Boothby’s Ten Commandments: II. See that your finger nails are always clean


As I mentioned before, Anchor Distilling recently reprinted the 1891 edition of “Cocktail Boothby’s American Bar-Tender“.

As someone who is somewhat involved in the bartender trade, I always enjoy going through old books and reading the advice that appears. Usually, I am amazed at how little has changed. How valid pieces of advice contained in a book from 1891 can be 118 years later.

So I thought I would go through Boothby’s “Ten Commandments” for bartenders one by one and see which ones still make sense for the 21st Century.


II. See that your finger nails are always clean and your person presents a tidy appearance.

While you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover, I’m afraid it is inevitably the first thing it is judged by.

You’ll usually find me dressed in Levi’s Denim, Woolrich flannel, and work boots. I am nowhere the stylish dresser that many Bartenders are. No diamond pins, stylish hats, or pointed shoes typically adorn my twig-like frame.

However, for Savoy Cocktail Book night at Alembic, I usually wear a vest, a nice white shirt, and one of my father’s old silk ties. Semi-ironic, I suppose. But I like to think of the ties as somewhat totemic.

My father was a Funeral Director in the Midwest. His uniform was the dark suit, tie, and wing tips just about every day of his life. He was so much the better “people person” than I am, that I like to think some of his skills might carry over when I am wearing his ties. As if, somehow, the clothes might make the man. Or at least, I might be more cognizant of the sort of “people person” I can or should be, by wearing his ties.

Funny, eh?

I spent most of my youth wearing ripped jeans and untucked flannel shirts, irritating the hell out of my ex-Marine, Funeral Director Father, now here I am ironing shirts and wearing his ties.

It is interesting that Boothby uses some military-like terms in his commandments and.  Classic bartending does often seem to involve the sort of neatness and precision associated with close order drills.

Is it any wonder quality cocktails didn’t get along with the loosey goosey, let it all hang out, keep on truckin’, 1970s?

But to get back to the “finger nails”, my boss at Heaven’s Dog, Erik Adkins, always says, “My hands are my tools,” and, indeed, that is very true. We use them to squeeze twists, handle fruit, measure booze. Grungy fingernails and unkempt hands are as unappealing in a barkeep as they are in a doctor.

This is another 19th Century Commandment still valid for the 21st Century.

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