Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Bartender Personality and Others

Darcy O'Neil of the Art of Drink has a very interesting and quite well-written essay on his blog just now in which he contemplates the nature of the Tales of the Cocktail event. I had the opportunity to meet Darcy while I was down there and we had a short conversation in the lobby on why gin goes well with tonic. I had asked many people at Tales their take on this, because I was preparing for a Gin & Tonic tasting in New York City the day after the convention.

Darcy gave me the most original answer I received, and I'd be lying if I said I remembered half of it. Darcy has a diploma in chemistry and you can tell when he talks. Most of us know that certain liquors go well together. He knows why, in terms of science. I listened, fascinated. I always did well in science in high school, but it wasn't because I really understood it. Must have been memorization.

Anyhoo, I, too, have often wondered why Tales is what Tales is: so buoyant, so joyful, so inexhaustable, so drenched with Joie de Vivre and Hale-Fellow-Well-Met, so replete with back slaps and guileless grins and happy-go-lucky semi-raucousness. It can't just be the booze, or the fact that there's a party everywhere you turn. Booze can make you surly just as soon as giddy, and there's nine bad bashes for every good one thrown.

Darcy boils it down to this: Tales' personality is essentially the bartender's personality. I'll let him speak:

One of the comments I constantly hear about Tales is how friendly everyone is. Well, as a large number of the participants are bartenders, whose job it is to talk to people, it makes for a very social, friendly, environment. Plus, these are the top bartenders in the world so they are good at what they do.

Being a great bartender requires a unique personality. You have to be able to handle a fast paced environment, have physical stamina, enjoy the company of strangers, flirts and wierdo’s, function counter to the human bodies natural clock (i.e. late nights). You need to maintain a coherent thought process for making the dozens of different cocktails and taking orders fired at you non-stop, for hours on end. Then throw in a little math, add an owner who is constantly stressing, maintain your sense of humour, deal with drunks, take very short breaks, if any, plus a dozen other things, and there you have it, the bartender.

Bartending isn’t for everyone, but the people who do it well have a list of qualities that make them perfect for large gatherings.

That all sounds about right. Makes me think I should have been bartender rather than a journalist. Writing is a solitary profession, about as far as you can get from bartending as possible. And as much as I love reporting, and as much as I relish many aspects of Tales, being a journalist at such an event as Tales of the Cocktail is to feel forever the straight man, the staff photographer at a flea circus, the court reporter at a sensational trial in a Kangaroo Court.

It is perhaps no wonder that reporters over the decades have long sought out the comfort of the barstool, and the ear of the bartender. After a day spent in your head, staring at the typewriter, it's a nice break when the circus comes to town.


susie said...

you have summed it up pretty well.I have been a bartender for about 16 years,and its hard to always be bubbly.There are many skills we must have.The gift to gab is a huge one.And everyone expects you to be happy...sometimes they want free drinks...that is a huge no-no.I am not the owner ,just an employee.Its a hard job,but ,hey many times people come to see me...because I am fun to be around.

RgMania said...

bartending is a kind of science