Friday, April 11, 2014

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Duties of a Bartender (1884)

George Winter’s short book How to Mix Drinks: Bar Keepers’ Handbook was published in New York around 1884. It leans heavily on the work of the celebrated bartender, Jerry Thomas, who died just a year later in the same city. It was Winter, though, I thought of on a recent evening in Kansas City. After downing my first Boulevard (a local favorite) at a bar, I ordered a second. The bartender popped the cap off the second bottle and, while I was momentarily distracted in the business of shaking loose an ardent admirer, he poured the ale into the same glass. Hm. Tacky. Not send-it-back tacky — and I probably would not have cared in a dive — but it was an amateur’s mistake in a fairly swanky place.

Winter’s book came to mind for its ruminations on the duties of a bartender. “Under no circumstances,” he wrote, “should a stained or dripping glass be handed out to a customer or used in mixing a drink…” It's a maxim as true in 2014 as it was in the years before Wilhem II was crowned Emperor of Germany and king of Prussia.

Here’s the rest of Winter's
Duties of a Bartender
Probably in no other branch of business is the person in charge brought so constantly in contact with people of every class and disposition, as is the bartender, and he should therefore be an intelligent man and a good judge of human nature. He should be at all times polite and attentive to customers, and present a neat and cheerful appearance, having a pleasant look and word for each one who favors him with his custom.

It is the great aim of a successful bartender to make as many friends and to control as much trade as possible, and the surest way of doing this is to pay the closest attention to the wants of patrons and making such an impression upon the mind of the customer, through furnishing a good article of the liquor called for, as well as serving in such a gentlemanly and artistic manner, as that he will remember the place, call again himself and recommend it to his friends.

A bartender, like an actor, should never show that he is feeling unwell or in a bad humor, as it is calculated to make a bad impression on the patrons, who are to him what the public is to the actor. In short, he should sympathize with those who are not feeling well, appear jolly to those who are apparently light-hearted, and in general use good judgment in his conversation with all with whom he comes in contact while in the discharge of his duties.

With these few words on the general attributes of a good bartender, we will enter upon the details of his business. 
Glasses of all the various kinds should be arranged on the bench so that they will be handy when wanted. When a man steps up to the bar the bartender should at once present himself before him, and, producing a glass of ice water upon the counter, ask the customer in a polite and pleasant tone of voice what kind of liquor he wishes.

All mixed drinks should be made in full view of the purchaser, and such skill and dexterity should be used in handling the bottles, glasses, etc., as will gain the admiration of the customer and establish the bartender as an expert in his profession.

Under no circumstances should a stained or dripping glass be handed out to a customer or used in mixing a drink, and it is always advisable to have a number of glasses about two-thirds filled with water and ice on the bench ready for use at any time, but the customer should not be expected to pour out the water from a pitcher as is sometimes done.

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