Hey, Mr. Mixologist, Stop Being Such a Jerk

Mixologist from enRoute Magazine

Image Courtesy of enRoute Magazine

Back in March, someone sent me this article from the New York Post, titled, “Take this drink & shove it!” The premise of the article was this: many mixologists have a snooty, arrogant way about them, and they have a hard time hiding that from their customers.

I was astounded by the candid response given by one of the interviewed bartenders when asked about customers who, according to him, “have no taste.” This man, Phil Ward, is the owner of a trendy tequila bar in the East Village called Mayahuel. When interviewed by the Post, Ward was very adamant about what and who he won’t serve. He had the following to say:

“I don’t carry vodka or light beer because they teach morons to like things that have no taste. I don’t carry Coca-Cola either. It ruins palettes. People should know where they are going and what they are doing. When somebody walks into a bar and says that he wants a Long Island iced tea, what he’s basically saying is, ‘Put as much shit into a glass as possible, so I can get f***ed up.’ They are saying they don’t care about taste.”

I have a few problems with this. First, a bar, no matter what or where, has one chief purpose – to make money. Sure, they want to create a fun atmosphere, serve a quality product, and keep people coming back. But all of those things work off of – and play into – that first goal. (Not to mention, that type of attitude doesn’t contribute to a fun atmosphere or foster a desire to come back). So, if someone wants a vodka soda, and they’re willing to pay whatever price you charge for that particular mix of liquids, then smile and take their money.

Tom Cruise in '88 classic Cocktail

Don’t be a jerk. Be like Tom Cruise in the ’88 Classic, Cocktail.

Secondly, if someone orders a “boring” or “ordinary” drink, and you think they should try something else, why not kindly suggest that they do so? Take one prominent ingredient from their drink order, and say, “Ya know, if you like this, you might like this.” Chances are, they’ll take you up on your suggestion, and they’ll probably be really pleased with your willingness to help and offer your expertise. If they insist on a vodka soda, then you should happily oblige. They’re still giving you their money!

Thirdly and lastly, anyone who has ever worked as a bartender knows that things can get crazy. When a bar starts bumping, people end up waiting. When people wait, they become unhappy, and worse, they become thirsty. When I spoke with Tony Rials, bar manager at Mike A’s Lounge, a hip cocktail spot here in Buffalo, he told me, “I kind of like when someone orders a simple mixed drink or beer. It’s quick and easy for me. It allows me get to the other customers quicker.” More customers served means more money earned, which as I’ve mentioned, is the primary goal.

And this leads me to my final and most important point; a lot of knowledgeable, skilled and talented mixologists, are not total jerks. In fact, I know of two guys in particular who work at two of the hottest joints here in Buffalo – Jon Karel from Vera Pizzeria, and the other, whom I just mentioned, Tony Rials from Mike A’s Lounge at the Hotel Lafayette.

Jon Karel of Vera Pizzeria

Jon Karel, working his magic at Vera Pizzeria on Lexington Ave. in Buffalo, NY

A few months back, my colleague and I went out to Mike A’s after a Sabres game, and Tony was working behind the bar. He was great. We both asked about the cocktail specials, and he took the time to describe each one in detail, and tried to get a feeling for what we might like. I had tons of questions, and he had a thoughtful answer for each. I was super impressed.

So, the moral of the story is, Mr. Mixologist, don’t be a jerk. For the guys like Jon and Tony, keep doing what you’re doing.

And to all of our readers, if you’re ever in Buffalo, I’d definitely suggest that you take the time to check out one or both of these places. The food quality matches that of the cocktails, and you’re sure to find something you’ll love.

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