Boothby’s Ten Commandments: X.


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.

X. After a party has finished drinking, remove the glassware from the bar as soon as possible, and dry and polish the bar top immediately, never allowing a particle of moisture to remain. This is a very important rule.

I know it is unappealing to customers to see a used place setting or drink before they sit down, but this quote reminded me of a passage that Philip Duff recently wrote on Joerg Meyer’s blog:

Philip Duff left DOOR 74 in Amsterdam

7. It Is Cool To Be A Waiter
I have defined myself as a bartender for twenty years.I am perhaps the world’s worst waiter, and would have to be serving alongside Stevie Wonder to be come anywhere but last in a Waiting League Table. In my athletic and carefree youth, I recoiled from the idea of waitering with as much shock and horror as a Pope would when, unwrapping his Christmas presents in front of the prelates, it turns out that prankster Richard Dawkins has sent him a dual-speed Sybian machine and a tub of Vaseline. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit of a fundamentalist. “Once a waiter, never a bartender!” we used to snigger back in the day. But in the course of hosting and waitering in my bar, I learned to love it. It is a different set-up to bartending: as a bartender, you just stand there and guests come to you. It fascinated me to be able to welcome people, seat them, serve them and look after them. It was so much easier to make them happy, I discovered. I still suck mightily at the technique of waitering, you understand – mere mention of my tray skills is enough to give the remaining door 74 staff the haunted look of Vietnam veterans hearing the whop-whop-whop of helicopter rotors – but I love taking care of people in a way that goes beyond drinks.

As someone who only ever worked back of house in restaurants, it’s a bit of a trip for me to actually have to talk to people about the food and wine we serve in our restaurant. I mean not only talk to people but act as a (pathetically bad) waiter. Under the right circumstances I can geek out about cocktails and spirits until the cows come home, but to actually get the whole gestalt of a bar/restaurant thing is a challenge. Answer questions like, “What wine is the best choice with this dish?” or, “What dishes would you recommend?”

I read Michael Procopio’s Food for the Thoughtless and Vanessa Vachit-Vadakian’s blog good things come to those who wait.  I try to parse the lessons from those resources and others to improve my hospitality skills.

Some nights at the bar, I feel like I learn more from the wait staff about service, than about cocktails.

I was talking to a friend about it and he had the exactly right insight.

No matter how important a lot of people want to try to make bartending seem, star bartenders and all that bullshit, at the most basic, it is a minimum wage service job.  Period.

If you can’t hang with that, or if you don’t get any satisfaction out of SERVING customers, well, maybe this is the wrong career for you.