Archive for the ‘Mindful Bartending’ Category

Things Wot I Have Learned

Monday, October 9th, 2017

I learned an important lesson recently, and it’s  lesson I’ve learned over and over again at various points in my life.  I sure as hell hope I never have to learn it again, though I’m pretty sure I will . . .

Every single time I say negative things about any person, or any situation, even if I believe that I’m justified in saying what I say, within a very short time I find myself regretting opening my fuckjin’ mouth again.

It’s the way in which our glorious universe works I think: Put negative vibes out there and they’ll boomerang right back atcha. Happens every fuckin’ time.

Here’s hopin’ then, that you’ll learn this lesson better than I have thus far.

I’ve had 66 years to get this right and I still fuck it up at time.

Namaste, then, my friends. God be with you. Peace on Earth. All that liberal crap applies here.

And please know that I love each and every one of you. Yep, that includes you.  And him.  No exceptions.

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It’s my Birthday and I’ll Cry if I Want To

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Luckily, though, I don’t want to cry. I want to smile very large indeed.  I’ve had Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, a fabulous chocolate cake with homemade ice-cream, and Amy and I just watched The Man Who Knew Infinity , an absolutely wonderful flick–don’t miss it. So I’ve nothing to cry about at all.

I’ll take this opportunity, though, to tell you a tale that helped change my life. It might shed a little light onto my personal views on what we’re all doing here on earth, and perhaps it will help change your life, too, though there’s a good chance that you already know the end of this tale, and you might already have the wisdom contained therein.

The story comes from Ram Dass, perhaps my favorite philosopher (see his web site here), and I’m paraphrasing it here so please excuse inconsistencies. You can hear Ram Dass himself tell this story on his audio-book, Love, Service, Devotion, and the Ultimate Surrender

Back in the day (whenever the heck “the day” was, but probably in the 60s or 70s in this case) Ram Dass issued a set of vinyl albums full of inspirational thoughts, etc., and he sold them for $5 per set. His father, a very wealthy industrialist and lawyer, asked him if he couldn’t charge more than $5, and Ram Dass said, “Sure, but they only cost $5 to make so that’s all I want for them.”

Ram Dass’ father got upset with this answer, telling his son that he could do lots of good in the world with the money he could make by charging more, and Ram Dass answered with a  question:

“Didn’t you defend Uncle Bernie in a law suit last year?”

“Yes, I did,” his dad replied, “Won it, too, though I had to put in lots of hours of research o make it happen.”

“Great,” said Ram Dass, “I bet you must have charged him a fortune, right?”

“NO!,” said his dad, “It was your Uncle Bernie! How could I possibly charge Uncle Bernie a lot of money?”

“That’s kind of my point,” Ram Dass said, “If you can find me one person on earth who is not a member of my family, I’ll gladly over-charge them for my records.”

Namaste, Sisters and Brothers.

with lotsa love from gaz regan sig


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Cocktails in the Country: Bartenders Can Change the World

Thursday, April 28th, 2016







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Mindful Bartending: The Intuitive Bartender

Monday, April 25th, 2016


“It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning wondering what my intuition will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea. I work with it and rely on it. It’s my partner.” Jonas Salk

The intuitive bartender listens internally to the messages the barroom sends.

And acts accordingly.

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Mindful Bartender: Politeness and Affability

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

“Politeness and affability cost nothing, and a nice perception of what is due a customer is as necessary to success in police gazette 1901 - Copythe profession as any other detail of the business.”

The New Police Gazette Bartender’s Guide, 1901

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Mindful Bartending: Are You Listening?

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Lots of you are great at telling tales and talking to guests, and that’s a wonderful thing.

How good are you at listening?


Mindful Bartending @

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Mindful Bartending @Cocktails in the Country: David Roth, Cask Bar & Kitchen, NYC

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

David RothRecipes and Musings by David Roth, Cask Bar & Kitchen, NYC

“In the Mindful Mixology module, I was reminded to taste the spirits I’m working with and balance in my drinks is something I always strive for . . .

“The Mindful Bartender module was very helpful to me. In fact,I feel like it was designed specifically with me in mind. This module addresses the issues and challenges I have with mentally preparing for work. I have taken the tips like meditating before work to help me prepare for my shift . . .

“I definitely have my more mindful days than others but now I am thinking about it more and I hope that it will become routine sooner than later. Everyone wins when the bartender is practicing mindfulness. Everyone! Your class was just the thing I needed.”


Raspberry Bourbon Sour

As created at CITC 2015 by David A. Roth, Class 6

45 ml (1.5 oz)  Elijah Craig 12

15 ml (.50 oz) Chambord

15 ml (.50 oz) Simple Syrup (1:1)

22.5 ml (.75 oz) Fresh Lemon Juice

Lemon Peel as garnish

Shake vigorously with ice and double strain to capture any ice shards and lemon pulp, into a chilled coupe. Release the oils from the lemon twist over the top of the drink and add the garnish into the glass. Smile!


Highland Aulde Fashioned

As created at CITC 2015 by David A. Roth, Class 6

60 ml (2 oz)  Highland Park 12

7.5 ml (.25 oz) Simple Syrup (1:1)

2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

1 Dash Dale Degroffs Bitters

Orange Peel as garnish

Stir over ice and strain into a ice filled rocks glass. Release the oils from the orange twist over the top of the drink and add the garnish into the glass. Smile Again!


Guatemalan Manhattan

As created at CITC 2015 by David A. Roth, Class 6

60 ml (2 oz)  Ron Zacapa Centenario 23

30 ml (1 oz) La Quintinya Vermouth Royal Rouge

2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

2 dashes Dale Degroff’s  Bitters

Orange Peel as garnish

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Release the oils from the orange twist over the top of the drink and add the garnish into the glass. Smile One Last Time!

Learn More about Cocktails in the Country HERE

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Mindful Bartending: Bartenders Changing the World

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Changing the World

Bartenders can change the world.  I believe that with all my heart.

You wanna know how?  It’s pretty simple, actually.

world class 2013 pointing

When a guest come to your bar and she’s feeling down, maybe she and her boyfriend just broke up, or perhaps she lost her job, or had a row with a good friend, it’s up to you to try to make her feel better.  It’s your job, providing you have time, of course, to give her a shoulder to cry on, to listen to her problems, and to react from a position of love when you point out that life will go on and she won’t feel this way forever.  It’s your job to be of service to your guest, so that when she leaves your bar she’s happier than she was when she walked in.

If you achieve that, then you are changing the world.  That guest will pass that happiness along to the very next person she meets, and it will get paid forward over and over again.  Suppose you make ten people feel great on a Thursday night, and they pay that forward to another ten people?  And suppose that 50 bartenders in your town do the same thing, and that 50 bartenders in 50,000 towns and cities each make ten people happy on that same night.  In that scenario bartenders made TWENTY-FIVE MILLION PEOPLE happy on one single night.

Bartenders Will Have Changed the World.

stuffy and the moon

Go to it.


Excerpted from The Cocktails in the Country Bartender Manual, 2015
by gaz regan

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Mindful Bartending: Fulfilling Your Guests’ Desires

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Fulfilling Your Guests’ Desires

“An efficient bartender’s first aim should be to please his customers, paying particular attention to meet the individual wishes of those whose tastes and desires he has already watched and ascertained; and, with those whose peculiarities he has had no opportunity of learning, he should politely Jenn Tosattoinquire how they wish their beverages served, and use his best judgment in endeavoring to fulfill their desires to their entire satisfaction.  In this way he will not fail to acquire popularity and success.”  The Bar-Tender’s Guide or How to Mix all Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks by Jerry Thomas, 1887.

gaz sez  A few years ago I went to a new-ish cocktail bar that sported a fabulous cocktail list, and I sat across from a very well-respected bartender who I’ve known for a few years (no, it wasn’t the wonderful Jenn Tosatto pictured on this page).  I didn’t order my usual Negroni or a Manhattan with lotsa bitters, but instead I chose another strong whiskey-based drink from the menu.  I’d never tried this cocktail, and as far as I was concerned it was fabulous.

The bartender then asked if he could make me a drink that he’d created that he thought I’d enjoy, and of course I said yes.  That drink was fabulous, too, but it wasn’t the sort of thing I’d ever in my life order.  Too much citrus for me, far too sweet for my tastes, and there wasn’t enough spirit in the drink to make its presence known.  The bartender wasn’t being mindful of my tastes.

Conversely, I visited Nitecap, the new bar in Manhattan owned by Dave Kaplan and Alex Day, right after it opened in 2014, and Dominic Dominic VenegasVenegas (pictured at left) happened to be behind the stick that night.  I told him that Manhattans and Negronis were my two favorite drinks, and asked him to make me something that might suit me taste.  Blond Ambition was the resultant cocktail. The drink was created by Alex Day, and this mixture of chamomile-infused cognac. Bourbon, Yellow Chartreuse, and sweet vermouth pushed my buttons so very well.  Congrats, then, go to Alex Day for creating this fabulous cocktail, and to Dominic Venegas for knowing how to fulfill his guests’ desires


Excerpted from The Cocktails in the Country Bartender Manual, 2015
by gaz regan

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Mindful Bartending: The Character of Others

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

“You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.” forbes 2Malcolm Forbes, Publisher of Forbes Magazine.

The Character of Others

Excerpted from The Cocktails in the Country Bartender Manual, 2015
by gaz regan

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Most bartenders can relate to Forbes’ quote here.  We’re used to being treated really well by most of our guests, while there are always a few folk who treat bartenders, and others in the service industry, badly, and I agree with Forbes when he says that this sort of behavior can tell us much about a person’s character.

But this isn’t really the point when it comes to Mindful Bartending.

If someone treats you badly, then that’s their problem.  Not yours.

What’s important in these situations is how you, as a bartender, treats the offensive guest.

Although you obviously can’t afford to lose face in front of other guests, thus risking losing control of the bar.

As far as is humanly possible, though, here’s what I suggest you do when confronted with this kind of situation:

Treat discourteous guests in exactly the same way as you treat your very favorite customer. 

It’s the only way to roll.

If you do this–and let’s face it, it’s worth giving it a shot–you’ll likely notice a couple of things:

1. The guest will be completely disarmed.  S/he or she is not used to being treated nicely.

2. The guest’s reaction will make you smile.

The alternative, of course, is to get upset, threat the guest badly, and make it possible for the situation to escalate.

The choice is yours.

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Mindful Bartending: Making Connections

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Making Connections

“A bartender’s job is to make connections. You develop an instinct for it. You start to know when one person would do some good for another.”  Jeff Jeff MagillMagill, Billy Goat Tavern, Chicago. Lifted from an article by Tom Chiarella in Chicago Magazine, February, 2015.

The Voice Inside Your Head

Excerpted from The Cocktails in the Country Bartender Manual, 2015
by gaz regan

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How do you know if the voice inside you head that’s telling you to make this decision or that decision is truly intuition, and not just your ego telling you what you want to hear?

This is a tricky question, and only you can answer it honestly.  Fact is that if your ego interferes with this process, somewhere in the deep recesses of your soul, you’ll know that to be true, but how do you spot the difference between your intuition offering you good advice, and your ego which will go out of its way to steer you in the wrong direction.

This is a tough question to answer, and the best possible answer just might be the same solution to the age-old question asked by tourists in New York City:

Q         How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

A         Practice.

It won’t take too very long for you to learn the difference between ego and intuition.  Just listen very carefully indeed, and you will be guided.

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The Bartenders’ Twelve Steps

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

The Bartenders’ Twelve Steps

as laid down by gaz regan

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We admit that we are powerless over our need to make people happy. And we’re also powerless over our need to make lotsa moula without having to sit behind a fuckin’ desk all day.

We have come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves is guiding us to work in bars and restaurants rather than diggin’ ditches.  Not that there’s anything wrong with being a ditch-digger, of course . . .

We have made a decision to turn our will and our lives behind the bar over to the care of  whoever owns this joint and hands me a regular pay-check providing they don’t pester us for shot of Jager when we’re in the fuckin’ weeds.

We have made a searching and fearless inventory of every damned bottle behind the bar. And the basement. And the drawer in the office where the boss keeps his or her hidden stash. But the flask in my pocket is mine and mine alone so keep your damned hands off it.

We have admitted to a whole bunch of bartenders the exact nature of our weak points behind the bar.  Now everyone in town now thinks I’m a complete fuckin’ moron.

We are entirely ready to listen to other bartenders in the hope that they can point the way to nursing hangovers more effectively and getting laid more often.

We have humbly asked these bartenders to help us to visit us on their nights off so they can leave us massive tips.

We have made a list of all persons we have cut off for bad behavior, and we are willing to share it with anyone who asks.  Be warned.

We have made direct amends to people we cut off mistakenly, and we have removed them from our list and promised to buy them a drink next time they pop in.  As long as they tip decently . . .

We continue to strive to become better bartenders, and when we fuck up we will promptly admit it.  Yeah, right . . .

We have sought to improve our conscious contact with the bartending community, and we ask that we will be able to understand what the hell they’re talking about.

We have become far more aware of the needs of our guests as the result of following these steps, and we’ll try to pass on our wisdom to all the poor suckers who follow in our foot-steps.

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If you choose to be angry

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

If you choose to be angry, try to remember that your anger doesn’t affect others.

Aaaargh iStock

You are the only one suffering.

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The Emperor’s New Clothes

Monday, October 27th, 2014

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in October, 2010.naked bartender  I think it’s a decent idea for us all to take another look at it every now and again.

IF the kids behind the bar these days could go back in time to watch how my generation of bartenders handled ourselves in the ’70s, they’d probably laugh themselves silly. Don’t get me wrong; we did some things very well indeed. Our Manhattans and Rob Roys and martinis, even at neighborhood bars with sawdust on the floor, were as good as you can currently get at any swank cocktail lounge – well balanced, well chilled and well served. We had our priorities right, too. We knew how to show the punters a good time, how to put a smile on their faces, and how to look after them as they needed looking after.

Our margaritas weren’t fabulous, though – most of us used commercial sweet-and-sour mix – and we weren’t the most creative bunch. We were responsible, for instance, for the Woo Woo, Sex on the Beach and the Long Island Iced Tea – a drink that tastes OK, though the recipe is something that a bunch of monkeys with keyboards would come up with eventually.

Although the core chore of the bartender – to make people happy, welcome and cared for – will never vary, over the past decade the mixology side of the craft has changed completely. And I’m happy to say that, just as roadside diners and four-star restaurants coexist nicely here on God’s green Earth, so too do neighborhood taverns serving shots of whiskey and pitchers of beer along with highfalutin’ speakeasies dealing in creative cocktails containing countless complex components. God forbid the day when I can’t get a plate of greasy corned-beef hash and eggs, and God forbid the day when I can’t get my hands on an ice-cold shot of Jägermeister, with a small beer back, too.

Not all drinks being served in today’s cocktail lounges, though, deserve space in a chilled glass. I hate to be the one who says this, but I’m betting you’ve seen it coming. The cocktailian craft has been grossly mishandled of late, and it’s time to rein in a few newcomers to the craft who seem to have missed the point.

Odd ingredients

“Too many bartenders are making drinks with a dizzying array of odd ingredients,” said Erik Adkins of the Slanted Door when I got him stupid ingredients    on this topic. “These drinks are often muddy and lack balance. My big fear is that we are going to leave the public behind.”

Let me say for the record that 21st century bartenders have taught me more about the craft of mixology than I ever learned during my 35 years behind the bar in the 20th century. I’ve no wish for today’s bartenders to stop pushing the envelope. I’m pretty much insistent, though, that we take a hard look at the bartenders who have been trying to blind us with their mad-scientist-type potions while rendering cocktails reminiscent of an emperor’s new clothes. We’ve taken more than a couple of steps forward in recent years. It’s time to take at least one step back.

Age alone doesn’t define bartenders lacking basic principles of mixology, but the mixologists whom I’m about to take my stick to are, for the most part, fairly new to the craft. I’ll call them bar-tweenies because although they act as though they’re accomplished cocktailians, their voices have yet to crack.

Many accomplished bartenders I approached about this phenomenon were reticent to talk. Nobody wants the phenomenon of superstar cocktailian bartenders to come to an end. We’re just getting started, and we all want to see this movement grow. But lack of experience is a growing concern.

“Time behind the stick is a must for one to really be a great bartender,” says Duggan McDonnell of Cantina. “Time spent tasting wines and spirits, time spent working as a busboy, time spent eating, and thinking, and traveling, and reading, and practicing the art of conversation.”

The competitions that liquor companies now stage might be seen as a problem because many bar-tweenies seem to be under the Sweet Potato Pie Recovery Shakeimpression that if they don’t make a root beer reduction enhanced with a cinnamon-saffron tincture, or some similar idiotic potion, they won’t stand a chance of winning. But these very competitions have made it easier for young folks today to choose bartending as a viable career. And since I make a few bucks here and there judging said competitions, I’m certainly not looking for them to cease and desist.

Besides, competitions aren’t the only new money-making proposition.

Why be a bartender?

“The trade today is teeming with mentors, teachers, influencers and consultants, all trying to find their place under the sun and profit from it,” notes Dushan Zaric, co-owner of the New York bars Employees Only and Macao, “and that is good news as our trade can only survive if it evolves.”

To fathom what’s going on, let’s take a look at why people become bartenders in the first place. It’s fairly safe to say that the vast majority of people who like to work behind bars enjoy the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd. That’s why you see a plethora of men and women behind the stick wearing multiple tattoos and/or piercings, outlandish hairstyles, colorful clothes and, in the case of the men, facial hair in various hues and guises. We’re dealing with big personalities and big egos, for the most part. Trust me on this. I’m a bartender.

Once these good folk have landed a job they find themselves among a team of like-minded people, and quite often they’ll do whatever it takes to stand out. This is something that hasn’t changed one iota in the 40-plus years I’ve spent in the business, and I dare say that it goes back a few centuries further than that.

charley bartender

There was a time, though, not too long ago, when newcomers to the craft didn’t stand a chance of getting a glimpse of the spotlight until they’d spent a good long time carrying ice, stocking shelves and squeezing limes. That’s one aspect that seems to have changed.

Dominic Venegas, spirits maven and bartender at Smuggler’s Cove, recalled his first days in the business in the 1990s. “We bar-backed and we didn’t ask to be bartenders until the bartenders we served thought we were ready to take a stab at it,” he said. “The bar backs that I’m currently working with want to be bartenders now. They are as green as they come.” Venegas reckons two years is about right before getting a shot at a bartender position.

Unfortunately, the use of ludicrous ingredients isn’t the worst thing that the bar-tweenies have brought to the craft. Many can’t even shake a drink properly. They know to dry-shake – without ice – drinks containing eggs to properly emulsify the ingredients, and this fairly new procedure has enhanced the craft tremendously. But I also see guys shaking a drink over ice for no longer than three or four seconds. Not long enough to cool the drink, let alone chill it to the correct temperature.

Charm and Poise

If one doesn’t shake a drink for 10 to 15 seconds, or stir it over ice for about double that amount of time, not only will the cocktail be too warm, but it also won’t have been diluted enough, and here’s another bone of contention that some bar-tweenies have been flair drinksspouting of late. One contingent of this group believes dilution is bad. Oh, dearie, dearie me. Cocktails are meant to glide down the throat with amazing grace; they aren’t meant to be in-your-face ruffians looking for mischief on a Saturday night. There’s a time and a place for a high-octane this or that, but well-crafted cocktails have far more charm and poise.

Other parts of methodology need to be re-examined, too. I see many bartenders using lighters to flame the essential oils of a citrus twist. But lighters are awkward; the bartender usually ends up spraying the oils across the room rather than on top of the drink. Matches work far better.

Finally I’ll have my say on homemade ingredients. Bitters, tinctures and similar potions are supposed to bring the other ingredients in a drink together in harmony. They are not supposed to dominate the glass. If they do, you’ve either added too much or the potion is completely out of whack – and I’ve seen this in commercial ingredients as well. If inexperienced bartenders don’t understand this, it’s time for them to spend a little more time hauling ice before they are let loose on an unsuspecting public.

Speaking of the unsuspecting public, you’ll be happy to learn that you have not been forgotten. Jeff Hollinger, co-owner of San Francisco’s Comstock Saloon, wasted no time in getting to the nitty-gritty of this business.

“Ultimately, what a guest is looking for is friendly and efficient service, and a chance to forget about a bad day, or to celebrate a great day, with a good (expletive deleted) drink,” he said. “Too many of our peers have gotten too caught up in the perceived importance of their drinks and their status among their peers. What too many (inexperienced bartenders) forget is that what we do … isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. We’re not saving lives, we’re making drinks, and if that’s the case, then we owe it to our guests to learn how to tend bar and properly mix cocktails before doing anything else.”

Alien Brain Hemorrhage

We’re at a point, then, where we’re faced with a bunch of inexperienced bartenders who seem to be trying to fashion dovetail joints before they’ve learned how to hold a chisel. We want dovetail joints. We want to be wowed at the bar. Let’s hope that today’s young bartenders will be strong enough to take a long look at what they’ve been doing, correct their wrongs and move forward so they can wow us some more. I have faith that will happen. Now where’s my Jägermeister? 

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Mindful Connections

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Connecting mindfully to customers at your bar can be rewarding in many different ways, but to be a mindful bartender you must also bartender connects with guestconnect to yourself, becoming aware of your thoughts, being careful not to judge others, and being particularly careful about which words you choose to use when you connect verbally with others.

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Trusting Your Intuition

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Trusting your intuition, or your gut-reaction, is a very important aspect of mindfulness.  And learning to act on how certain people or gazzer 2011situations make you feel is something to strive for.  These things come naturally to many bartenders, but not to all bartenders.  Those of you who find this sort of thing difficult, though, needn’t fret.  Relax, make an effort, and your efforts will be rewarded.  Promise.

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The Secret of a Good Barman

Friday, October 17th, 2014

“It is not true, for example, that the secret of a good barman is the strange concoctions he invents.  If you discount the short-lived harrys Baraberrations that unscrupulous bartenders invent in an effort to stir up a little profitable notoriety at the expense of their customers’ stomachs, there are actually few very few variations on the five possible starting points of any cocktail: gin, vodka, whiskey, cognac, and rum.  The trick is to make the classic drinks well, and to fit them to the particular taste of the individual drinker.”

Credited to Giuseppe Cipriani, creator of the Bellini, in Harry’s Bar, by Arrigio Cipriani, 1996.

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Mindful bartenders are highly valued workers

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Mindful bartenders spend far less time pounding the pavement because they quit that lousy job or that bastard fired them for no good bartender without borders iStockreason.  Mindful bartenders are highly valued workers in the hospitality industry.

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Mindful Bartenders Are Rewarded Monetarily

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Mindful bartenders draw customers to their bars like bears to a honey-pot, and their customers always feel better for having visited tip cup iStockthem.  Since more customers results in more money in the tip-cup, mindful bartenders are rewarded monetarily for their efforts, and since more customers also results in more money in the cash register, bar owners take extra special care of their mindful bartenders.

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Mindful Intuition

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

A mindful bartender trusts her intuition.  She is primarily focused on what the customer in front of her is doing or saying, or upon the drink she is making, but she is also aware of what’s going on at the other end of the bar, and in the entire restaurant.gazzer 2011

She keeps tabs on the atmosphere of the place, and she constantly monitors the events, actions, and people that might affect the mood at the bar or within the restaurant.  A mindful bartender pays attention to the personal preferences of her guests, and she makes each person’s drinks accordingly.

A mindful bartender leaves her personal shit at the door because she knows she can’t be fully attentive to her customers if she’s obsessing about the fight she just had with her sister or if she’s making mental notes about all the crap she needs to do tomorrow morning before her spin class.

A mindful bartender sets her intentions to be of service to her customers.

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Almost anyone can learn to mix drinks accurately and fast . . .

Monday, October 13th, 2014

“Almost anyone can learn to mix drinks accurately and fast.  That is the least of it.  I have always believed success behind the bar comes This Must Be The Placefrom an ability to understand the man or woman I am serving, to enter into his joys or woes, make him feel the need of me as a person rather than a servant.”  This Must be the Place: Memoirs of Jimmie the Barman, by Morrill Cody, 1937.

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Mindful Reading

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

A friend asked me recently to recommend some books on spirituality, and this caused me to think hard about what I’ve been reading in recent years, and which books had had the most impact on me.  Here’s what I came up with:

One of my teachers has been Eckhart Tolle, so you might want to think about reading some of his books.  “A New Earth” is really good.

Deepak Chopra has also figured big in my awakening, and I highly recommend his Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire.  Creating Affluence is also a good book.

Ram Dass has become my favorite teacher in the past couple of years.  He attacks very serious subjects very seriously, and he has a fabulous sense of humor about absolutely everything.  His Love, Service, Devotion, and the Ultimate Surrender: Ram Dass on the Bhagavad Gita  is A MUST READ.  It’s available on audio-book, as is most every book I’m recommending here.

This brings us to the Bhagavad Gita, a monster of a book that I avoided for years, but it’s another of those books that serves well if you’ree walking a spiritual path.  Stephen Mitchell’s translation is easy to understand.

The books by Seth, an entity channeled by Jane Roberts, can be pretty tough-going, but I learned much from them.

And finally I’ll throw in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  It’s a fabulous book that I must have read at least half a dozen times by now.

Posted in Mindful Bartending |

Eleven Reasons that Lists are So Popular

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Eleven Reasons that Lists are So Popular

1.     Lists are nothing more than sentences that don’t need paragraphs in order to survive.
2.    Sometimes lists get out of order
3.    This item, for instance, should be number 7, but it pushed its way up to third place.
4.    Number four is a good place on any list cos it doesn’t have to justify being in the top three, but it’s obvious that it’s a pretty important point.
5.    This item usually follows number four, but it’s been known to slack off and fall to the 8th or even 9th position.
6.    This item is sometimes known as half-a-dozen
7.    Number seven and number eleven are used in rhymes like a match made in heaven.
8.    Are you beginning to see a pattern?
9.    Is it a flower vase or two heads looking at each other?
10.    Time to stop reading lists and go back to work.
11.    I said GO BACK TO WORK

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Posted in Mindful Bartending |

Growing Old Disgracefully

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

I’ve often told the story about the dark and stormy day back in the 90s when I received an email from a friend that prompted me to see the beauty in the rain, rather than being miserable because of it.  ‘Twas an email that truly changed my life.  I’d like to try to pay this forward a little by sharing my thoughts about aging.  I’ll try to be brief.

I’m 62 years old (September, 1951), and I’m happy as a clam.  My body has been beaten up a bit over the years, but I’m (surprisingly) in pretty good shape.  I never ever ever wish I was younger.  Why not?  Because those sort of wishes don’t come true.happy old man

From the day we are born, we are one step closer to death every single day, and the only thing we can do to stop this is die.

I’m writing this in the hope that anyone who reads it who bemoans their advancing years might reconsider their stance on the subject.

You might lie about your age, and I guess that’s okay as long as you embrace every day you’re here on God’s Green Earth.

Feeling sad about your advancing age is nothing more than a waste of precious time.  It’s as simple as that.

Those of you who are already old already know that the person you are inside is pretty much the same as the person you were when you were 20.  Your joints might ache a bit, and all sorts of ailments might plague you, but inside you’re that same rascal that you were 20, 30, 40, or even more years ago.  What’s not to enjoy?

Please think about joining me when you get older, or right now if you’re already there, in never ever ever feeling sad about getting older.

You’ve three choices.  You can either:

1. Get old and be miserable about it

2. Get old and be happy about it.

3. Die.

Which do you choose?

with lotsa love from gaz regan sig - Copy

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Posted in Mindful Bartending |

Thoughts from a Coaster #2

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Get ready guys, I’m about to take off my earrings.  I’m really upset about something.  It’s something that some–and not just a few–bartenders have started to do incorrectly.thoughts from a coaster

When I criticize bartenders I usually preface my remarks with something like, “In my opinion . . .”  Not this time, though.  This is my opinion.  AND I’m 100-percent right.

So what is it that’s gotten my goat?

What have bartenders been doing that’s really made me see red?

Well, as far as I’m concerned, this issue is VERY important.  It changes the way our guests drinks taste.  What can be more important than that?  Here goes, then.  This is the issue:


Quite simply, the issue here is pith.  The white inner part of a lemon peel.  It’s bitter.  Very bitter.  But it doesn’t change the way a drink tastes unless you do something really stupid like infusing it into a spirit.  Its presence on the back of a lemon twist is not only desirable, it’s mandatory if you want to express the oils from the twist onto the top of a cocktail.

One thing that annoys the heck out of me with these too-thin twists is that, in a dark bar, its’ nigh-on impossible to figure out which side is the outside of the twist, and which is the inside.  Worse that that, though, is the fact that they just aren’t sturdy enough to use properly.

Please watch this short video in which I prove my point.lemon twists 001


I’d like to add here that the reason I brought up this subject was that I tended bar at an event recently, and I was handed pre-cut twists that had been made by some pretty accomplished bartenders.  And none of them were use-able.  They were thin enough to read a newspaper through them.  Pretty annoying, it was.

After posting this rant I received a video from none other than Jamie Boudreau, owner of Seattle’s Canon, and renowned bartender extraordinaire.  Jamie is one of the most creative innovators in our business.  The video showed a pair of hands (presumably Jamie’s) using a vegetable peeler to cut a twist over a naked flame.  Oils from the fruit sprayed from the twist as he peeled, he managed to incorporate enough pith to make a sturdy twist.  More oils came from the twist as he then twisted it over the flame.

I tried to recreate this at home, and although oils did spray from the lemon as I cut the twist, try as I might I was never able to dig deep enough to get enough pith on my twist to make it sturdy.  I used 3 different veg peelers and had no luck with any of them.  Jamie can do this, though.  I saw it with my own two eyes.  So it’s not impossible, it’s just one of those things that I can’t seem to pull off properly.

So, in the interest of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I’d like to now add that, if you’re able to cut sturdy twists using a vegetable peeler, then please feel free.  And if you are going to use this tool, please think about cutting your twists over the drink that you’re working on.  If, on the other hand, you, like me, are unable to cut sturdy twists with a veg peeler, please take my advise and go back to the paring knife.lemon twists 002

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Posted in Mindful Bartending |

Thoughts from a Coaster #1

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

When greeting a guest, it’s usually a good idea to ask them how they are feeling.  “Hi there, how ya doin’ today?” you might say.  “I do that,” you’re probably thinking right now.  But do you?  Do you really ask that question, or do you just mutter the words and amble off down the bar to have a laugh with the waitstaff?thoughts from a coaster

If you really ask the question, then you ask it while looking the guest in the eye, letting him/her know that you are truly interested in their answer.  Then, and this is very important, wait for an answer.  That’s right, when you ask a question, you must wait for an answer.  It gets even tougher at this point: After the guest answers your question, it’s now your job to react to their answer.  “Good to hear it,” or “Oh, damn.  Been there.  Not good.  Let’s see if we can make you feel a little better.”  That sort of thing.

All of this usually takes less than a minute.  “I don’t always have a minute to spare at 11.30 on a Friday night,” you might say.  And you’ll be right.  We can’t do this all the time.  Just do it every single time you do have a minute to spare when a new guest bellies up to the bar.


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The Greatest Accomplishment Of A Bartender

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

“The greatest accomplishment of a bartender lies in exactly suiting his customer. This is done by inquiring what kind of a drink he wishes 1 Johnson 1900 coverto have and how he desires to have it mixed; this is especially necessary with cocktails, sours, punches, etc.; the bartender must also inquire, whether the customer desires his drink stiff, strong or medium, and then he must use his own judgment in preparing it, but at all times he must make it” a special point to study the tastes of his customers and strictly obey them, and mix all drinks according to their taste. In following this rule, the barkeeper will soon gain the esteem and respect of his patrons.”  The New and Improved Illustrated Bartenders’ Manual or How to Mix Drinks of the Present Style by Harry Johnson, 1900.

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Posted in Mindful Bartending, Quotes |

The Art of Listening to Guests

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The following advise comes from Veronica, a non-physical entity channeled by April Crawford, a medium in California.
At first glance, this advise targets people involved in a close personal relationship, and it’s important advise that can help people stay happy within those confines.
HOWEVER, Veronica’s words of wisdom can also be used to understand how important it is for bartenders to listen carefully to their guests.
This is mindful bartending at its best.
A New Message From VERONICA
To Safely Guard The Beauty of a Relationship…
“Connection in physical reality is a beautiful endeavor. A relationship experienced within the boundaries of the solid environment is like no other. Many seek endlessly the opportunity to connect, while others seek to maintain it.gazzer 2011
In our observation, we find that the ability to stay connected is more difficult than finding it.
How then, does one nurture a good connection in the physical environment?
It is important to realize that it is the exchange of energy that tops the list.
Communication leads the way to safely guard the beauty of a relationship.
In a world where listening and talking can become a competition of who speaks the loudest, the idea of listening with awareness may be neglected.
Two energies must be willing to actually listen to each other. By this we also speak, that an exchanging in the confines of listening means being still for a moment to allow the other energy to actually mingle with yours.
In doing so, there is opportunity to examine not only the words, but the emotion and intensity that accompanies them.
An instant retort or reply is not always necessary in a conversation. Engaging in such tactics disables the ability to process the information with awareness.
Being aware is the ability to truly hear and process TWO versions of any conversation or conflict.
So slow down. Eliminate the competitive environment of who is right or wrong. If you seek solution, be aware and listen. Compromise is available by processing what you listen to, and that needs to be accomplished with awareness.
If there is value in the relationship, it is worth listening to the voices within it.
Listen with awareness.”

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Posted in Mindful Bartending |

Don’t Forget

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

I learned the following concept from one of Eckart Tolle’s books, though I can’t for the life of me remember which one, so I’m going to paraphrase his thoughts.

Tolle said that, as you walk down the path of life you might find that you become successful, you might start to make a lot of money, and you might find that you become influential among your community.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, he states, as long as you never forget that none of this makes you any better than anyone else.

This concept has helped keep me grounded for quite some time, and I want to share t with anyone who will listen.

You might be a high-profile bartender, you might be featured on televsion, interviewed on the radio or by a national newspaper, and you might earn the respect of your peers, be given accolades and awards, and you might earn lots of money, too.

But you and I are no better than the dishwasher in the kitchen, the homeless guy in the subway station, or the thief who stole your wallet.

We are all walking this earth to learn from our actions, and from each other.  Each and every person on this planet is the equal of all others.  No exceptions.

Posted in Mindful Bartending |

It’s All About Giving Someone What They Want

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

“[At the Brooklyn bar] we were taught to build cocktails with our heart in place, to close our eyes and visualize ourselves as being content. And when we make a drink we remember that it’s a privilege to do what we do and that not everybody gets a chance to do that in our life. Anybody can mix a drink; a robot can mix a drink. But to actually have feelings when you produce that and put it into a glass and have somebody enjoy a piece of something that you created — few bartenders have that opportunity. At the end of the day, it’s all about giving someone what they want. They come there to see you. You invite them into your home. The bar scene can be a very scary place when it’s not done with love.” Anonymous.  Source:

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Posted in Mindful Bartending, Quotes |

The Meanest Old Bartender in Austin

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

I read this piece Meanest ol’ bartender in Austin dead at 95, by John Kelso on in 1995, and I was struck by the following lines:

If you walked into the Dry Creek Cafe, you knew you’d get verbally whiplashed by Sarah, known affectionately as “the meanest bartender in Austin, Texas.” And she didn’t mind the reputation.

Still, Sarah was loved by many of the folks at the receiving end of one of her spoken-word canings.

How do they do it?  How come some bartenders can treat their customers like crap, and yet they are loved, they  make lots of cash, and their many regulars keep coming back for more and more and more.  I know for sure that I, personally, could never get away with it, and I know, too, that many bartenders do exactly that, and they thrive on it.

I’ve known lots of gruff bartenders in my time, and I’ve loved spending time in their bars, too.  Take Leo Dylewsky, for instance.

We got Leo the Chuckle T-Shirt as a joke.

You can see that he was highly amused, right?

Leo Dylewski was not a bartender.  He was a chef.  But he was one of those guys who would threaten you with physical violence in the most graphic terms, insult you, and the horse you rode in on, and yet everyone who ever met him just loved the man.  Leo might not have served drinks for a living, but he was the epitome of a gruff bartender who was, nonetheless, a very popular man in his own right.

These days I can get away with insulting people from time to time, but I’m 57 years old*, for God’s sake, and I learned how to do this successfully only in recent years.  When I was behind the stick in the seventies and eighties I tried to be nice to everyone cos it was the only way I could present myself successfully.  If I threw out an insult, I’d most likely have lost a customer.

When I saw the article about the meanest bartender in Austin, Texas, then, I was reminded of Leo, and I started to hark back to the days when he would play at being the toughest mo-fo in the bar–he was an ex-Navy Seal, too, so he knew how to handle himself if need be.  How did he pull it off? I wondered.  It wasn’t too long before the answer came to me.  Leo was gruff, but his intentions were always good.  He was never really mean-spirited.  The love behind his actions always shone through.

I’ve also known bartenders who were outwardly nice, but there was something about them that made me wary.  Devious sorts, I guess you’d call them.  And the intentions behind their actions shone through, too.  They never seemed to last long at any one job.

What I’m trying to get at, I guess, is that in order to be a true bartender, it’s important that your intentions are honorable, and that you’re true to your self.  I can insult people now because I have finally learned how to do it with love.  Had I tried it when I was younger I could never have pulled it off.  And all of the above is just some food for thought.  Something to chew on for a while.

Leo moved to Florida at some point, though I can’t remember exactly when, and I heard from him in the mid-1990s when he called to tell me he had terminal lung cancer.  “Nobody told me that smoking 40 cigarettes a day for twenty-odd years would do that to me,” he joked.  He’d had chemo, too, and he’d lost all his hair.  “I look like Uncle Fester,” he told me.  God bless you, Leo Dylewski.  I don’t plan on joining you for quite some time, but if you can keep that barstool next to you open, I’ll be happy to stand you a scotch on the rocks when I get there.  As long as you don’t threaten to stick a ball-point pen through my ear-drum, that is . . .

*this piece was written in 2009.

Posted in Mindful Bartending |

Mindful Reading

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

A friend asked me recently to recommend some books on spirituality, and this caused me to think hard about what I’ve been reading in recent years, and which books had had the most impact on me.  Here’s what I came up with:

One of my teachers has been Eckhart Tolle, so you might want to think about reading some of his books.  “A New Earth” is really good.

Deepak Chopra has also figured big in my awakening, and I highly recommend his Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire.  Creating Affluence is also a good book.

Ram Dass has become my favorite teacher in the past couple of years.  He attacks very serious subjects very seriously, and he has a fabulous sense of humor about absolutely everything.  His Love, Service, Devotion, and the Ultimate Surrender: Ram Dass on the Bhagavad Gita  is A MUST READ.  It’s available on audio-book, as is most every book I’m recommending here.

This brings us to the Bhagavad Gita, a monster of a book that I avoided for years, but it’s another of those books that serves well if you’re walking a spiritual path.  Stephen Mitchell’s translation is easy to understand.

The books by Seth, an entity channeled by Jane Roberts, can be pretty tough-going, but I learned much from them.

And finally I’ll throw in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  It’s a fabulous book that I must have read at least half a dozen times by now.

Posted in Mindful Bartending |

An Equal and Opposite Reaction

Friday, April 6th, 2012

I was reminded this week, by an old teacher of mine, that anger is infectious, and if we can try to become immune to that infection, we can save ourselves an awful lot of despair and frustration.

If, for instance, a guest at the bar starts yelling about having waited too long, rather than screaming back at him/her something like, “CAN’T YOU SEE I’M BUSY?  YOU’LL HAVE TO WAIT YOUR TURN LIKE EVERYONE ELSE!” you instead look the customer in the eye and say, “I am terribly sorry, I’m really trying to be as fast as possible, please let me get you your drinks straight away so you don’t have to wait a second longer than necessary,” you’ll most likely find that the customer will be immediately soothed, and their anger will dissipate.

You’ll feel good about yourself if you follow this path.  Promise.

Posted in Mindful Bartending |

Bartender Checklist

Monday, March 19th, 2012

The following article originally appeared in March, 2009

I recently got a letter from a guy who reads my San Fran Chron column and was looking for a bit of advice:

“I’m an old-school guy and I love Bourbon and Branch.  Any other bars of that genre you can recommend . . .  I like old-school drinks: Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Aviation, Manhattan, etc.,” he wrote.

This was my reply:

“My very best advise to you is to ask the guys behind the bar at Bourbon and Branch.  Bartenders know that you won’t go to their bar every single time you go out, and they like to be the ones to turn you on to somewhere else that’s cool.  The bartenders at B&B know your taste, and I’m betting they’ll not only steer you in the right direction, but they might also give you the name of a bartender to ask for, and before you know it you’ll have new places to go and new bartenders to look after you.  Remember to tell the new bartenders which bartender sent you”

This question made me hark back to 30+ years ago when I was tending bar on the Upper East Side of New York, and I started remembering all sorts of unwritten rules that bartenders followed back then.  And not one of them had anything to do with mixing drinks.  These were rules we followed in order to make our customers feel like they were being looked after.

I’m quite sure that you guys who tend 21st-century bars follow much the same formulas as we did back then, but it never does any harm to look at some sort of check-list and remind ourselves of the guidelines that lead to us being the best bartenders we can possibly be.  Here are just a few thoughts, then.  I’d love to see this list grow, so if you have suggestions, send ’em on, and we can take a look at them.

Great Bartenders make sure that newcomers feel welcome.  This can be done by merely introducing the newcomer to one of your regulars or, if someone is new to your neighborhood entirely, it’s great to tell them where they can get great Chinese food, which is the best specialty food store, the most reliable laundry, etc., and don’t forget to give them the number of a good taxi company, too–you never know when they’ll need someone to drive them home.

Great Bartenders assess situations using their eyes, ears, and their intuition, and if need be, they deal with said situations as soon as is appropriate.  Never hesitate–your gut will tell you when to speak up.

Great Bartenders make sure that nobody insinuates themselves onto another customer if it’s apparent that the customer on the receiving end doesn’t want the attention.

Great Bartenders do their best to make sure all guests get home safely.  This can mean taking car keys from some folk, of having a responsible person walk somebody home in some cases.

Great Bartenders teach bar etiquette to customers who might not know it.  Stuff like, “No, you can’t send that guy a drink until I ask him if he wants a drink with you,” and “Don’t leave your bag on the barstool and expect me to look after it while you’re in the bathroom.”

Posted in Mindful Bartending |

90 Percent of Success is Down To . . .

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

I’m about to let you in on what I think might be the biggest reason I get enough work to keep me busy 365 days per year.  And I think that if you apply it to your career, you’ll find that it might work very well for you, indeed.  Ready?  Here it is:  I’m pretty easy to work with.

It’s not quite as simple as that, but to paraphrase Woody Allen I can tell you with absolute certainty that

90 percent of success is being easy to work with.

Now let’s look at what that means, and before we get down to how to make yourself easy to work with, let’s take a look at the parameters you might want to think about setting.  Here’s what I refuse to do:

  • I won’t lie about whether or not I think any product is good or bad.
  • I won’t allow anyone to put words into my mouth.
  • I won’t accept work from a company that mandates that I can’t accept work from another company.

And here’s a list of things I highly recommend you think about incorporating into your work ethic:

Never agree to do something you don’t want to do.

Always meet deadlines.  This means being on time for your shift behind the bar, and/or coming through on time with a new drink recipe that you’ve been hired to create.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.  This means that, if for some reason you’re not going to meet a deadline, or you’re going to be late for your shift-because we all know that shit does happen, after all-LET SOMEONE KNOW.

Help promote your competition.  This is something I learned years ago from Deepak Chopra, and believe me it pays off in spades.

Never badmouth anyone, ever.  This is a tough one.  Some people just piss you off, right?  Me, too.  And I can’t claim to live up to this rule 100% of the time, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that every time I say something bad about anyone at all, I feel bad about saying it almost immediately.  When we badmouth others, what we are really saying is that we are better than they are.  And that’s never true.  Never.

Here’s an example of how best to handle the last two points:  If someone asks you your opinion about a certain bartender who you don’t have a high opinion of, instead of putting them down, you might say something like, “Personally I prefer the style of Jim Smith behind the bar.”  Like I said, these are tough issues to live by, but I promise you’ll be happier if you concentrate on the positive.

Don’t be a prima donna.  You are no better than anyone else.  And neither am I.  If you never agree to do anything you don’t want to do, you’ll never have to imply that you’re too good to do that.

Never pretend to be good at anything that you’re not good at.  If you’re very fast behind the bar, but not very creative, tell that to whoever is interviewing you for a job.  That way they’ll never be disappointed if they hire you.

To the point above I’d like to tell you right now that I fit into that “fast but not very creative” category, though I must say that I’m a little more creative these days than I was, say, 5 or 6 years ago.  Why?  Because I’ve been learning from younger, more creative bartenders.  That’s why.  Keep learning.  It’s a lifelong proposition.

If, say, you’re a bar consultant, and a bar owner asks you to accomplish 4 things for them, and you’re no good at one of those tasks, hire someone to work with you on that task.  You’ll make only 75% of the fee, but your client will be happy, and you’ll get more work that way.

I think that just about wraps up what I have to say for the time being.  I’d love to hear comments, though, so please let me know what you think.

Posted in Mindful Bartending |

The Man with the Penny Tip

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Some customers get on your bloody nerves, right?  They get right under your skin.  They know how to wind you up, they know how to push your buttons, and if they don’t go too far there’s not a damned this you can do about it.  You gotta take it in good part, right?  Smile at their cheap shots.  And perhaps pull back a little on the amount of gin in their G & Ts.  There’s another way to deal with them, though, and you might want to think about trying it out.

In the mid-1970s a guy came into Drake’s Drum, the joint I was working at the time, and ordered a Singapore Sling.  I’d never seen him before.  I made him the drink–and I should point out that we didn’t use the classic Singapore Sling recipe at Drake’s Drum, but then again, neither did anyone else at neighborhood joints in the seventies.  Nevertheless, I made him a decent sling and he drank it with no complaint.  As he was coming to the end of his drink I walked over to ask if he’d like another but he declined.  He looked me dead in the eye, put a single penny on the bar, and said, “I like to be popular.”  He stood, turned his back, and disappeared into the night.

I’ve no need to tell you how pissed off I was.  A penny tip.  A bloody penny tip.  I never got upset when people stiffed me–it’s swings and roundabouts after all–but leave me a penny tip and I’m one very pissed off bartender.

Two nights later he came back, and he had another Singapore Sling.  I made it with 1/2 ounce of gin and 2 ounces of grenadine.  He paid, drank his drink, and left.  No tip.  But he drank that awful drink and then he smiled at me before he left.  The *** was playing with me.

A couple of nights later he came in again, and the same thing happened a second time.  He got a rotten drink, drank it, paid for it, stiffed me, and once again he gave me a big smile before he left.  How the hell could I get to this man?

The following Friday night at around eleven, the bar at Drake’s Drum was packed, regular customers were waving double-sawbucks at me and screaming for drinks, and in walked the Singapore Sling guy.  He stood at the back of the crowd and he smiled at me.  I smiled back.  And suddenly I knew what I had to do.  I ignored my regulars, I made him a pretty good Singapore Sling, and I handed it to him over the crowd,

“It’s on the house, mate,” I told him.  “Great to see you again.”

I never saw the man again.

Next time your most annoying customer comes in, try thinking about why he or she enjoys needling you so much.  It has something to do with them, not you.  Are they, perhaps, looking for a little love and understanding but they’re not quite sure how to go about getting it?

It’s a possibility.  Perhaps you could think about changing the way you react to them and seeing what happens.  After all, if he thinks he’s an ***, and you think he’s ***, chances are he’s going to act like an ***.  If you stop believing that, you’ve cut the odds that he’ll behave like an *** in half.  It’s worth trying, doncha think?

Posted in Mindful Bartending |

Hey! Teacher! Leave Them Kids Alone

Monday, February 13th, 2012

As I pointed out in The Joy of Mixology, I owe much to Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh. He was the guy who, soon after Bartender’s Bible was published in 1991, took me by the hand and gently showed me how much I didn’t know about the world of cocktails. Oh, I already knew much about the job of the bartender–I first worked behind the bar circa 1965/6 when I was just 14 years old, and although I’d also worked as a bar manager at times, I’d been behind the bar most of my working life since then. Around 25 years behind bars. But Ted showed me the historical side, and lots more besides. Ted was also the man who pointed out that Margaritas and Sidecars are related, leading me to create the families I put together for Joy of Mixology in 2003. Do you ever hear Ted say, “Gary wouldn’t be where he is today if I hadn’t helped him.” No you don’t.
You don’t hear Robert Hess say that, either, or Dale DeGroff, yet all of these guys helped me out as I was coming up through the ranks. Paul Pacult is another guy who was incredibly generous to me in the early years. Incredibly generous. But you’ll never hear him say anything about it. And Dave Wondrich is yet another guy who should get a mention here, too. I think that all of us have had our eyes opened by some of the stuff that he has brought to light in our industry.

I’m not being overly humble when I credit these guys with helping me. In some ways I hope that I’ve helped them, too, and I give myself a bit of credit for being anxious to learn from these people. And I’ve learned from young bartenders along the way, too. Chad Soloman, for instance, was the first guy to show me the “dry shake” when he was working at Pegu Club. And Stan Vadrna showed me the “hard shake,” but I still can’t get that one right.

Lots and lots of bartenders 20-plus years my junior have taught me over the years, and if you’re a real bartender you know that the craft is a living thing–something that we’re constantly learning about.

You’re probably wondering right around now what it is I’m trying to say, so let me get to the point: A few weeks ago I heard that one bartender was putting down another bartender by saying that she taught him everything he knew, and that he isn’t as hot as he thinks he is. This truly saddened me. The best teachers don’t take credit for their students’ accomplishments.

When we put other people down, what we are saying is “I am better than that person.” And guess what, guys? Not one of us is any better than any person who walks the face of the earth. You’re no better than I am. I’m no better than you are. And neither of us is any better than the homeless guy sitting outside Grand Central trying to raise enough cash for a sandwich. Putting other people down is nothing more, and nothing less, than an ego trip. And if you’re on an ego trip, you can’t walk the Path of The Bartender.

Egos are weird things, you know. They keep telling us that we’re doing the right thing when, deep down inside, we know that that isn’t true. It can be hard work to battle the ego, and we don’t always win, but it’s a battle that’s worth fighting. Some of you out there are shaking their heads right now: “Well if he hadn’t started it . . .” you’re thinking. Well I’m here now to ask you to please think about doing yourself, and the rest of us, a huge favor: Let him start it. Be the one to end it by letting it wash right over you. Ignore it. Take the high road. Walk the Path of The Bartender.

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How Very Dare You?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

There are times when I find myself getting really angry.  Know what I mean?

Why the hell does that idiot have to keep telling me about the ball game?  He knows damned well that I couldn’t give a damn about sports, but he just keeps droning on and on.  Makes me want to slap him.

Who the heck does that woman think she is?  I asked her a simple question about her drink, and she gets right in my face.  Jeez, lay off wudja, lady?  I got enough to deal with.

That guy treats me like I’m his personal bloody servant, and he never damned well tips more than five bleeding percent.  He makes me so damned mad.

We all get upset from time to time, even if we know, intellectually, that we’d be far better off if we just shrugged our shoulders, raised our eyebrows, smiled a little, and went on our merry way.  It’s part of the human condition.

As bartenders, though, if we can do our best not to get upset, we’ll be doing ourselves, our bosses, and our customers, a huge favor.  Remember that the bartender is the one person in the bar that everyone counts on.  If we lose it, if we fail to understand what’s going down, if we get irrational, or out of control in any way, shape, or form, then we’re not doing our job properly.

One way to stave off anger is to try to understand what anger is.  Anger is always based on fear.

Deep down, he guy who bores me by insisting on talking about sports, makes me afraid that nobody ever listens to me.  The woman who got in my face when I asked her a question makes me afraid that people think I’m stupid.  And the guy who treats me as though I’m his servant makes me afraid that people think that I’m not as good as they are.  Once we understand that anger is based on fear it becomes far easier to let it subside.

I know damned well that people listen to me, for instance, so the guy who goes on about sports turns out to be just another lonely soul with nobody to talk to, and sports is the only thing he knows much about.  He’s afraid of being on his own, and I’m the only guy around he can talk to.  If I give him a break, and perhaps ask him some questions about sports, I’ll be making him feel good about himself, and that can’t be a bad thing, right?

The woman who got in my face when I asked her a simple question is, herself, afraid.  She’s afraid that she doesn’t make herself understood.  That’s why she bit my head off.  When she does this, if I apologize for not understanding what she wanted.  If I make it sound like it’s my fault, she won’t feel bad about herself, and she probably won’t yell at me.

And the guy who treats me like I’m his servant is scared stiff that people will discover just how insecure he is about himself.  If I give him a break, and play Jeeves to his Wooster, there’s a good chance that he’ll appreciate the fact that I make him look good in front of the other customers.  Whatever he does, though, it won’t kill me to play along.

All this anger, then, from both sides of the mahogany, has been based on fear.  And as bartenders, we have the power to make it all go away, just by showing a little love and understanding.  One jigger at a time, then, we can make this world a better place.  What a great way to use the power that our customers give us, huh? search domain names by owner

Posted in Mindful Bartending |

Good Day or Bad Day. The Choice is Yours

Monday, January 9th, 2012

I’ve been reading The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama recently, and it occurred to me that being happy, and making other people happy, is something that bartenders might want to focus on.  After all, when we’re behind the bar we aren’t there to serve cocktails–we’re there to serve our guests.  And if we make our guests feel just a little happier than they felt when they walked through that door, then we’re walking the Path of the Bartender.

How can we go about making our customers happy?  One of the easiest ways is to be happy ourselves.  Happiness can be infectious.  I’m not suggesting that we put false smiles on our faces, and I’m not implying that we can be happy all the time, but I would like to suggest that there are times when we can choose to be happy rather than choosing to be sad or angry.  Let me tell you a tale.  A true tale.

A few years ago I was sitting at my desk, looking out on one of the most dismal days I’ve ever seen.  The skies were dark, the wind seemed like it was gale-force, and the rain was pelting down on my driveway and bouncing right back up into the air.  What an absolutely horrible day, I thought.  It’s crappy out there.  I was pretty miserable.

And as I sat there, wallowing in my misery, an email came in from an old friend in Manhattan.  Someone I’ve known since the early seventies when I tended bar at Drake’s Drum.  It contained just one sentence:

Isn’t it a Beautiful Rainy Day?

That email changed my life.  I realized that I had a choice about how I felt about the weather.  I chose to see the beauty in the wind and the rain, and the gorgeous darkened skies.  I chose to be happy that I was warm and dry and had food in my stomach, and if I chose to take the day off work and make myself a big Hot Toddy with a dram or two of fabulous whiskey, then I could do that, too.  Why would the weather make me miserable?  I had so much to be  thankful for.

The weather has never ever gotten to me since that day.  Sometimes the weather has inconvenienced me, but it’s never made me unhappy since I read that email and realized that sometimes we can choose to be happy.  That email changed my life.

Once you know that you can very often choose to be happy, then every time you go to work behind the stick, no matter what mood you’re in, you can ask yourself, “Is it possible for me to choose to be happy right now?”  And if the answer is yes, then you’re walking the Path of the Bartender, because if you’re happy when you’re behind the bar, then guess what?  Chances are that you’ll be making your customers happy, too.

You don’t believe me?  Would you believe The British Medical Journal?  Click here.

Posted in Mindful Bartending |

Our Guests are Our Family

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

To see this in video format click here

I was listening to  Ram Dass on audiobook (Experiments in Truth) the other day, and he told a fabulous story about a conversation he had with his father after he released a set of albums back in the 60s or 70s.  He sold them for $4.50, though he knew that people would pay much more.

“You should be charging at least $9,” his father told him.

“But they only cost $4.50 to put them out,” said Ram Dass.

His father, a very successful businessman and lawyer, couldn’t understand this logic, so Ram Dass asked him about a legal case his father had handled for Ram Dass’ Uncle.

“It was difficult,” said his father.  “I had to do a lot of research and put lots of time into that case, but we won.”

“So you must have charged my uncle a lot of money, right?”

“Of course not!  He’s family,” said his father.

“Well it’s pretty much the same with these albums,” said Ram Dass.  “If you can find someone who isn’t family, I’ll happily burn him.”

As bartenders, it’s good to remember that all of our guests are family.  They are at our bar to make us smile, share some information, give us a hard time, make us angry, confront us with difficult situations, and put money into our tip cups.  Every single one of them is a member our universal family, though.  Try not to burn them, please.

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