The Other Side of Bartending

For those of you who follow my blog for the mixology, I HAVE to share this discovery!

So I LOVE watching videos of skilled bartenders making fine cocktails, and it’s really a big tent, there are videos of people all around the world (If you want a treat, look for bartenders from Japan, the style they teach over there is quite unique….tho most of the cocktails you’ll have to watch VERY closely as most of them aren’t subtitled), and everything for bartenders who will be slinging drinks the night they shot that video, pros who write books and have more of a hosting background, to people like me who just have a bar at home and mix for pleasure alone.

I have my favorites, but really competent bar tending (at least the cocktail craft side of the game) really just takes a little practice, and an open mind (To actually managed a stacked up bar on a Saturday night is a TOTALLY different skill set, and frankly not something I enjoyed back when I made my bread from behind a bar).

But there’s another side, and frankly I’ve found a guilty pleasure in this. They call themselves the American Bartending School, and they ACTUALLY are taking money from people to teach them to fuck-up drinks!

Don’t believe me? Check out this Cloths-hanger abortion!

HOLY SHIT!!! Let’s just run-down the mistakes.

#1: Served on the rocks not up. This is the most minor complaint, TECHNICALLY you always have the option to serve the drink up or on the rocks if it’s a cocktail. There are truly some cocktails where the bartender really should ask how the patron wants their drink. Super popular drinks today like the Negroni I see just as often on the rocks as straight up in a cocktail glass or coupe. I drink a lot of gimlets, and I really prefer those drinks on the rocks, but most bar books call for them to be served up, and we’ll be talking about the Sazerac soon, I drink 90% of them on the rocks, tho I will freely admit they taste better when I got to the trouble and serve it up.

Still all that being said, a Manhattan or a martini is really a lesser drink on the rocks, and I’ve only been handed a martini on the rocks by a paid bartender at a ghetto casino bar on an international ferry boat….it was in a plastic cup too.

#2: Garbage ice. This is also a bit of a minor complaint, as 90% of the bars out there use ice from bags or ice machines. Still these little thin chips of ice melt REALLY fast, warm up fast if you’re keeping them in an ice well behind the bar, and break up with even the most gentle shaking causing what is called “Bruising”. As I said, most bars survive just fine with this ice, but using large hard-frozen ice can do more good for a cocktail than you might expect.

#3: He uses Segram’s Seven. It’s not a BAD whiskey per-se, I used to keep a bottle in my liquor cabinet for over a decade until I decided that Canadian Mist was a better value for a similar product. Still Segram’s Seven is a dirt-cheap blended Canadian whiskey, it’s REALLY good quality at the price point, but this is 100% the wrong application for this whiskey. Manhattans are traditionally made with Rye (Classical) or Bourbon (more modern), and both bring robust, but different flavors (I prefer the more dry flavor of the Rye which I feel contrasts better with the sweet vermouth) and you can even use scotch (preferably blended in this case) to make a Rob Roy. The point I’m driving at is Manhattans shine with whiskeys with lots of character, and Blended Canadian is notable for its mellow smoothness. Blended Canadian is better for a whiskey sour, or a Whiskey and Coke, or The Carte Blanche , not a Manhattan.

#4: No mixing! WTF??? I’ve watched this video a few times now, and I’m surprised every time he pours in the vermouth, pours in the whiskey, drops in a cherry…..and serves???? This is a disaster! If you drink from the glass you’re essentially going to get ice and whiskey, and maybe the faintest hint of vermouth. If you continue to drink your drink (and why would you, I would honestly hand the drink back to the bartender and walk out at this point…I would NOT pay money for a drink so botched as this. This is WORSE than ordering a median-rare steak and getting a well-done hunk of meat on your plate!) you will eventually get down to a concoction that will likely be whiskey-flavored vermouth water, as most of the vermouth will still be in the bottom of the glass, there will be a BUNCH of water now because that trash-ice won’t take long to melt, and most of the whiskey will have been consumed. If you take a sip from the straw you’ll get a straight shot of vermouth with MAYBE some whiskey in it. At no point in drinking this cocktail will you EVER experience a Manhattan!

#5: Here’s the big one: NO BITTERS! A Manhattan REALLY needs Angostura bitters, it’s a flavor that is just BORN to pair with Whiskey, and I can’t recall reading a single bar tending book A) Without this Recipe, and B) Just listing the drink as Whiskey and Vermouth. They ALWAYS list the bitters……but not this BARTENDING SCHOOL!!!!

And for comparison, plus I love this video about why you stir rather than shake drinks like the Martini or Manhattan:

BTW you’ll note he uses the REALLY High-Zoot Luxardo Cherries I really need to break down and buy a jar, but I just use the cheap ones you find at the grocery store. I’m sure the Luxardos are WAYY better, but I like to drop 3 cherries in my Manhattan and enjoy them while drinking the drink as a food-pairing.

Now I think I’ve talked a lot about it here and elsewhere, but I LOVE Sazeracs. Of all the drinks I love, oddly this one I will often cut corners with it. If you want to make it RIGHT, I use Rye, a splash of Pernod (The volume you use of this, I really don’t see the need in the huge expense of absinthe) and the Peychaud’s bitters, then stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass (traditional servings will be into a small rocks glass that has been chilled, but emptied of ice….also traditional servings the chilled glass is coated with absinthe, rather than mixed with the drink, and a dash of syrup or sugar is added…I like just a dash more Pernod and skip the sugar entirely, and by stirring the Pernod with the ingredients it keeps you from getting a fog of anise oils at the bottom of your glass, Then you add a twist of lemon and away you go. My corner-cutting method is just adding all the ingredients to a rocks glass with ice and giving it a quick swirl with my wrist to mix it all, and I skip the lemon twist. I like this, but it’s hardly a great Sazerac.

Still while I might be ashamed on what I call a Sazerac most nights, check out this abomination!

Remember this is a BAR TENDING SCHOOL! While he is correct on the origin of the drink, and that Brandy WAS the original whiskey used (Again new Orleans drink, so the french maker used all french ingredients) But note he talks about “Picard’s Bitters” and “Absinethe”. When you watch these videos you’ll see the “trained bartenders” don’t know the proper name for ANYTHING! I hardly have rights to complain, but if you’re claiming to run a SCHOOL you might want to know what things are called, and they consistently don’t.

Overall not as horrible as the Manhattan which he totally ruined, he does make the minor error of not chilling the glass (the idea being a warm glass will INSTANTLY warm up a cocktail you just spent good effort getting cold…it’s the same idea of adding and discarding boiling water from a tea pot before brewing tea), and the MAJOR fouls of adding a TON of simple syrup (IMHO this drink will be WAYYY too sweet) and an orange peel for garnish rather than lemon which just isn’t right IMHO.

Again a compare and contrast:

These guys are taking good money to make rotten bartenders if these are their presentation models!

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One Response to The Other Side of Bartending

  1. McThag says:

    That reminds me, I am out of gin.

    And vermouth.

    And rum.

    “Dammit, who drank all my booze!” says the only drinker in the house.

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