We live in a world of archetypes and the same applies to the realm of drink-slinging. Plato and his third realm hold true that there are things simply exist even if there is no sensible reason and are separate from the internal world of our own intellectual machinations. The fact of the matter is they simply “are” even if objective examination challenges the reasoning behind their presence in in our reality. When applied to The Biz it’s a fancy way of saying there is no logical reason things are the way they are, they just are. Bartender archetypes have no rhyme or reason but they also exist and we have our own ones in our OC booze scene.
The Well-Meaning But Useless Mixologist-
This is the person who is standing there squeezing fresh lime or talking about their extensive selection of amaros while the bar is piling up with people and there is a pack of angry waiters grumbling the the service well. It’s not their fault, they were just trained wrong. Turning the bar and making drinks for the floor is just as important as crafting that perfect libation and sacrificing the fiscal integrity of the shop in order to prove how much better you can do it is just silly. Pour. The. Drinks. By the way, this person probably feels like they are too good to wash their own glassware. In my shop that would get someone demoted to bar back indefinitely until you they figured out their priorities.
The Donut Hole-
These are the peeps behind the bar in downtown HB who can barely figure out which end of a tap handle to pull. You can spot the ones on the ladies side by their possession of an obnoxious boob job and a level of plastic surgery that makes them look like they got blown out of the side of a Humvee by an IED and spent a year having reconstructive surgery at Walter Reed. They’re also looking for the next Mister Goodbar to spring for their upcoming collagen treatment. On the gents side it’s the 20-something aspiring actor/screenwriter/clothing designer looking for a cougar with deep pockets (who probably just migrated from the now-defunct Foxfire) who’s gonna give them a car and a place to crash while they pursue their dream. In both cases they are using their job to support their lifestyle and I’m not talking about the tips they bring home.
This is the person that is over you, your friends and all the stupid shooters you order. I’m not saying I sympathize cuz I don’t but this person just wants to make their money with no bullshit and no nonsense. San Francisco’s epic Buena Vista Cafe is a mecca for this kind of barkeep and it seems like they spread outward from there. Try ordering food at the bar there and you’ll see what I mean. Their concept of fine customer service has been negated by years of dealing with rookies, jerks and drunkasses and you’ll be lucky to get a grunted hello when you walk in the door much less a smile. Just don’t have high expectations of these folks and you’ll be fine.
The Dive Bartender-
Now, there is nothing wrong with a dive bar and I’m a big, big fan. I love getting a beer and three finger deep shot of Jameson in a rocks glass for six bucks instead of getting gouged for a short pour Ketel soda for 12 at Mesa. It’s highway robbery. Working these joints must be a challenge though. Slaving away a salt mine of sad sacks and washed up drunks can’t be easy and you have to be equal parts therapist, janitor and WWF wrestler. I like the blue hairs, bad cover bands and even the tweakers but doing for a living isn’t my idea of fun. Properly working at a seedy joint is a singular skill set though and deserves as much legitimate respect as any blue-blood barkeep pouring drinks at a country club. Don’t get these poor souls started on the occasional fistfights and bathroom blowjobs either unless you want an earful.
The Up In The Club-
This is a one-of-a-kind bar tending methodology. Testing how fast you can pour Fireball into plastic cups or pop bottles of champagne with strobe lights in them has to be a real treat. Put the bottle service with a sparkler in it factor and you is taking it to a new level. Factor in the crowd, who is probably so high they probably don’t know what they want to drink (much less where they are) and you’re talking about a true art. The good news for these bartenders is the shifts can be short and the money great. You’ll just have to swallow any bartending integrity you have and knuckle under to the fact that pouring liquid cocaine shots is your new reality.
The Burn Out-
This person is like a US Marine who has seen too much combat. ‘Ol Clint Eastwood said it best – “A man’s got to know his limitations” and bartender need to know theirs too. At some point (whether we like it or not) we’re not going to be able to handle the physical or mental challenges of bar tending and you better have slammed a few bucks in your Roth IRA since after years of under the table income your social security check will be next to nothing-if anything at all. Having a cushy part time retirement job slinging drinks is perfectly fine, you just want it to be a situation where you are doing because you enjoy it, not because it’s keeping you from spending your golden years living out of your car.
The Overly-Enthusiastic Newbie-
This is the kid that is super excited and way too thrilled about their new gig bar tending at TGIFridays. It can be refreshing but this is the person who is really, really super excited about their new chocolate sundae martini or whatever other abomination they are slinging. Youthful vim and vigor has its place but these types of barkeeps can be hard to handle, with their use of over the top verbiage and gesticulation as they describe the 16 different syrupy-sweet daiquiris they serve or how great the hot wings or fried zucchini is. Good and bad news is after a few years of getting kicked in the teeth they’re gonna come back down to earth and have realistic expectations of not only what they do but the realities of dealing with the public. Which is when they circle back to being The Hardass.