Tag Archives: NYC

You Know You’re a Bartender When…

1. You have nightmares about breaking glass in the ice bin.

2. Phrases like “nice stir” or “mean double shake” are the greatest praises you can receive.

3. You frequently pontificate on the history of the margarita.

4. You use phrases like “mash bill” in everyday conversation.

5. You get giddy over a shipment of new glassware.

6. You find yourself at your bar even on your night off.

7. You double all numbers and refer to them in “proof”.

8. Your heroes are other pasty skinned persons who hardly see the light of day and are largely unknown to the general populace.

9. You shudder at words like “Malibu”, “Goose”, and “Bacardi”.

10. You inwardly delight when informing guests that you can’t make that drink with vodka instead of gin.

11. You’ve seen the sun rise each morning for as long as you can remember.

12. You crack esoteric jokes using bar jargon and expect laypersons to understand them. E.g. Q: “Why can’t bartenders stay faithful?” A: “Because they’re surrounded by cheaters.”

13. You sleep with a copy of Imbibe under your pillow.

14. A 50%+ tip is customary to you.

15. Getting charged for drinks has become largely foreign to you.

16. You refer to your bar’s owner as “my owner”.

17. You say things under your breath like, “That was maybe a six count, at best..” when watching other bartenders free-pour, then go on to espouse the virtues of the jigger to anyone who’ll pretend to listen, despite what Dushan Zaric may have to say on the matter.

18. Phrases like “dry shake”, “big jigger”, “two-to-one”, and “tipples” don’t sound even vaguely sexual to you.

19. You’re barely buzzed after eight shots.

20. You have a prepackaged response for when Mom asks you why you haven’t gone to law school yet.


Things I’ve Learned Behind the Bar [Part I: The Basics]

1. When pouring draft beer, tilt the glass anywhere but toward the customer/s. Better to give yourself a beer facial when the keg kicks than your paying customers.

2. When shaking with glass, keep the (metal) shaking tin facing customers.  Same logic applies as in rule #1 with regards to glass facials.

3. Chill glassware whenever possible. If your bar lacks a glass chiller, fill serving glass with ice water and allow to chill. Disregard this rule entirely when in the weeds.

4. “In the weeds” means deliriously busy in service-industry-speak. Service industry professionals invariably employ this vernacular to elicit empathy from fellow pros with regards to a busy service. Use interchangeably with “slammed”, i.e. “We were slammed Friday night.”

5. Build glassware first. Whether at home or behind the bar with a line of tickets in front of you, building your glasses keeps you aware and prepared. Rim your glasses, fill with ice cubes, chill, etc. Do this first, then fill your shaking tin with ice, then build your drinks. Once you’ve shaken/stirred, you’re ready to go.

6. Build cocktails at room temperature. Soccer moms may keep their vodka in the freezer, but bartenders do not. Spirits are stored at room temperature and you must build your drink as such in order not to dilute the final product. Add ice immediately before shaking/stirring. The exception to this rule are highballs (i.e. booze + mixer), which can be built over ice in final glassware due to their simplicity and quick pickup time.

7. “Pickup time” or simply “pickup” refers to the time it takes, in realtime circumstances, to produce a product. This terminology stems from the kitchen and can invariably be heard barked by expediting sous chefs at mere line cooks.

8. Ring drinks in before you make them. Disregard this when in the weeds. Accordingly, you must check that all beverages have been rung in before printing tables’ checks.

9. Strain fruit juices and syrups. You may like your orange juice with pulp but your customers don’t want it in their cocktails. Why? It looks ugly sticking to the inner walls of their emptied glasses. Strain syrups because steeping matter will invariably get stuck in your cheater if you don’t.

10. Receptacles used for storing juices, syrups, infused spirits, etc., ideally equipped with speed pouring nozzles, are called “cheaters”. These must be labeled and dated. Said nozzles are referred to as “speed pours” (truncated form of “speed pourers”?).

11. Simple syrup is a mixture of sugar and water at a 1:1 ratio. All syrups are, in essence, a simple syrup with some sh*t added to them, usually boiled, cooled, then strained out or allowed to steep in quart containers and strained out before being poured into cheaters. Agave, honey, maple, demerara and any other viscous sweeteners should be “cut” by hot water at a 2:1 ratio and allowed to cool. Ratios can be adjusted according to sweetness, but you want all syrups at the viscosity of your simple syrup. This is so you can measure all syrups equally.

12. Use a jigger. Always. Night club bartenders may look cool raising bottles high in the air and doing hazardous sh*t like holding multiple bottles at once while pouring Long Island Iced Teas, but that style of drink preparation is inaccurate. Counting is effective but can’t ultimately be relied upon because speed pours invariably differ in their rate of liquid dispensing, i.e. they get f*cked up and start pouring out a wimpy stream, etc.

13. Metal speed pours are preferable to plastic speed pours for aesthetic purposes. Plastic speed pours are preferable to metal speed pours for utilitarian purposes because they don’t get f*cked up as easily.

14. ALWAYS pour with your index finger covering the cap of the speed pour, at the base of the nozzle. This is to prevent a faulty speed pour from detaching from your bottle of spirit, depositing said spirit all over your bar mat/counter top.

15. Never order Long Island Iced Teas unless you’re at a night club. Never order anything more complicated than a highball when at a night club, except for Long Island Iced Teas.

16. Never visit night clubs.

17. Mix with syrup and citrus at equal ratios. There are exceptions, but in general this is an excellent rule to follow. In general, build drinks with two ounces of base spirit. Keep recipes simple whenever possible. I.e. Moscow Mule- 2 oz. vodka, 3/4 oz ginger syrup, 3/4 oz. lime juice. Dark & Stormy- 2 oz. dark rum, 3/4 ginger syrup, 3/4 oz. lime juice. Margarita- 2 oz. tequila, 1/2 oz. orange liqueur, 1/2 oz. agave syrup, 1/2 oz. lime syrup. Large volume? Adjust ratios accordingly, i.e. 1 oz. citrus, 1 oz. syrup. Try not to exceed 2 oz. booze or 1 oz. citrus/syrup in any drink, except for vermouth-based cocktails, i.e. martinis, Manhattans, etc.

18. Mix martinis, Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, etc. with 3 oz. total booze. For the classics, ask customers about spirit, vermouth, rocks/up and garnish preferences.

19. If a middle-aged or older lady asks you to make a Cosmopolitan, refuse the urge to make jokes about late 90’s HBO dramas and kindly comply. Substitute Pom Juice, grenadine or anything else that’s red or purple for cranberry if you don’t have it. Ideally make house grenadine by adding sugar to pomegranate juice and cutting it with hot water.

20. Be kind to your barbacks. They are the lifestream of the bar. You can’t do sh*t without ice, fresh juice and syrups, bartender.

More later. Happy tending!

Why We Give Higher Scores to Cocktail Bars [Editorial: OneDrinkAhead.com]

My editorial on the added value of cocktail bars was released on OneDrinkAhead.com. Read it!

“Tired of hearing the words “speakeasy” and “mixologist”? Prohibition ended eighty years ago and you’re a goddamn bartender, so get over yourself! Right? Downtown Manhattan is more rife than ever with these signless, impossible-to-find drinking dens that require Homeland Security clearance levels to enter, and they charge $15 for cocktails containing ingredients you’ve never heard of. And as a result, cocktails at any generic bar with TVs and the word “Tavern” in it cost $12 (Manhattan’s infamous Cocktail Inflation) and contain “home-made” syrups and infused liquors. Why all the fancy names and added ingredients? A well-timed g&t on a hot day is one thing, but this whole cocktail craze has gone too far…


Well, if you really felt that way, chances are you wouldn’t be reading this website. We’ve had our consciousnesses raised by cocktails and what a good cocktail program at a good bar brings to the table, and there’s a reason we seek out mixology focused bars, especially for this website.

Here at ODA we’re all about value, and it’s an idea that isn’t always self-evident. How can we rave about Apotheke, a bar whose cocktails start at $15, in one breath and mention “value” in the next while maintaining any kind of clout? It’s because we know what goes into making those drinks, which are closer to cuisine than they are to quaffables. First off, they’re being made by full-time, lifelong bartenders who washed dishes and barbacked for years in order to get to where they are. Second, those drinks contain a minimum of two ounces of booze, likely more, between base spirit/s, mixers and additives, and likely six to eight ingredients, the syrups, purees and juices laboriously prepared by hand the night before or hours before service by diligent barbacks. Third, there’s a great deal of creativity that goes into each drink, most taking shape after dozens of attempts and tweaks, and the ingenuity that goes into a cocktail program two or three dozen drinks deep like the one at Apotheke is mind-boggling. And fourth (and most importantly), they taste delicious and, perhaps best of all, they get the job done, i.e. three or four of APK’s libations and you’ll be having a rough morning after indeed. Considering that $45 worth of cocktails will set you free of your troubles for a night, that may, in reality, be cheap for a high tolerance drinker when compared to beers and shots (ever paid $8 for a draft beer or $12 for a Patron shot? Of course you have) or how much overpriced wine you can drink while only winding up with a headache. How much did you pay for a glass of that Foghorn Bog Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand? $13? Guess how much the restaurant paid for the bottle? You don’t want to know.

And it’s not just about value, either. The logistics and expertise that go into mixology are much greater than those of wine or beer bars. Our regular readers will know that wine bars are pretty much on the bottom of our pecking order. Highly marked up grape juice with a few slices of cheese and some hard-to-pronounce ham for $50 a head? We’ll stop by Astor Place or Trader Joe’s real quick and throw a small house party for the same price. And though draft beer is delicious and nearly impossible to do at home, the only real logistics go into storing the kegs, keeping them cool and maintaining the taps. $10 after tip for a Guinness? All the bartender did was pull a fucking knob toward his/her face, walk away, come back and do it one more time and serve the damn thing. See where I’m going?

Like it or not, cocktails have been an integral part of the American drinking experience for over one and a half centuries, and punch goes back long before the good ol’ red, white and blue. Ever since mankind discovered the glorious art of distillation, he’s been adding shit to that bathtub moonshine to make it more palatable. If you don’t like it, pay the same price for a neat or rocks pour of your liquor of choice. You’re likely going to end up with less booze, and that’s a shame. Believe you me, here at ODA we drink our fair share of neat spirits, especially brown ones, and we’re huge fans of dive bars. But when it comes to the art of critique, we consider the ambition and execution of a concept when scoring bars, and it’s tough to give that elusive 9.5 or 10 to a bar with no kitchen where the music’s too loud, the drunk female bartenders wish they were somewhere else doing what they actually want to be doing and the most creative thing on the “menu” is the ironically named beer + shot combo.

We embrace the art of the cocktail, and we elevate the proper cocktail bar to a special position. We do so unabashedly. But the bar is very high, and we’ll continue to separate the wheat from the chaff, no matter who’s running the cocktail program or what inflated egos might be hurt in the process (did you read our review of Silver Lining?).

And by doing so we’ll continue to keep you One Drink Ahead.”

source: [OneDrinkAhead.com]

The cocktail showdown

for Momofuku co. bar staff today at Booker and Dax was a blast! Two teams of five members went drink for drink, each team member creating a cocktail from a limited list of ingredients ranging from base spirits like Aquavit to liqueurs like Campari to funky ingredients like plum wine and coconut vinegar. I ended up incorporating rhubarb bitters and apple cider syrup into a uniquely American old-fashioned style cocktail I named “American Pie” (so creative, right?). Here’s the recipe:

2 oz. Rittenhouse rye whiskey

.25 oz. coconut vinegar

.5 oz. apple cider syrup

2 dash rhubarb bitters

Rittenhouse rye American whiskey

Rittenhouse Rye–as American as they come.

I built the drink in a double old fashioned glass  then added ice and stirred for ten to fifteen seconds and served as is. This concoction tasted spicy and tart, while remaining spirit-forward thanks to the Rittenhouse (100 proof), and the drink was well-received. Other unique libations the team came up with included a French 75 derivative with Kool Aid (seriously) and a Mezcal apricot sour that was delicious. Round two of the showdown is scheduled for next month, by which time we’re expected to have perfected our original cocktails, or at least gotten them as close to serviceable as possible.

We’re in business now…

ODA Business Card (Logan McHenry)

Much thanks to Douglas Park, my friend and business partner.

NYC Taxi Passenger Bill of Rights

NYC Taxi Bill of Rights

My favorite rules? First two!

Essential reading for New Yorkers! Yellow cabs are a public transportation service, funded by taxpayer money. Don’t be abused by greedy, rude, impatient drivers–know your rights! Next time a driver tells you your stop is “too far,” or demands you pay in cash, memo his Driver ID # and threaten to report it to 311. Or do like I do and tell him to go “fuck [him]self!” Note: this technique doesn’t usually fly with female companions.

[image courtesy of nyc.gov]

Frozen margarita at Sweet & Vicious in Nolita


Bathtub Gin in the MPD


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