalapeños in it. There is also no such thing as a “chocolate martini”.

A Martini is a drink made with gin or vodka, vermouth, and olives or a lemon twist. That’s it.

Although the name of the glass we serve Martinis in has slowly been bastardized into martini glass, its true name is the cocktail glass, and anything served in it is a form of cocktail. Even the, uh, Martini.

So the next time you’re in a bar and they offer you their “Martini Menu” full of wonderful syrupy-sweet concoctions with names like the Sour Apple Martini, the Espresso Martini and the ubiquitous Pomegranate Martini, smile quietly and remember that you know better.

4. Women that go to bars alone are looking for sex.

In one way, women are no different than men: sometimes they just want to get out of the house and have a drink.

Maybe she’s single and tired of studying for exams, maybe she’s a stay-at-home mother that was offered an hour of relief from her husband and wants to enjoy a quiet glass of wine by herself. For whatever the reason a woman is sitting at the end of the bar, it’s probably none of your business. Have some class. If you do decide to approach her and she doesn’t appear to want your company, show some respect and leave her alone.

At my bar, we take very special care to dispel this myth, and as a result our establishment is a very comfortable place for women to patronize, alone or in groups. It’s something we’re proud of, and we’re more than happy to kick you out for harassing someone that doesn’t want your company.

5. People that work in bars are uneducated.

Maybe it’s just because I work and live in a college town, but some of the most highly-educated people I know work in bars. My co-bartender is a former sports journalist. The bartender at the pub I have a drink in after work has a law degree. Myself? I have a degree in architecture. And there’s one question we just love hearing night after night.

“So why are you still just a bartender?”

Well, we’re still just bartenders for many reasons.

  • We like the hours.
  • We like meeting new people every day.
  • We’re passionate about mixology.
  • We’re lousy at sitting in an office all day (we’ve tried.)
  • We actually enjoy bartending.

So before you judge that woman behind the bar, just remember: she could have a PhD in botany and be bartending so that she has time to work on her book about South American agricultural anthropology. Seriously.

6. Male bartenders go home with a different woman every night.

When I got my first job bartending at a tender young age, I had visions of Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail: hotel room keys sliding across the bar as I coolly sipped a spiked coffee, standing with one foot on the brass rail and gazing across the emptying room at the end of a long night while I decided which young vixen to go home with.

The real truth hits me every other Friday night, as I lie on my stomach in an inch of standing water, trying to fish a whole lime out of my floor drain with a steak knife in a vain attempt to keep the entire bar from flooding. The truth of the matter is, bartending is a job like any other, but with eight more hours of standing and a wild pack of drunks to tend to every night. At the end of that night, there’s an hour’s worth of cleanup to do, and the sad truth is that by the time most of us are done,
most people are sound asleep.

Sorry to break it to you, young bartenders, but I think you should know this before you become disillusioned and bitter.

Like me.

7. Bartenders that measure ingredients don’t know what they’re doing.

I’ve been bartending for over ten years now, but I still measure a lot of what I pour. Why? Well, sometimes it’s because I don’t have a pour spout in that bottle of 12-dollar-a-shot single-malt scotch. Sometimes it’s because I’m making the perfect Mai Tai and I know there’s no way I can measure out an exact half-ounce of simple syrup from the plastic jug. Sometimes it’s because I want to make sure you get every drop of the liquor you ordered and not short you – or my bosses.

In these days of “flair bartending” (juggling), with dollars worth of booze literally spilling out all over the floor every night, I find it refreshing when I sit at a bar and see a bartender who cares enough about me, and his/her job, to measure out a perfect shot of alcohol.

After all, being a great bartender is about having a deep respect for alcohol, and there’s nothing respectful about the floor behind most bars. Trust me.

8. Bartenders are walking databases of every drink ever created.

I swear to you that the following story is true. A couple of years ago, a group of people came in to my bar, and they all wanted this drink called a Woodpecker. I, like you, had never heard of this drink before in my life, so the first step I took was to look in the Big Book of Dumb Drinks that we keep behind the bar. Nada. Then I did what you would have done in a situation like this: I asked them what went in it. Nobody knew.

“Um, it was like, kind of a greenish color, but with some red in it, like a woodpecker.”

Hmmm… probably something with Midori in it. This drink is off to a very bad start. A green woodpecker? I asked them if it tasted like melon.

“No, it kind of had a coconut flavor, but with lemon in it. Like a coconut cream pie.”

Ouch. Malibu Rum. I can’t believe there’s a bar in town serving this crap. Maybe I know the bartender and I can actually find out how to make it sometime. I asked them where they had this drink.

“At our friend Dave’s house last night. He invented it!”

I was nonplussed to say the least. These otherwise intelligent, professional people were actually asking me if I knew how to make a drink that their friend made up — and named — at his house the night before.

Remember, kids: if it’s foreign to you, it might be foreign to your bartender. Tread lightly and don’t be disappointed if you don’t get what you’re looking for.

9. The real fun begins after we close.

The idea that we’re having a big party without you once the bar closes is absurd. We’re tired, we’re cranky, and we’ve still got an hour and a half of work ahead of us. I actually told you all this a half hour ago, so why are you still here? Ah, yes, the after-party. Let me tell you something, bub: it ain’t here.

One thing I’ve never understood about bars was the expectation, night after night, that we should let people sit around after we’ve closed and feed them free alcohol. Are there people hanging out at Wal-Mart around closing time trying to get the cashiers to give them free DVDs? I seriously doubt it. So why do some people insist on doing the same in bars?

Sure, there’s probably a bar in town where people are sitting and drinking for free at four in the morning. However, I can guarantee you that not one of those people was invited in for overstaying a welcome. If the lights are up and the music is off, the party’s over.

Go home.

10. Mixing alcohols will result in a hangover.

All drinkable alcohol is ethyl alcohol mixed with water and flavorings. Sure, some alcohols are made with things you might be allergic to, like wheat or the cogeners and sulfites found in grapes, but for the most part, it’s all the same: beer, wine, gin, tequila, it’s all ethyl alcohol and flavor.

I’m going to put this as clearly as I can: the reason you had a hangover last Saturday was because you had three beers, a glass of red wine, two shots of tequila, a martini, and four gins and tonic.

Simply put: it’s not the variety of different drinks you had: you simply drank too much.

150 Replies to “Ten Myths You’ve Probably Heard in Bars”

  • Mike says:

    Regarding the amaretto, I said that to the person running my bartending class. She then emphatically stated that they were made from almonds. I was wholly unimpressed. I love the rest of the myths, particularly the Woodpecker story.

  • T.C. says:

    I gotta agree with numbers 5 and 8….I have a BA, but I like people. I really don’;t have the personality to be in an office(I’ll admit I’m doing it now though). Part of me Loved bartending, loved meeting new people every day. I used to work at a Hotel, that had a bar, and on weekend eves after the weddings finished the people would come into the bar and drink more…..we ALWAYS ended up getting someone asking for a drink we didn’t know of, and BOTH bartenders had their own bibles(different books). It was a hassle and a half. we used to just see if we could talk them into stuff we knew.

  • Brandon says:

    I’ve often wondered about the exact definition of a Martini. I’ll keep that little definition in the back of my mind.

  • andyi says:

    Another excellent post! This site is one of my favourite blogs on the internet at the moment – keep up the good work!

  • andyi says:

    PS… one of the sites that advertises in your google adwords has a recipe for an Apple Martini!

    Perhaps you should go and put them straight! 🙂

  • Jewish mom says:

    Regarding vodka; one word.

    Monopolowa.

  • That’s one of the best posts on anything I’ve read in a while.

    I was especially surprised to find out how much in common gin and vodka had.

    I must expose my parochalism though; regardless of what gin’s made with, I’ve never been able to warm to the taste! I’m pretty much a rum snob, but there are some liquors like gin (and, in most cases, bourbon) that I don’t care a whit for.

    So, I feel a little finickiy in my booze preferences, sure. But I do know what I like!

  • Chris says:

    About #10, I had heard that the more pure an alcohol was (i.e. the less that is mixed with the ethyl alcohol I guess) then the less severe your hangover will be. A friend of mine, when he wants to get drunk, has starting drinking exclusively vodka or gin because he says they’re more ‘pure’ and don’t give him as bad a hangover. Is that true?

    Personally, I have always assumed that the degree of my hangover was related to the type of beer I was drinking (e.g. dark vs light, etc) as well as the quantity. Surely that’s true isn’t it?

  • Jeffrey says:

    To some extent the congeners — impurities produced during the fermentation process — are responsible for a hangover, but the truth of the matter is that a hangover is mainly caused by dehydration.

    Sure, there may be other contributing factors, those impurities being one, sulfites being another. However, the only way to truly beat a hangover is by drinking lots and lots of water alongside your drinks, or simply not overindulging at all.

  • lindalou says:

    I gotta say, Mr M, your attitude towards women is really refreshing. Sometimes I will go to my local wine bar to read a book and get away from whatever I’m working on, and what really bothers me the most is not the men that hassel me endlessly, but the bartenders who don’t seem to care one way or the other.

    Good for you!

  • Darryl says:

    There is such thing as a Chocolate Martini, it’s very popular, and it’s usually pretty damn tasty. I know purists have been deriding the “Martini Menu” craze for the last decade or so, but an entire generation of people now call drinks served in cocktail glasses “martinis” – why fight it?

    Every other point is spot-on, including the after-party thing. I’ve never understood that notion.

  • Jeffrey says:

    I’d be interested in knowing what goes into a Chocolate Martini. I’ve served people two parts vanilla vodka with one part white creme de cacao and they’ve stared at me blankly.

    “Why is it clear?”

    I’ve served other people equal parts vodka, Godiva chocolate liqueur, and cream and they’ve looked at it like I just served them a glass of snot.

    “I don’t drink dairy.”

    It’s not a drink with a recipe, it’s different at every bar you walk into, and quite frankly, it tastes like shit.

    I usually talk my customers into something they end up enjoying much, much more: The Brandy Alexander

  • SkippyMom says:

    Hi! Just found your blog and must say – great read.

    I like the measured pour aspect. I love a good bourbon and coke [pedestrian I know] but sometimes when it isn’t measured it is so strong it tastes like [and appears as] a bourbon on the rocks with a splash of coke. I do like a buzz…but I like the taste more….

    How do you go about not offending your bartender by saying it is too strong?

    …or is that just silly?

  • Lucas says:

    I totally agree with ‘why we bartend’. When people ask me why I bartend during the summers (I do graphic design but I live on the beach, and there are TONS of bars on the beach) I tell them one word…MONEY!!! I make more money in a 5 to 6 month period bartending then a whole year of graphic design. They never believe me. I am sure, with your experiences, that a $400 day is very common. I usually break it down. $400 a day-CASH, 6 days a week for 6 months. Plus a very nice paycheck every two weeks. Not too shabby for an ‘uneducated’ bartender!!!

  • Smach says:

    I have a great recipe for a chocolate martini!Take a piece of Hershey’s “chocolate” and dip it in 151. Then you light it on fire and let it melt from your hand into a cocktail glass full of 3 Olives Chocolat Vodka. Stir the martini with your chocolate covered fingers until they are free of chocolate residue and garnish with a piece of brownie. Delish!

  • Rochelle says:

    I love the myths blog and it straightened out some things I thought as a former bartender. Former because I now have too long a commute to be a banker and a bartender. As for education I also have a degree and know others that do as well. I bartended because of the money AND I like people.

    I’ll try to remember to come to your place when I’m home for a visit in July and need some peace and quiet from the family.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Jeffrey says:

    Thanks, Rochelle. I love it when people who have read this website stop in and say hello, so please do!

  • Dominik MJ says:

    Ahem Jeffrey:

    Amaretto can be an almond liqueur (but there is no must of almonds). Disaronno surely hasn’t got one single almond in it, but other brands are using almonds!

    Anyway, I enjoyed the other points… especially the Martini Myth.

    Cheers!

  • Hey Dominik

    Since DiSaronno is the “original” amaretto, we can argue that those other brands are making something other than “real” amaretto, as real amaretto doesn’t have almonds in it!

  • Tracy says:

    The chocolate “martini” I loved (more like dessert than a drink though!) I really wish I could recall the exact recipe, but it was several different types of alcohol, vodka I know for sure, but there was also some irish cream involved. I do remember that it was similar to like a Mudslide recipe. I wouldn’t order it at a bar, but it was great after dinner at the restaurant when I was in the mood for dessert lol.

  • Mark Parry says:

    Oh, I loved the one about educated bartenders. I tend bar at private parties. I’ve tended several events with one other fellow, Scott, who happens to be a fifth grade teacher. We were tending at a fundraiser event at a private Catholic school. A woman (the principal of the school as it turned out was standing at the bear bemoaning the fact that they were having trouble filling some teaching positions. Scott piped up asking a few questions about the position. This lady in a pretty condescending tone asked if he knew anyone with the appropriate qualifications. When he said he had them you could hear her eyes rolling back in her head. They rolled back into position fast enough when he told her he’d been teaching fifth grade for years, had undergraduate and graduate degrees, certificates, experience as interim principal of a school, etc, etc. She finished up bay asking him to apply. When she was out of earshot I asked him if he’s apply and he smiled and said that he wouldn’t because they couldn’t afford him (public schools pay better generally than private, apparently).

  • Jeffrey says:

    Mark

    Classic! We should all know better than to judge a book by its cover, on both sides of the bar!

  • Ali B says:

    i find that hangovers have three components…
    the quality. (it’s better to spend an extra two dollars on top shelf, rather than antacids and mineral water.)
    the amount of sugar. (a gin and tonic compared to an “apple martini”.)
    and most definitely keeping properly hydrated.

  • Jason Edwards says:

    The uneducated bartender myth must be a world wide one. I hold a BSc in Anatomy and human biology, but yes i do work behind a bar. With several hundreds of different ales coming through each with different flavours their is a lot to learn and know from the brewing to conditioning and serving.
    Why is drinks knowledge less valuable than peoples opinions on classic literature. I know which i’d rather listen to.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Amen, Jason! My A.S. in Physics and my BS in Interior Architecture salute you!

  • Joshua A. says:

    Great post. As a bartender that does have respect for alcohol and its history, I still did not know a couple of those things.

    I will have to disagree with your assessment of hangovers though. Although you are correct that the majority of the time hangovers are caused by dehydration, the sulfites in red wine will cause hangovers even without dehydration, even more so if the subject IS dehydrated.

  • Jeff says:

    I stumbled on your website today and I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed a lot of what you have on here. It’s nice to see things written from a real bartender’s point of view.

    I do have to disagree with you on the comment about flair bartending. Anyone who is serious about it does everything in their power to keep from spilling. In fact, at flair competitions, you get blasted on points for spilling. I see more spilling at bars everyday due to sloppy pouring, improper cuts and poor use of a jigger. Just check out how full their bar mats are.

    While there are a lot of people out there who goof around with flair and give it a bad name, there are just as many so called “mixologists” who can’t make drinks unless they contain Malibu, Midori, Chambord or grenadine. Flair is not juggling, it is about adding style and entertainment while making a great drink. Check out the Flair Bartenders Association (barflair.org) for more info.

    Keep up the good work.

  • I tended bar for three years in Japan, just after I realized that my Ph.D in psychology wasn’t what I actually wanted to do with my life. At least it came in handy when dealing with difficult customers!

  • giantfunbags says:

    Nice post, witty and informative. I have to disagree with you though on #6. It may not have been every night, but I went home with plenty of different women while I was tending bar. Often, it was the woman sitting alone at the end of the bar. Oh, and by the way, I have two B.S. degrees and now run my own business. So, to all of you rookie tenders out there, you probably will get laid. That goes for both genders.

  • Erik says:

    I just made a Mojito for my wife using your recipe and she loved it. Thanks!

    I did add a couple of drops of Angostura bitters, but I’ll probably leave that out next time.

    I’m an amateur, but when mixing at home I prefer to measure carefully because I figure if you’re not worried about getting the proportions right, you’re probably just drinking for effect.

    I’m a Martini snob, and wholeheartedly support your definition. I don’t have anything against those other drinks (though I don’t care to drink them), they’re just not Martinis. Anyway, keep up the good work.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Thanks, Erik. I had a group of young bartenders in hysterics this weekend as they sat at the bar and watched me measure out lemon juice.

    “Is your boss really so paranoid that you have to measure out the mixers!?”

    I just sighed.

  • Gina says:

    The confusion around Amaretto may arise from the fact that almonds and apricots are both “drupes” (aka “stone fruits”) and are relatively close kin to each other from a taxonomic perspective.

    Ok, that’s probably not the source of confusion…but it’s interesting, right? 😉

  • Jeffrey says:

    Yeah, probably not the *source* of the confusion, but still great information, Gina!

  • Tim says:

    Number 5 seems to happen allot. I have a friend that put himself through 6 years of college and paid for it all by bartending. Even after he graduated from college, he’s still a bartender because he likes the work. Since he’s an excellent bartender, and often falls into item 7, he makes quite a bit of money. Perhaps number 11 on your list could be, “Don’t ask me to bartend at the party you invited me to as a guest.”, I know that is one that really bugs him.

  • Cameron Hollis says:

    Great, great site. Very impressed. Been a long time since I’ve been into your bar to get an ice cold Kirin. See you soon.

  • Brian says:

    I was a bartender for many years, I’ve been through several levels of bartending, from simple setups, to four star dining. I loved it, I’d still do it if I didn’t need to worry about insurance. I’ve dealt with each and every one of those myths, and when I’ve been asked why I still tend bar, I give them this spiel about how bartending is equal parts art, chemistry, psychology and entertainment, but the truth is, I just like making cool drinks for great people. Not to mention, Old Fashioneds are fun to make.

  • Bartending in vegas’ busy nightclubs, customers come from all over the world and bing with them regional drinks they think we should know. When some one asks for and australian jumping koala, I would confidently ask “is that the red one or blue one?”. Continue to mix some vile slurry that i would pour into shot glass, charge them $12 a drink and move to a customer with a rational order.

  • Sammy says:

    I always have loved amaretto, and now I know more about it! Thanks!

  • ND says:

    Hi! As far as I know, there’s kind of a “kernel” on the inside of stone fruit like peaches and apricots, which is called a “bitter almond”, and is used for making Amaretto, as well as Orgeat syrup. Maybe this is where the confusion comes in. Interestingly, cyanide (reportedly) has a sweet almond smell, and if you eat enough of these bitter almonds (like maybe 2 cups of them?), the cyanide will kill you… wish these “tini” guys would invent a “Cyanide Martini”

  • ND says:

    Whoah, wait a minute! This has some serious potential! Even though I’m a bit of a purist (a real martini has gin—NOT Vodka ((kangaroo))—vermouth and orange bitters as far as I’m concerned), there’s kind of a crisp, mysterious sound to “Cyanide Martini”. How about this: a nice cheap sharp gin (Gordon’s maybe), with Amaretto (it would probably have to be quite a stiff mix, like 5:1 or less) and seasoned with aromatic or Peychaud’s bitters perhaps…

    You’re all going to be ordering Cyanide Martinis off the “Martini Menu” someday soon… let it be known that I am their proud pappy!!!!

  • JimR says:

    Man, the is all true! I bartended my way through college, and loved every minute. I moved on, but when I get over my office job, I’m hoping some nice bar somewhere will have need for a part time old guy who loves to tend bar, meet new people, and make great drinks. No matter what people name them.

  • Sarah says:

    Almonds are in the same family as peaches. So a peach pit is alot the same as an almond, and the confusion makes alot of sense.

  • Angus says:

    I have to say that #8 really made me laugh. At a bar I used to work at in Olympia, WA, we had a very popular, cute, female bartender who liked to make up drinks on the spot and name them. Of course, the bartenders at the other four stations ended up looking like idiots when the customers later came to us and asked for a “Rascally Rabbit”.

    I do have to disagree with your first point, though. Amaretto IS an almond liqueur. The chemical that gives bitter almonds their flavor is benzaldehyde. The exact same chemical is found in higher concentrations in the pits of peaches and apricots, as well as cherries. “Natural Almond” extract is made from the pits of apricots, but it is allowed to be sold as natural almond extract because the chemical is exactly the same and it is from a “natural” source. Amarettos, including those from Saronno, were originally made with bitter almonds. The makers later switched to using apricot or peach pits because they were cheaper, and they had a much higher concentration of benzaldehyde, so they could save some money but get the EXACT same flavor (since all molecules of benzaldehyde are identical regardless of their source). The fact that the benzaldehyde in most amarettos (but not all–there are some that still use almonds) comes from apricot pits rather than almonds is beside the point…amaretto is an ALMOND FLAVORED liqueur. You and I may know that it doesn’t contain any actual almonds, but I don’t think we can say that the people who call amaretto an almond liqueur are wrong.

  • Roger says:

    What is the difference between expensive vodka and cheap vodka as I can’t see how you can vary the quality of the alcohol.

  • Stefanie says:

    I LOVE your blog and your myths were spot on. I will get a little geeked out with you for a second because your #10 is mostly true but slightly unfinished. You CAN get a headache from “mixing” and not having an awful lot to drink. This happens because of the sugars used in different spirits, artificial mixers some bars and cordials use and even mixtures natural fermented sugar sources used to create the spirits. By consuming to many diverse sources of sugar your body can get overloaded with a sugar headache that can has little to do with the alcohol consumed. From one nerd to another with love and respect. Cheers!

  • Okay, okay, you’re totally right, Stephanie. I was trying to keep it simple, but it looks as if I’ve met my match!

    What I was trying to suggest with #10 was that the most simple act of combining alcohols won’t, by itself, give one a hangover.

    But you knew that 😉

  • Dave Yeager says:

    I loved almost all of what you had say. About the whole martini thing you are absolutely correct. As we know, at one time if you simply added an onion instead of an olive you had to qualify it as a gibson. However, as a long time bartender and a passionate lover of the classic cocktail, I love anything that makes young bartenders explore and create. And lets face it, the current “martini” craze has caused more new cocktails made than ever before. It has been a large portion of the fuel behind the flavored vodka and rum craze. Which to me are simply more colors on the palette for me to make my art. It took me about 10 years of bartending before I could watch a young sap bartender shake a Manhattan, set the chalky thing in front of me and me drink it without explaining to them that you never shake sweet vermouth. So in closing I will say that in the same society where white zinfandel is called wine and bud light is called Beer. I guess some sugar rimmed blue cocktail with a gummy fish floating in it can be called a martini. After all ignorance is bliss and most bar customers could care less what is proper, just what tastes good to them.

  • Adam says:

    As a chemical engineer working for burnetts in kentucky, i assure you that you are so so wrong about the difference between gin and vodka. grow up. you are not smarter than the average human so quit acting like you know more than anyone else.

  • nd says:

    @Adam: please either qualify that statement, or else shut the f*ck up

  • Adam, I would be really curious to hear how the following statement is so wrong:

    There’s a real myth about gin, that it’s alcohol made from juniper berries. While this is partly true, gin and vodka start life pretty much the same way: as grain-based neutral spirits. The difference with gin is that it undergoes a final distillation — or sometimes just an infusion — that flavors the spirit with juniper, cinnamon, lemon peel, cardamom and other exotic flavors.

    Sadly, gin often gets a bad rap from neophytes who only drink vodka. However, if you’re one of those considering a leap past flavorless grain alcohol, think of gin as a form of infused vodka and you will begin to explore the beauty, sophistication and exotic flavor of a truly wonderful spirit.

    Please. Enlighten us all.

  • Dave Yeager says:

    Adam,

    Hate to bust your bubble but Jeff is correct. Gin is the original flavored grain neutral spirit.
    For those interested in learning more check out

    Gin Is Vodka, Only Better
    Talking with a master gin distiller

    at http://www.chow.com/stories/10487

    I may have spent the last 20 years working as one of those “low intelligence” bartenders but I could spend an hour to qualifying this. However I am assuming your the same guy that would argue Jack Daniels is a Bourbon.

    And lets face it, the Burnett’s product speaks volumes for the capabilities of the chemical engineers.

  • Dave, “Adam” is no more of a chemical engineer than I am, he/she is just a student at Colorado State.

    And while I’m not the biggest fan of Burnett’s, it is made by the fine folks at Heaven Hill Distillery, many of their products of which I have enjoyed over the years.

  • Dave Yeager says:

    I never assumed he truly was employed in the industry. (i.e the JD comment) I should have been more clear. My point was that if you were to say you were employed by a distillery, do not choose a well.

    I never meant any direct disrespect to the distillery. I am sure they also know Burnett’s is a sub-par alcohol line. That is why they price it as they do. At the same time… In college I owe many a hangover to Whalers Rum and I sell the bejesus out of PAMA in my bar today. It is in my opinion the best pomegranate liqueur I have found.

    You can make some some great martinis with it. LOL

  • Yvette Astudillo says:

    haha. I have to say Jeff, I agree with you immensly !! One night I had a female patron order a Amaretto Sour and asked me what kind of liquor was in a Amaretto Sour!! I seriously thought she was pulling my leg. I said your kidding right? She replied, no really what’s in it?! (umm.. Amaretto maybe). In addition, people do think we are a walking data base lol and if we don’t know it they think we don’t know our sh**. As far as for # 6, I love to bartend & have been in the industry for 7 years now. I am a single women and acquire phone numbers almost every night but at the end of the night I always end up going home to my puppy:-D due to leaving work(the bar) so late, but I wouldn’t change any of it love my job!!

    P.S. I great website good job hun!!

  • nd says:

    Sorry for flaming you like that, Adam. ROUGH week at work… (15 hours a day, and I’m not even a bleedin’ bartender!). Go ahead and delete my post from 17/01, mr moderator.

  • Enh, he/she can take it. I’m going to allow it.

  • Dave Yeager says:

    Hey Jeff,

    I just thought you might get a kick out of this. One of my younger bartenders was having an after bar at his house last night. So once I was finally able to get away at about 3:30 (I would love to get off at 2) I grabbed a Case of Guinness and a case of Bass thinking that some black and tans would be good.

    So I arrive at the party and soon see a familiar lady and we are talking as I unpack my Guinness Tulips and begin layering my favorite beverage and offer her one. She tells me that she does not like dark beer so I offer her a Bass and she accepts.

    I notice about half an hour later that she has barely drank her beer and I ask her if she likes it. Her response; “I do not mean to be a beer snob but, I really can’t drink any beer cheaper than natty light.”

    I smile and let her know that I had seen some bud select in the fridge. She apologizes as she climbs her social ladder and enjoys her can of Select.

  • yvette says:

    ahhh haha ha

    To dave,
    that is too funny!

  • Dave, it just goes to show: there’s something out there for everyone.

    Right?

  • jnelli says:

    just wanted to say this a great website!!!! im an amatuer bartender and while i can mix fairly well, it never ceases to amaze me at what a customer will come up with and how ignorant they try to make u feel if u dont know what it is or how to make it. what most dont understand is theres a huge difference between shaken,stirred,layered and so forth. in my job( im the asst. manager of an established resteraunt)all managers are required to bartend from time to time, i actually had one of my shift managers tell me she made a whiskey sour with ameretto and margarita mix!!!!!! and here i thought how ignorance is abunant in this industry not just form the clientel but from the actual mixers!!!! on top of that she actually called me at home to ask how to make an Long Island!!! this lady freqents bars on a regular basis and i wonder does she even know what shes drinking herself?

  • jnelli, this amaretto and Margarita mix concoction sounds absolutely horrific.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Khi says:

    I have a question about point number 10, I was always given to believe that alcohols that were distilled in pot stills, as opposed to column still, would contain more of the alcohol family, esters and so forth, this is why they generally had a finer, rounder and often just better flavour. Is this not true? The same with hard ciders, because of the makeup of the apple and the traditional way they are brewed they contain methyl as well as ehthyl alcohols. Am I being really stupid and just not getting the chemistry?

    Sorry if I’m being really naive.

  • Sylvie says:

    Just a note on fighting the “martini” ignorance. I’m 24; I began bartending when the stupids were already reigning. When customers order a martini at my bar, I ask “gin or vodka?” and they give this blank stare before replying for the latter, as if they’d never even heard of the former. Or, they’ll ask for a glass of “Pinot,” without the important specification of “grigio” or “noir.” Worst of all are people who don’t know that “zinfandel” is the grape, and indeed, it’s red.
    So here’s my point: why give in to the erroneous orders of ignorant customers? “Straight Up” is not one thing. I’ve found that people appreciate being educated as to how to order their drink, and those of us who are “old school” give a sigh of relief when the professional in charge of our beloved cocktails know what the hell we’re talking about and what they’re doing. If I order an Old Fashioned and you don’t have oranges, I don’t want 10 marascino cherries instead, damnit.
    So here’s to being educated and expert in our profession.

  • Michaelg says:

    I’m sorry, Jeffrey, but I have to disagree on the hangover issue from personal experience of over 20 years of drinking. When I stick with one thing, be it Jack Daniels, beer, wine, tequila, etc. I usually avoid hangovers – even if it’s 8 shots of bourbon. But when I mix a cocktail, and couple of glasses of wine, and finish with a beer, I feel dead the next day. I’m just one person, but it’s clearly true that mixing makes it worse the next day for me.

  • Amy says:

    Dude this shit is hilarious. It is now my personal goal to come to your bar all the way from OK just to order a Woodpecker Martini!

  • Kyle says:

    In regards to what causes a hangover….
    The headache and a vast majority of the other issues related to a hang over is merely due to dehydration. Alcohol throws off the hypothalmus which is the regulatory center of the brain, that coupled with the massive ammounts of liquid intake causes you to …well.. piss alot. You are made of water, when you get rid of it, you don’t work right. Plain and simple. My best advice, before you go to bed, drink a big glass of water. Your head will thank you the next day.

  • Marcelo says:

    Hahahaha the “woodpecker” drink…
    What gets me everytime is when the placed is packed, music blasting we are 5 deep scrambling not to drown and some guy comes up and asks “uumm…what type of beer do you have?”…

  • Tiare says:

    Great post as usual. The Woodpecker cracked me up..

    Nice that you took up no 4.

  • Claym says:

    I think number 6 is the best, when it is all said and done, when everything is cleaned put away, organized, and ready for the first day, I’d be happy with someone to have a drink and unwind with, too bad, everyone is asleep.

  • Mike says:

    I just have to chime in on the hangover issue. Dehydration is a big part of it, but a major factor is also vitamin B complex deficiency. Getting drunk drains you of fluids and vitamin B. Yeast happens to be full of vitamin B and unfiltered beer is full of yeast. Ergo, getting wasted on unfiltered or bottle conditioned beer will result in far less of a hangover than hard alcohol or cheap mass produced beer. That’s my .02. Great blog.

  • April Chapman says:

    I have a question. I was of the impression that the bitters made the martini and not neccessarily the garniture. Although, I suppose it can be served castrato. Are bitters not a part of the essential elements? Would love to know what you think. Cheers.

  • Thanks, Mike.

    April: Sadly, orange bitters are no longer part of the modern dry martini, so wouldn’t say that they’re part of the essential elements. And personally, I believe a martini sans garnish is still a martini, though I do prefer a lemon twist – even if it’s discarded after expressing the oils on the surface.

  • earache says:

    A few years back I was at an unfamiliar bar that was so dark I couldn’t read the bottles on display. It was early in the evening and slow, so I asked the bartender what potato vodkas they had. She smirked and informed me that “all vodka is made from potatoes.” I tried to enlighten her in a polite way, but she was having none of it.

    I’ve always felt like potato vodka was somehow “cleaner,” but no doubt that isn’t necessarily true. It does seem like being stored at such high proof would get rid of any particular flavor from the potatoes. So what’s the real story?

    And yes, I love your blog — just discovered it via Make’s link to your tonic recipe.

  • That’s a big source of debate, and while the liquor companies will tell you that it makes a huge difference wether the neutral spirits come from potatoes, grapes, wheat, beets, rye, etc., I’m going to tell you that with 95% of the base material being pure alcohol, and the other 5% being comprised of water and impurities, I certainly couldn’t tell the difference in a blind test.

    Where vodka really gets its defining character, in my opinion, is when they cut that 95% pure alcohol with water in order to turn it in to vodka. The pH and minerals found in said water are going to provide a lot more for the palate to work with.

    But that’s just my $.02. Welcome to the site.

  • Sergio says:

    Pro flair bartender-I don’t know how familiar you are with flair bartending, what I do know is that flair is not for everyone(like you for example). Flair takes a lot of time to perfect, you have to practice almost everyday for 1 to 3 hours if you want to be good at it. Maybe you saw a flair bartender that was just starting out, spilling alcohol all over flair, as I have seen many non-flair veteran bartenders that have an uncomfortable look about them when they are working. A major benefit that is often overlooked is you ability to bartend when you are not flairing. What I mean by that is the fluidity and grace that you will aquire form flair bartending. A bartender who is profecient in flair is going to have a smooth and controlled way about he has a bottle in his hand. As an experienced flair bartender I can tell that I would never do a trick behind the bar that I feel uncomfortable with and spill alcohol, I know that there are many so called “flair bartenders” that don’t have any idea of what they are doing.
    Another benefit of flair bartending is that adds another dimension to your arsenal of assets. the more you have to offer to a future employer the more likely it will be that you land that job.
    Now, let’s talk about money, a real flair bartender is simple a lot more impressive to the customer. More impressive means more tips.
    Well it’s time to go, have to get ready to work at Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood, Florida. By the way, I wouldn’t be there if I wasn’t a flai bartender.

  • Sylvie says:

    I won’t get into whether or not flair bartending is a worthwhile endeavor, but I will contend your statement that a flair bartender is more impressive to a customer. As a bartender AND a customer, I’m mostly impressed by a quality drink, made with care and precision. Second to that is a bartender who can interact with me, without being obnoxious, chatty, or rude. Neither of those elements come into play with flair, so far as I’ve ever seen.
    There is definitely an entertainment factor in flair bartending and customers who are into that – and bartenders who want to perform in this way – are welcome to franchise. But, to me, bartending is an art of mixology, not an acrobatic display, and I’ll stick to the “wise old barkeep” school.
    Now, I must also go to work at the Hudson Waterfront, where I also would not be… were I a flair bartender.

  • Chris says:

    Great post–I know I’m late to the game, but what the heck. Just stumbled across your site via the Mixology Monday series, and couldn’t help getting sucked in. On the Martini Question: isn’t a cocktail spirit, sugar, water, and bitters? Shouldn’t the modern martinis (if we’re going to be that particular) be more accurately classified into the various pigeonholes of sour, fix, daisy, sling, cobbler, shrub, smash…well. As you know, the list goes on. Point being, Jerry Thomas would blanch at your calling those drinks “cocktails” just as much as you do at calling them “martinis”. Language changes; usage changes; and if anything, in the anarchic world of the bar, it changes faster than just about anywhere else. Frustrating, perhaps, but a sign of the vitality that lured me (with my botany B.S.) behind the bar in the first place.

    Given my botany background, perhaps I can give a bit more detail on amaretto (together with Angus at #46) than anyone really cares about. As he says, many plants in the rose family–particularly the stone fruits (Prunus species), including apricot, peach, cherry, bitter almond, etc, contain amygdalin. This compound, named after the Greek word for the bitter almonds in which it is most highly concentrated, breaks down under certain conditions into hydrocyanic acid, benzaldehyde, and a couple of glucose molecules. The important compound for the plant is the cyanide: it functions to protect the seed from such destructive appetites as our own. From a mixologist’s perspective, however, it’s the benzaldehyde that matters. As you’ve all pointed out, different amaretto liqueurs obtain this flavor from different sources; however, it’s all still “bitter almond” flavored–thus the name, amaretto, or little bitter. I think. 🙂 I’ve found that bar arguments never really end; they only get more complex.

    Incidentally, benzaldehyde also makes important appearances in other stone-fruit based liqueurs. Can’t find Maraschino where you live? Try adding a few drops of clove oil to amaretto. You’ll be surprised at the complete change in the flavor–suddenly a completely new, floral aroma arises. It’s no Luxardo, but it’ll do in a pinch.

    Frankly, I’ve been entirely unable to find any information on how they separate the cyanide from the benzaldehyde–is it cut out during distillation? is there a
    separate process? is there still a significant amount in the final product? Not sure. I’d love to learn, if anyone has the info.

    One last thing…the modern sweet almond that you eat as a nut does contain the compound amygdalin. However, it has been selected for a mutation to not produce the enzyme (emulsin) responsible for breaking down the amygdalin–thus the lack of that “almond extract” flavor.

  • Chris says:

    Oh, and in regards to flairtending…I’ve been trained by so-called cocktailian bartenders, and every last one of them expressed nothing but disdain for flair. There seem to be two camps set up, with labels thrown in either direction but very little attempt to actually understand the other’s craft. Seriously though…the bartender is chef, server, therapist, entertainer…what’s the harm in learning to juggle? From what I understand, the masters of the 1800s were just as well known for their “flair” as for their masterful mixing. Blue Blazer, anyone? I think we can all stand to take lessons from one another if we want to improve the craft(s) of bartending together.

    Geez, I’m long-winded today.

  • Khat Baker says:

    I loved reading every word of your blog. I tended a pub in San Francisco on Haight St called Achilles Heel for many years and a lot of what you said I could really relate with. I am not an “office type” and I much prefer the later hours.

    The money provided me a better living than what I could earn with my Master’s Degree and it was so much more fun. I didn’t get a chance to learn to flair bar tend because I was too busy to flip bottles around. I preferred to work by myself for other bar tenders seemed to get in my way.

    Anyone can pour a beer, it is an art to work a bar. It takes someone who is capable of jumping in and out of conversations, getting folks talking to each other, constantly coming up with new music, delivering for my cocktail servers, creating an ambiance of an upbeat party, and being creative with mixology.

    I was suicide prevention counselor, marriage counselor. I could see a bar fight coming on and could step in at the precise moment to diffuse the situation. Local single woman felt comfortable coming in when I was on shift for they knew I would watch out for them and would step in if necessary. Where I worked was a wonderful mix of tourists and neighborhood locals.

    I learned to Bar tend in the Tenderloin District of SF and my boss expected that we take every dime out of their pockets. He called it “Bust em out” we were to promise the moon and deliver nothing. Not at all my style and as soon as I was comfortable with a bar, I left. I think the best thing about working there was I had to be tough and I had to create this air of confidence around me purely as a survival tool or I would be thrown to the wolves.

    I look back at that time of my life and I have such fond memories of good times that we all shared. I was lucky for the money was excellent and I met folks from all over the world. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything even if Amaretto was made from apricot pits. Thanx for having me relive such a great part of my life.

    Forever Grateful, Khat

  • pete says:

    I really enjoy your posting. I am in the same business and I have many people pull the “just a bar tender” stuff quite often. I have two mathematics degrees and quit working for the government simply because this is what I like doing. Bravo for continuing measuring! like I say, you wouldn’t wing it on flour in your mom’s cookie recipe; there’s a reason it is called a recipe.

  • Kathy says:

    OMG!!! Thank you!! I worked as a bartender for 12yrs & became a paralegal. I think most people in the world believe if you were a bartender you just partied all of the time. I’m pretty sure I came home exhaused most nights with water in my shoes & wearing a variety of different juices or what have ya on my apron.

    I kinda miss it = ).

    Kat

  • huzubu says:

    Regarding #10, with all due respect, you are wrong. Anything not distilled, or distilled in a pot still, will have some amount of methyl and fusel (heavier than ethyl) alcohols in it. These will be produced during fermentation, in varying amounts depending on conditions. In distillation in a pot still, most of the methyl alcohol will come out in the head (beginning) of the run, and the fusels will mostly be in the tail (end) of the run. This is part of what makes drinking moonshine dangerous, you may have been given just the heads or tails of a run and be drinking alcohol which has non-ethyl alcohols and unsafe concentrations.

  • grim specter says:

    Umm…that guy standing next to you in this picture is exactly why I expect my wit and charm to be rewarded with free drinks!

  • Aeb says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever read your blog and I love it.

    The Woodpecker story is awesome. Thank you for posting #10, every other time I go out drinking somebody gives me their “secret” to not getting a hangover.

    “All you do is drink a beer, fill that glass half full with wine, the wine will cancel the beer hangover. Then take a shot of Patron with every light beer. . . “

  • Mandy says:

    I loved every bit of your blog! lol! I was laughing through most of it because it’s so true! Especially #8 & #9! People really blow me away sometimes with the things they expect me to know!

    Thanks for the blog! It was awesome!

    -Mandy

  • Mandy says:

    I loved every bit of your blog! lol! I was laughing through most of it because it’s so true! Especially #8 & #9! People really blow me away sometimes with the things they expect me to know!

    Thanks for the blog! It was awesome!

    -Mandy

  • Chase says:

    All in all, a good summation of tending.

    Along the lines of the Woodpecker story, I would like to add a rather common annoyance in my corner of the world. All too often complete strangers ask for a drink they would like. Then you have to play the game of twenty guesses. Or, they say, “what would you drink right now”, hoping it will be some wild, inventive, and complex drink. Nope. How about a good bourbon, gin, or scotch? Then they say, “Yuck”. It’s classic.

  • Stephen says:

    I stumbled upon this website looking for insight for resumes as
    I recently took a bartending class and am about to embark on a bartending career. I have been an office worker for a number of years and I literally wanted to jump out of the window, I was so unhappy and unfulfilled. I have tried being an entrepreneur and that was hit and miss so I am giving bartending a try.

    Your site is very informative and humorous. Thanks for putting together a wonderful site.

    Stephen

  • Jennifer says:

    Just out of curiosity, why are you so offended by variations on martinis but you’re okay saying that gin is only a variation of vodka?

  • Jennifer – Because, very literally, gin is at it’s heart basically a variation of vodka. Really. Read this if you don’t believe me.

    But a martini is a single drink, not an entire family of drinks. You see, the word itself refers to the liquid inside, not the shape of the glass.

    I guess I just take issue with incorrect use of the word “variation”. A pear-tini isn’t really a variation of a regular martini, because they’re totally different things. ‘Cause, you know, muddled fruit isn’t really a variation of vermouth. Raspberry vodka and sour mix aren’t variations of gin, either.

    See where I’m coming from?

  • Brian12566 says:

    Still waiting for Adam’s explanation…. 🙂

  • Erin says:

    Very entertaining post.. I especially like your plug about women going to bars alone. You are right on, but I must add that some guys also assume the same of women going to bars in general, alone or not. I’m glad to read the bartender’s perspective on this as you must see the worst of these scenarios.

    Thanks for a really good read!

  • ~Bree says:

    Hangovers,
    Caused by dehydration, the more alcohol you drink the more dehydrated you get.
    Combine that with the more beer you drink, the more you have to pee…the more dehydrated you get.
    So combine high alcohol content, with a lot of peeing…I suppose you could technically get a worse hangover from mixing hard liquor and beer.

    Just a thought.

  • Rob says:

    I totally had the “Woodpecker” crew in my bar about a year ago. I would just like to extend your point by including, don’t look at me like I am stupid when I don’t know the recipe of another joints signature drink.

  • Crawfish says:

    You said it right once Jeff, “a martini is a single drink, not an entire family of mixed drinks”. You did however contradict yourself in the original posting by claiming vodka can be used for a martini. Really? Vodka martini? There is only one “Martini” and it is made with gin and dry vermouth.

    What consumers really want is a “blah blah” vodka straight up. Garnished with whatever…

    No self-respecting bartender would add vermouth to a flavorless spirit like vodka. Alcoholic, diluted vermouth flavor, with no gin aromatics is foul. And apologies if you like that taste, just don’t call it a martini. Please.

    Lastly, great site, great blog, and great insight into what professional bartenders are really all about!

    2 cents from preachy San Fran.

  • Sylvie says:

    Nope, Martinis can be vodka or gin with dry vermouth; that’s it. The two spirits are basically the same thing; gin is essentially a flavored vodka (although an entire class to itself).
    Also, dry vermouth is a drink to itself, so why not add it to vodka or water or scotch or anything that strikes your fancy?

  • Ken Moorhead says:

    “When I got my first job bartending at a tender young age, I had visions of Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail: hotel room keys sliding across the bar as I coolly sipped a spiked coffee, standing with one foot on the brass rail and gazing across the emptying room at the end of a long night while I decided which young vixen to go home with.

    The real truth hits me every other Friday night, as I lie on my stomach in an inch of standing water, trying to fish a whole lime out of my floor drain with a steak knife in a vain attempt to keep the entire bar from flooding.”

    I.

    Loved.

    This.

    Paragraph.

  • Amy says:

    Hi there. i just wanted to say that even though I know NOTHING about alcohol and have probably had only three different drinks in my life… I really, really enjoyed reading this. So funny and easy to read, and I learned so much. It makes me want to learn to mix drinks. Or at least try a couple.

    Anyway, I think it takes a great writer to get someone interested in a subject they never thought of previously. In one blog post! Props.

  • Kevin says:

    I understand about the Disarono not being called an almond liquor, but you can’t tell me that cheap bottles of amaretto don’t taste like almond extract……

  • G-man says:

    2 quick points on Amaretto.
    To Amaretto drinkers there is only one brand. DiSaronno! Anything else is crap. But many of the crap brands do use almonds in them, and recipes for homemade amaretto use almond extract. Amaretto is not Almond Liqueur, it is almond “flavored” liqueur. Almonds are not a nut, they are the seeds/pits of a particular veriety peach tree. Apricots and peaches are similar in flavor.

    Yes there is a chocolate martini, as well as many other flavors, “always” made with vodka. Chocolate ones look like the toilet backed up, and taste disgusting. Properly made drop a cherry in the cocktail glass, put in a small squeeze of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, mixe the Voda 2pts to 1 part “dark” creme decaco.

    Don’t claim that bartenders are “not walking databases” of drink mixes, on webtenders.com forum, there are a dozen @$$holes on that site that will attack you for not knowing what is in every drink ever made and not making it “correctly” according to the “original recipe” (even though no one knows what the original recipes are to many drinks -like the zombie). I stopped going there a few weeks ago because of them.

  • Bartender Purist says:

    This is the best literature on bars and bartenders I have ever read in my life.

    Jeffrey, you should get an award for this. The bit about lying on your stomach with the lime is a great truth.

    This article is going to be my main conversation starter while working this week (as a bartender), and I just found out last week that my favorite bar to imbibe at now has a disgusting list of “44 Martinis”. They did not appreciate it when I questioned the legitimacy of a “Mint Julep Martini”.

  • Emily H. says:

    Amaretto derives from the Italian word “amaro” which is a type of bitter liqueur usually consumed as a digestivo after dinner. There are dozens of different brands of amari (Cynar, Aperol, Fernet, Ramazotti, Averna…), but the one that people are probably most familiar with is Campari. Amaretto is bitter and it does remind people of the taste of almonds.

    Anyway, I laughed reading this post and I think it was great!

  • J.W. says:

    First, I’d love to say ‘Thank you’ for the bit about measuring. I had a boss once who tried to make me free pour everything. While I can (and did at times) do this, I felt it was better for the customer to get a drink that taste perfectly balanced than for me to ‘look cool’ while flipping bottles.

    Second, I have to agree and disagree about the Martini. While the drink Martini (or classic Martini) is right on the money with your post – I think we have to be careful to not allow someone to use the word in the name of a new cocktail. For example, if someone serves a French Martini (which is not really a Martini at all…but is served in a Martini Glass) I have to realize that the separation lies not in the classification of the cocktail but in the glassware in which it is served.

    It is a fine line, I know (and I agree with you 98%) but we have to be careful not to create snobbery among bartenders. After all, complete purity wouldn’t allow for any new drinks to be developed.
    {furthermore, the concept of calling ALL cocktails ‘Martini’ is absurd, and I agree 100% there}

  • silk says:

    Hi JW, while I agree with you that snobbishness is not a good thing, your use of terminology is not entirely correct. See, there is no such thing as a “Martini glass”; the proper name for it is “cocktail glass” or “v-shaped glass”. Furthermore, if a bartender has used his creativity to create a noteworthy new cocktail, why can’t he use that same creativity in naming his creation – just slapping a plain-vanilla “xxxx-Martini” moniker on a drink is not very creative, is it?

  • Ian Follett says:

    Different kinds of alcohol do lead to significantly different levels of hangover severity.

    As you say, quantity is obviously the most important factor. And, while mixing alcohols will not in and of itself cause a hangover, my guess is that when people mix alcohols they loose track more easily of the total quantity of alcohol they’re drinking and thus drink more than they otherwise would have.

    I know that’s true of me, at least. And so I still think it’s good advice to not mix alcohols in order to avoid a hangover.

  • Soren says:

    i have actually made “appletinis” from apple infused vodka (in house) and vermouth… had to add a dash of simple syrup and a cherry to get the girls to drink it but i felt it was a fair compromise. i sure as hell wasn’t making anything without vermouth and calling it a *tini because it’s in a cocktail glass! but i gave them what they wanted (and learned ’em a bit in the process).

  • johnnya says:

    In response to #78 (re: flair)– The co. I worked for in the mid ’80’s invented the flair concept and the competitions. It got to the point to where we HAD to pass a flair ‘test’ along with a speed and pour test. We were a VERY busy bar and made a TON of $$; granted, the flair was a cool aspect and MAY have brought in a few extra customers, but my, and several other BT’s (ALL of whom were some of the best in the biz), complaint was this: Not all of the staff can be performing trickery at the same time. THEREFORE, some people (those that are performing, sometimes more than others because of their skill level) are actually neglecting customers and slowing down the process of revenue income. As they are doing their show and entertaining the few nimrods that are awed by juggling and whatnot, I now have to double my load by picking up the people that actually WANT a drink and are standing in that BT’s station. Since we split tips equally, why should I have to split 50/50 when I’m doing much more work than the juggler and the tips remain the same? I’ve actually won 2 competitions and can attest to the fact that my drinks made without flair are more consistent than those made with flair. Flair, while VERY cool (I’m not dissing it AT ALL), is mostly a gimmick. I can make MUCH more $$ doing what I do without the flipping because of the volume factor. And I refuse to split tips w/ someone who is doing half of their work but seems to justify that by citing the ‘flair’ factor. I don’t need that crap anymore… my personality suits me just fine!

  • Lydia Reissmueller says:

    Yes, yes, true and too true.
    Your written sense of humor is nicely balanced by your straightforward language. Thanks for that.

    Another myth people have is that all bartenders want to get their patrons shitfaced. As a lady of the bar, I have no desire to be cursed the morning after, nor to be tipped terribly just because you ordered 8 drinks and you think tipping on 5 of them seems generous enough.

    Trader Joe’s sells those precious apricot pits as poor man’s almonds. Been done for centuries. They are lovely raw, more fragrant and tender than almonds.
    Viva peasant food!

  • johnnya says:

    Thank you Lydia, and thank you #79 Sylvie. As for Sylvie, you work at a GREAT place, and I’m glad that the emphasis there is on the classics, making them correctly and with style and grace! In my restaurant, we are inundated with tourists, but also many locals who come just for a certain cocktail that I’m known for and make 6 different ways. This particular drink is a bit labor intensive, but it sells well and it makes both the restaurant and myself a great deal of cash! I really don’t have a lot of time for smoke and mirrors; I make up for that with witty conversation and attentive service to ALL of my customers. Seems the TRUE lost art is in conversing with customers; anybody can be taught to flip a bottle, but making sure that people return is an even bigger challenge. Return customers are my bread and butter, and i’ve done quite well using that as my focus.

  • Ned Greene says:

    The Luxardo website says it’s Amaretto (much better than DiSarano) is an Almond Liquor made from mandorla amara almonds.

    A martini is made with gin, never vodka.

  • NN says:

    @Ned: I believe “mandorla amara” is simply the Italian phrase for “bitter almond”.

  • Johanna says:

    I work in a club in Vegas. And all the male bartenders do go home with a new girl every night – for the most part. They have barbacks that clean up all the mess for them. As soon as the lights go on, they count their money and head out to the slots, bars, strip clubs, and various hotel rooms of the female patrons. The security gaurds do the same! They’re pretty spoiled out here in Vegas!

  • The Luxardo website says it’s Amaretto (much better than DiSarano) is an Almond Liquor made from mandorla amara almonds.

    A martini is made with gin, never vodka.

  • Yes, yes, true and too true.
    Your written sense of humor is nicely balanced by your straightforward language. Thanks for that.

    Another myth people have is that all bartenders want to get their patrons shitfaced. As a lady of the bar, I have no desire to be cursed the morning after, nor to be tipped terribly just because you ordered 8 drinks and you think tipping on 5 of them seems generous enough.

    Trader Joe’s sells those precious apricot pits as poor man’s almonds. Been done for centuries. They are lovely raw, more fragrant and tender than almonds.
    Viva peasant food!

  • formula 21 says:

    The Luxardo website says it’s Amaretto (much better than DiSarano) is an Almond Liquor made from mandorla amara almonds.

    A martini is made with gin, never vodka.

  • Michelle says:

    Re: #9
    Sadly, after 10 years as a bar tender I have to say that there were a few bars in my past where the after party happened night after night. Often it was the boss and his girlfriend (of the night) plus her friends and the bouncers and their girlfriends (of the night) who would sit around for a while longer and drink more ( likely making sure they could seal the deal with the ladies). All while they watched us count, mop and scrub. It was never the very tired and cranky (yes, me too) bartenders sitting around partying. I still don’t understand why they were surprised that I never wished to sit and have few drinks with them. It was 4 am and I had just finished serving a few hundred beverages. Bah! I hated the after party.

  • CynthiA says:

    I love it! Are you the only other person in the world who remembers a brandy alexander? The article is great. THanks

  • Alicia says:

    Genius, delightful genius.
    Graham cracker rimmed glass???? Jesus I’m scared. All those lying bastardo so called martinis back me laugh…hard. I’m also anti stuffed olives. If

  • Caroline says:

    Loved it!! As a “young” bartender, I feel that I will go into work tomorrow more educated, and with more respect for apricots, martinis, and jiggers!
    Also, to patrons- It is rude to tell your bartender you feel he/she is too young to be working behind the bar. Yes I’m young, but have obviously had sufficient training to prepare you drinks and provide you with the services needed for your bar-sitting experience. Show some respect.

  • Cutter says:

    I’ve been bartending 20 years now and I always enjoy demystifying people about bar/restaurant myths. Even with so-called “expert” mixologists today there are a lot of myths people cling to about all manner of aspects involved in bartending (shaking vs. stirring vs. rolling, bruising alcohol, etc.) that are plain wrong. Anyone who really wants to excel at this craft needs to skip all the pretentions and educate themselves on some of the fundamental aspects of both the chemistry and biology that come into play in both making and consuming cocktails.

    Oh yes, and for the record The Martini is made with gin only. A Bradford is the vodka equivilant.

    The most annoying aspect of the job is definitely what you said about how people just expect bartenders to be walking databases of every drink ever made. And it’s even more aggravating when it’s the waitstaff getting all pissy about you not knowing some obscure or long-forgotten drink. Just like everything else in this world, out of sight, out of mind. If I haven’t made a certain drink in 5 or 10 years, odds are I’m going to have to look it up.

    And measuring is overrated. Like any good chef you should always be able to eyeball your measurements and adjust cocktails on the fly.

  • Cutter says:

    Oh yes, one more thing I wanted to add was that one of the upsides of bartending is how so many people believe anything a bartender tells them related to alcohol. I’ve told some whoppers during my time and people walk away thanking me, amazed that they obtained some secret nugget of information that most people will never know.

    One time for a few weeks we decieded it would be fun to tell anyone ordering anything with Frangelico that it’s properly pronounced fran-jel-eeko (said with an Italian accent). ‘Oh yeah!’ we assured them. We were recently in Italy and in the distillery they told us that Nort Americans always mispronounce the name and that ‘Fran-jel-eeko’ was how it was properly pronounced. And probably a good 90% of the people we told it to swallowed it hook, line and sinker. So you have all these people walking around trying to convince people they’re not pronouncing Frangelico properly.

    Ahh, good times. that sort of stuff is definitely one of the upsides of the job.

  • Phil R says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/dining/16bartender.html?_r=1

    Apparently this guy agrees with myth number 5 that bartenders are uneducated

  • Patrick Cullinan says:

    I just happened to get lucky enough to find your column. Insightful; amusing, ad infinitum.

    I have served spirits for quite a time and made the mistake of owning a joint for a year (never again). Right, we are all uneducated. The smartest people I have met have served the suds, champs, King Louis, whatever.

    Thank you–refreshing take.

  • Ross says:

    Late reply on an inactive post, but the amaretto comment needs clarifying, Apricot pits CONTAIN ALMONDS; it’s where they come from. This specific type is called bitter almond and are used to make almond flavoring far more often than larger “American almonds.” Bitter almonds are also more common in China, where I live. Their name translates literally as “apricot seed.”

  • Tony says:

    Jeffrey,

    Awesome retort to the ‘chocolate martini’ insister…

    I hold a BA in History myself and personally know bartenders that have JD degrees, philosophy degrees, and so on.
    Saw a great related clip from a TV show called Parenthood…some snobbish people were sitting at the bar discussing some ‘educated’ book, bartender remarks that she’s read it, then as they gasp in astonishment that a mere bartender could grasp the book, she’s instantly ‘on to them’ and quips quickly, “Oh, I get help with the big words.”
    Hysterical!

    Totally agree with you on the mixing drinks issue. It’s BS. Just like you said, congeners, sulfites, TOO MUCH BOOZE, and mostly dehydration are the culprits. I have found that FORCING liquids, before bed will alleviate my hangover no matter what I’ve mixed. God bless gatorade.

    On the ‘going home with a new woman every night’ issue, I’ve actually had women tell me they would never date me, or any bartender, because of this pervasive myth. Classic, so true about the lime in the drain being our ‘hot date’ at the end of the shift…

    Thanks for the laughs,
    Cheers!

  • charlie moore says:

    I really apreciate #7 I have been in F&B for 15 years and I must say that most of my favorite cocktails cannot be made well without measuring and if you go to high end cocktail joints anywhere in the US you will find the mixologist using them.

  • Karl says:

    I am a bartender, DJ, and bar owner, an American living overseas. I have my bartenders measure their alcohol for two reasons – to make sure they get it right, and to keep them from robbing me blind. My general experience with taxi drivers and bartenders is that they cheat like mad, whenever they can. Free shots or overpours = big tips. Not putting the money in the register is even better. Only when they nearly bankupted me did I start the controls. Now the beer, alcohol and wine agree to nearly 1%. Its never perfect, overs and unders, but human error is one thing and screwing the boss is another.

    I’m sure none of the bartenders writing on this forum would ever dream of cheating their establishment.

  • jill says:

    Damnit re: 4.

    Now how’m I supposed to get laid?

    As a side-note, your ginger beer is excellent; thank you kindly. As soon as I get my paws on some champagne yeast, I’m going to try making a batch.

    [On second thought, I have red wine yeast and baker’s yeast (instant and active dry) on hand. Would it be sacrilege to try any of these strains? Dakota territory is somewhat void of wine-making shops.]

    And as a further tangent into drinks of yore, you really ought not give up on the separating of eggs for eggnog. The lightness and fluff of beaten egg whites is decadent and lovely, and well worth the fuss at home, if not in a bar.

    Cheers!

  • Maria says:

    Love the woodpecker story. I work in a liquor store and people come in all the time expecting that I know everything about bartending. WTH….One lady came in asking for a particulary Long Island Tea mix, that we were sold out of, but then grabbed a bottle of peach schnapps and asked if the schnapps tasted like ..and I quote “Eh, or Ah”, and if she added a mixer to it would it make it taste..and I quote again “Eeek, or Aaaak?” I proceeded to tell her I didn’t understand what she was trying to say, explained to her that schnapps was a sweet, in this case peach flavored liquor. Even ran down a few drinks for her that used the peach schnapps. In the end she got pissy. Imagine that. My opinion, she was “EEEEk a pain in the ass”.

    Maria

  • Amanda says:

    a martini is absolutley NOT made with vodka. only a gin martini is truely a martini.

  • joey says:

    if you believe any of this “Myths” you are a jackass who has spent no time in an actual bar or the service industry.

  • Jonathan says:

    About the issue of the hangover:

    My understanding is that it is not what is drank but the order it is drank in.

    The reason for this being important is because of the difference in absorption rates of alcohol between the stomach and the intestines. Roughly 20% of alcohol is absorbed in the stomach while about 80% is absorbed in the intestines… Connecting the two is the pyloric sphincter which opens when exposed to effervescent effects. So having a shot then a beer, is different from a beer then a shot. Which is also a reason why eating before drinking reduces the amount of alcohol that you absorb.

    These people, who may also be bartenders, say what I said above, but different:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1705129/

  • Johnny says:

    Can’t say agree with 9, the bar I work in almost always have a couple of hours where we lock the doors, so it’s just us and some regulars.

  • Lemia says:

    Disaronno is awful on the rocks! I’ve never understood how they could sell a single ounce with that commercial.

    That’s like saying Scottish people drink Drambuie!

    I figure if a drink is so important to me that I won’t order anything else, it’s incumbent upon me to know what’s in it.

    This is fun reading.
    Thanks!

  • Jonny says:

    Hey Jeffrey,
    I like your stile of writing, and your knowledge. But your harshness kinda kills it off completely.
    When it comes to drinking it should be about fun and relaxing, so why not lay back and have fun as well when it’s your job to make the drinks? I work at a bar too and I do measure all the ingredients to always handle the same cocktail every time, I believe the three key words are consistency, consistency, consistency.
    I also muddle the lime along with the mint to make a mojito (I’d done it that way for years, and people love my mojitos) and I also make a chocolate “martini”, it’s so “disgusting” that people keep coming back for more and even ask me for the recipe.
    The one thing that’s not a myth is that many bartenders, like many sommeliers, have this snobby way of talking down to their guests, people like to go out to have fun, not to be lectured, unless they ask a question about this or that.
    I guess what I am trying to say is, in this business there’s a lot of exceptions to the rules, just like your awesome Amaretto Sour!
    Cheers.

  • Lauren says:

    Love this post!

    How do you feel about drinks like Espresso Martini being an IBA Official Cocktail?

    I know it’s classed as ‘New Era’ but it’s one step away from a Strawberry Daiquiri being on the list if you ask me.

  • Rum runner says:

    Ok so I’m 7 years late to the party, but can you all please stop saying “bartend?” It’s not a verb. It’s not even a word. You don’t bartend, you tend bar. You are a bartender (noun). You have bar tending (adjective, two words) skills.

    Now that I have gotten that off my chest, I love this post.

    I have your site pinned to my iPad home page. It all started w/ the ginger beer recipe and next I’ll be trying the tonic water.

    I worked my way through college and law school behind the bar. I now work for a major spirits company. You are a credit to the industry.

    Thanks!

  • Beez says:

    Jeff I agree with most of what you say but,..

    Plenty women do go to bars to meet/pick up/socialize and sometimes go home with bartenders/men. In my short years as bartending before marriage ( I met my wife bartending you know, 14 years ago and still going strong ) I did pretty well with the ladies and turned down plenty as well. The key is, whatever side of the bar your on is, don’t look for it. If a women what you to talk with her she’ll send a signal.

    While I’ve always enjoyed your style, let’s not get too snobby when somebody comes in and orders ( no matter how disgusting ) an apple “martini” etc.. A good bartender can relate and make a wide variety of people comfortable on their night out, regardless of their lack of culture, and knowledge of the finer things in life.

    Otherwise I really enjoy your dedication to your craft and your sense of humor. At the end of the day, when I/we go out to our favorite establishment, I/we just want a quality beverage w/o the attitude of a I’m better than you bartender. – Cheers Bud!

  • Dan B says:

    I have to second Lauren’s question about the Espresso Martini, especially since I just noticed it on the menu at Pepe Le Moko. Is that a bit of a tongue-in-cheek naming (on the theme of the rest of the menu), or has your attitude shifted regarding the “martini” label.

    Certainly no judgement on my part—I can’t wait to order one (though not until after I’ve tried that famed Amaretto Sour)!

    -D

  • Mattzilla says:

    Great read, I hope this enlightens some people.

  • Leozilla says:

    One very late reply to your postm but i’ve just dicovered your site.

    The original Amaretto was made with apricot AND peaches pits. Amaretto is a Northern Italy liqueur and in northern Italy the climate is suche that growing almonds would be nearly impossible. Almond trees in Italy are widely spead in the souther regions (Sicily,Apulia etc..) but the almonds there (sweet almonds) are mainly used to make wonderful pastries and a sweet and refreshing drink called “latte di mandorle” (nowadays the mass produtcs are made with water,sugar and artifical aromas).
    My grandmother used to made a good Amaretto at home using apricot pits and peaches pits (non all the peaches anyway,only those which had a bitter taste) because she said that the peaches gave it a different flavour.

    Great post anyway (and a great blog too)

  • MrH2 says:

    InRe: #8
    Back in the 60’s, I was tending in Georgia. A young customer, yes – I carded him, came in and asked if I knew how to mix a Harvey Wallbanger. Is said no, but I’ll bet that if you know what’s in it, I can get it. When he told me, I said “OH”! I’ve been mixing those for years, but they were called Italian screwdrivers. They were never popular with the younger crowd until they became “wallbangers”. Its all in the name.

  • morgansjc says:

    My favorite part was the after work parties. I’ve never worked as a bartender, but did two and a half years armed security at an Asian nightclub. While it could be very exciting when the alcohol got flowing and the house band rocking, what made it truly hot and spicy was when the folks from the biker bar across the parking lot came to play. Guns, knives, bottles and police were a regular theme, with one adventurer attempting to drive a Volkswagen through the double front doors. That would have been terrible as he might have damaged our metal detector. We would have been reduced to using the hand units to check for weapons!
    When the night was over, we all had a meal together and a drink at the bar. We were allowed one glass of the good stuff, and a couple of anything else. An icy beer never tasted so good. We were always sweaty and tired at the end of the night, often bruised and sometimes cut. Two of us once pushed a dumpster down an alley with weapons hot at 2 guys pointing pistols at us from behind their car doors. Exciting stuff. The only thing we wanted to see of the customers at the end of the night was their waving hands as they walked away. While we did our best to turn a blind eye to some activities, breaking a bottle across a 21 year old girls face and cutting her up, or strongarm robbing another customer got you a ride to the gray bar hotel. Civil to all, friendly to none was our unwritten rule. Getting too friendly might send the wrong signal to someone you might have to take to the beer soaked floor and hook up.
    A great article that brought back a lot of memories as well as teaching me the correct recipe and terminology for a martini. Thanks!

  • PeterP says:

    Glad to see this website is still getting readership and comments! I enjoyed this post, I wrote a blog post a few years ago about the level of education in most bars and restaurants. I just found this site and your book last summer, from a good friend and bar manager of an Italian spot in SE.

    It’s crazy to see these posts from 2007! 2007-2009 I tended bar in the Pearl district and I would have loved to have had this knowledge back then. I never understood why my buddy Chino was so into mixing his crazy drinks and winning mixology competitions while I was busy double shaking mojitos and trying my hardest (with no luck) to be an awesome flair bartender (twenty years too late. LOL). Come to think of it, I would have been one of the dumbasses laughing at you for measuring out the ingredients.

    Now, after finally completing my BA and while applying for MFA programs, I have more time to dedicate to becoming a better, more knowledgeable and creative bartender. I’ve finally accepted the fact that it’s not just a temporary job. Thank you for the knowledge, advice and recipes. Your The Bar Book is permanently placed on my current bar in San Francisco. It’s changed my mentality about bartending and made me a lightyears better professional. Thank you, my man! It’s not all in vain. 😉

    I’ll definitely be coming in for a drink and a bite at CC next trip up to Ptown. In fact, I just found out my blood brother and favorite lit nerd works with you. If you read this, Please tell Nico that Pedro said hi. 😉

    Cheer brotha, keep it coming!

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