Thursday, February 26, 2009

How I Became a Bartender, Part 2

When Morgan called to tell me I was hired a week later, I thought I had won the lottery. 
Seriously, I had said. After I bombed the interview?

Apparently being a waitress since I was 16 got me through, that and my "personality."
She told me she could teach me everything she knew and that I was going to be fine.

The drinks on the menu were all named after celebrities so all I had to do was memorize names. A Madonna, 2 J-Lo's, and a Will Smith. It was that easy. I served pretty pink and blue drinks. I didn't really have to know what was in them. I just had to balance them on a tray and wear a skirt. 

Those nights were fun. Work didn't really feel like work (it still doesn't most of the time). I mean, who doesn't like to talk to people about who they are and interesting things to do. Back then, my guess is just being a resident of DC got me pretty far with the tourists and the business travelers. 


I still consider myself a little bit of a hack bartender (especially after going to Pegu last night). I have to look up things like Grasshoppers and Pimm's Cups every once in a while. I never went to bartending school. But I can carry on a conversation with you, even when I have a full bar. That's what really matters, which is what I think Morgan was getting at, that even if you can make a good cocktail (which will keep me coming back), you have to make good conversation (which will definitely keep me coming back). And yes, Morgan, after almost four years in the industry, I can go double or nothing on that interview. So here's to you for believing in a 25 year old bespeckled professor who failed your first test, miserably.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How I became a Bartender, Part 1

I had never intended to be a bartender. I had never really known one. Even when I frequented bars, I never really thought about who the person placing my bourbon in front of me was, much in the same way we never really think about the people who serve us things and disappear from our lives. Most of us are ignorant in that way until something makes us change our tune. Mine was coming. I was trying to hold a low-paying non-profit job in DC and balance teaching part-time at the university. Then, one day, my boss said to me: you really seem to love the teaching, but your eyes don't light up in that way when you talk about this job (in my head, I'm thinking, yeah, I manage the database, fascinating!). 

My birthday horoscope said: You can't handle a 9-5. That was obvious. I had figured that out a few months after that conversation. I had quit the non-profit job and had one class at GW and had no idea how I'd make my rent. I called my boss at GW and got another class, but still, I had no idea how I would put food in that apartment. 

So I returned to my waitressing roots. I applied for a "cocktail server" job posted on Craigslist.
This is how the interview went:

Boss: So you're a professor?
Me: Yes.
Boss: Name five types of vodka.
Me: Um, Absolut, Smirnoff...(trying to come up with other Russian names). I can see it on the counter in a big plastic jug. My father is really good at making Bloody Marys.
Boss: Ok, name five types of gin.
Me: Gin?! My grandpa makes martinis with it. He's only allowed to have one. It sort of smells like pine cones and tastes like perfume. (in my head, I'm so blowing this...)
Boss: Name five types of bourbon.
Me: (finally relieved!) Jack Daniels...
Boss: No, that's Tennessee Whiskey.
Me: (demoralized) that's what I drink and I don't even know anything about it?
Boss: Well, now you know.


It was raining, hard. I went home to my studio feeling absolutely incompetent. Didn't I do shots on my 21st? I thought back to the things that I drank and realized I had no idea what was in them or anything about alcohol. Other than, if you drink too much, it will make you sick (duh!). Luckily, I didn't have any alcohol around in my apartment and it probably would have mocked me if I had. Jack Daniels had betrayed me, or rather, I had betrayed him.