Hey Bartender

Searching for direction in the dark corners of a bar may seem like a depressing scene from a movie featuring a down-and-out, alcoholic protagonist, but it was actually the way this blogger spent a giddy Thursday night.  As the name implies, The Corner Tavern is very much a neighborhood bar where everyone knows your name.  Literally.  When I walked in, Aldo (the Corner Tavern’s manager, and a great and patient teacher) introduced me to one of his regulars, Rocky.  I extended my hand and started to explain why exactly I was there…looking for my passion…I have spent a lot of time in bars…yada, yada, yada, but Rocky cut me off with a nod that simply and quickly informed me that he already knew why I was there.

I had done some research before arriving that night.  I was concerned that I may not know how to make a given drink if the ingredients didn’t double as its name.  But when I got behind the bar I realized that the ingredients are just half the battle.  Knowing how much of each mixer to include was another challenge.  I watched Adam, another bartender, easily flip a bottle of vodka until it was completely upside down, the alcohol seeped into the mountain of ice that filled the highball glass and then in one swift movement Adam flipped the bottle back right side up .  How did he know how long to pour?  Was he counting?  Was there a magical cut-off line in the glass?  Well, thankfully for me there were both.  But at first I started out even more remedially than that: I measured the alcohol in a shot glass then poured it into the highball glass. 
Some Last Minute Instruction

As the bar started to fill up Aldo armed me with a large bottle opener which I dutifully put in my back pocket as instructed by my Jager Bomb yoda then I got to work.  As the eyes of waiting customers met mine from across the bar I felt a wave of anxiety.  In my other adventures I never had to perform so directly and immediately.  But there I was, standing before these thirsty folks shaking in my boots (actually I was wearing Tory Burch Reva flats, I thought they would be most comfortable for a night spent on my feet).  Some rattled off their orders of up to five drinks so fast I couldn’t catch them all.  I will admit I pretended to be hard of hearing a few times; I needed the repetition in order to quickly memorize complete orders.

Both Aldo and I are Really Concentrating

The beers on tap were particularly popular, and that made me realize that — despite my experience with kegs on golf courses and in college dorms — I didn’t really know how to pour a good beer.  There were so many things to remember at one time: hold the glass at a 45 degree angle, pull the tap hard, stop the flow at the right time as not to spill beer everywhere.  I was getting it, but it wasn’t pretty.  It took a lot of concentration on my part.  Then Adam offered me the key, a manta: there is nothing worse than a tentative bartender.  As soon as he said that it clicked for me.  I started pulling hard on the tap, if there was too much foam; I just topped it off until the perfect amount remained.  I then managed to master the Guinness pourBlack and Tan: check.  Dark and Stormy: easy-peasy. I was on a roll and loving every minute of it.  Bar tending is so social and the customers at the Corner Tavern that night (many of whom were friends who cam out to support/heckle me) were great. 

At the end of the night Aldo asked me if I had ever worked in the bar or restaurant industry before.  Aside from one summer in high school spent as a waitress I was a novice.  Then I got the biggest, most unexpected compliment:  “You’re good at this,” Aldo said.  I am not sure who was more surprised, him or me.  I was on cloud nine.  Had I not been so nervous I would not have felt as triumphant as I marched out of the bar at the end of the night.  This was the first experience since I started this blog (and I hope not the last) when I felt totally out of my element and had to just suck it up and get to work…fast.  It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.  And despite feeling like a failure in the first half hour, in the end I did a good job! 
Now, am I going to quite my job to become a bartender?  No.  But I will happily guest bar tend if the Corner Tavern — or another spot — will have me.

Many thanks to Aldo, Adam, Luke and all the regulars at The Corner Tavern who took such good care of me. 

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