Practical Exercises Three


Sunday afternoon, December 14th, at around 3:30, I arrived at Alembic, toting Orgeat, Vergano Lulli Americano, Bitter Truth Repeal Day Bitters, and Marteau Absinthe.

I had really hoped I would also be bringing Cocchi Americano for the Kina Lillet drinks, but another hiccup in the label approval process prevented it from entering the country. I have my fingers crossed for some time next year, but am not holding my breath. It’s about time to make my own “Kina Lillet”, I believe.

Packed and RTG

As usual, I overpacked equipment. Well, better safe than sorry. Some bars require you to bring your own stuff. Not Alembic. I blame Darcy for my overpacking urges. (See his articles: Bar Tools & Equipment 1, Bar Tools & Equipment 2.)

I tracked down bar manager Daniel Hyatt. We chatted for a bit. He introduced me to the other people working. He told me to check out where stuff was behind the bar while he took care of some other things, and went to find the Savoy Cocktail Books.

He came back down from the office with both arms full of Savoy Cocktail Books. We put away the regular menus and handed out Savoy Cocktail Books.

The crazy part about Alembic’s Savoy Cocktail Book Night is that they aren’t just making a few well selected cocktails from the book.

Customers are literally allowed to pick any cocktail out of the 900 or so recipes in the book.

We got to mixing…


One of the toughest things about your first day at any job is you don’t really know where anything is. All I can say is thank you to the staff at Alembic for putting up with me spending the evening asking where things were.

The night was pretty much a blur of measuring, shaking, and stirring. It was one of our first cold rainy nights, so it wasn’t super busy, but fairly steady. Quite a few friends came out in support. Super duper Jane Tunks, Humu and Trott, Dinah and Joe from, Ciaran from the Book Club, fellow drink blogger Alex. Mrs. Underhill even came in a bit later. I was really happy for her to come in, as she hadn’t had a chance to come out when I was working at Flora. We even had a few curious industry folks out.


For me, one problem is I don’t usually feel like eating at 4:00 PM. But then around 7, I start to feel pretty hungry and out of it. Of course, 7 PM is the worst time to feel hungry and out of it, as you’re heading right into the heart of the beast. There’s usually no chance to get away for a snack until 9 or 10 PM at the earliest. Need to work on a strategy for that.

I also, need to work on strategies for building several drinks at once. It’s tougher when you’re not going from memory and have to flip through the book for most recipes. But if you build two or three, then shake/stir, it would probably be faster than just one at a time.

I think my favorite quote of the evening came when we got an order for a Dirty Martini. One of the other bartenders grabbed the ticket, chuckled, and told me, “Vermouth is my revenge on dirty Martini Drinkers. 2-1? How about 1-1?”

The other odd thing you discover is that when given that much choice, people do not go with safe choices. Instead they seem to pick the odd things that stick out to them.

We made all of these on Sunday:

Prairie Hen Cocktail
2 Dashes Vinegar.
1 Teaspoonful Worcestershire Sauce.
1 Egg
2 Dashes Tabasco Sauce.
A little Pepper and Salt.
Do not break the Egg.

For breakfast, I could see, but at 7 PM?

Silver Stallion Cocktail
1/2 Vanilla Ice Cream.
1/2 Gin.
Fill with Silver Fizz, q.v. p. 200.

Wow, uh, I don’t know what to say about someone ordering this. I really had a hard time not making fun of the gentleman in question. Especially since he had repeatedly told me he and his companions were on a quest to find “single women” and asked me for advice on appropriate venues for said quest. I’m not a super expert on strategies for attracting single women or appropriate venues, but think ditching the ice cream drink would be near the top of my list…

The Nose-Dive Cocktail
Take one hooker of Gin, place in it an olive, then deposit the glass carefully in the bottom of an ordinary tumbler. Fill the said tumbler with Water, Ginger Ale, or What Have You, until almost to the top of the small glass, then down the whole thing quickly. That is, everything but the small glass. Note: This Cocktail is very among pilots on American Flying Fields.

I guess I only have myself to blame for this one, eh?

Pineapple Julep
(6 People)
Take a large glass jug and fill it 1/4 full of crushed ice.
ice. Pour in the juice of two oranges a glass of Raspberry Vinegar, a glass of Maraschino, a glass and a half of Gin, and a bottle of Sparkling Moselle or Saumur. Pull a pineapple to pieces with a silver fork and place the pieces in the jug. Stir the mixture, add a little fruit for appearances’s sake, and serve.

There’s probably a pretty good drink in this version of the pineapple julep. Maybe with Raspberry Shrub instead of Raspberry Vinegar? I’m going to have to work on it.

My tech job pays the bills, but lately I haven’t felt like I’ve been getting much back out of it. Occasionally, there’s some satisfaction of solving a problem or learning something new. However, you get called on the carpet when things are broken, but seldom get praise or respect for doing something well or keeping things running peacefully.

A lot of times recently I’ve been feeling like a grumpy scowl and it’s related creases are being permanently etched into my face as I trundle with the rest of the commute zombies from one form of public transportation to the other.

The weeks that I’ve been bartending, though, I feel a spark of happiness and some satisfaction at a job well done. I know there are Dirty Martinis, Jack and Cokes, Long Island Iced Teas, and many difficult customers ahead to depress me.

But, for now, I’m enjoying the buzz.

Which brings me around to the other part of working in restaurants I really miss. The Camaraderie. I’ve never really been good enough at any sport to have much fun playing on teams. You know, the 12th game in a row you only get to go on the field when your team is ahead by 20, and it gets a bit depressing. Or if the only reason you get to be the pitcher is because your Dad is the coach.

When I started cooking, I found that not only could I stand on my own merit, but strangely, I was good enough at it, to be a respected part of the team.

In bartending, I’ve only begun to learn the game. At only my third, (or fifth depending on how you count,) time behind the bar, we’re still in the first plays of the first quarter. Maybe I’ll be benched by half time. Can’t say just yet, but I’ve got a good feeling.

The whole night was a blast, and yep, we’ll be doing it again next month. Stay tuned.

*Photos by Mrs. Underhill.

3 thoughts on “Practical Exercises Three

  1. Ah the camaderie in the kitchen! if thereĀ“s anything i miss from the rest kitchens is that. As for the bar, i remember clearly that feeling of not knowing where things were..its quite annoying. As i still have my bad foot (heelspur, sadly) i haven`t even tried to get behind a bar except for a few private shifts.The greatest joy is when a guest comes back telling you how tasty your drinks was and wants another.


  2. Sounds like a great time Erik. I’m really sad I couldn’t make it.

    I completely get what you’re saying about not enjoying the tech work compared to the work in a kitchen/behind the bar. I’m finding myself feeling the same way more and more.

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