Bartenders Tell All
December 2, 2009
What’s the best or worst way for a patron to get your attention?
“Waving your hand in the air like a kid who needs to go to the bathroom is not good. Service is like driving: eye contact is all it takes.”—Keith Trusler, Blue Water Cafe
“The composed customer who patiently waits at the bar and then politely orders a double Maker’s on the rocks. You had me at ‘Hello.’ ”—Wendy McGuiness, Chambar
“Smile, look prepared, and have your money ready. Don’t keep us waiting. Do not snap your fingers, whistle, or yell ‘Hey!’ ”—Marc Mital, The Roxy
“They travel only with other men. They never sit. They don’t make eye contact. They order expensive double vodkas by brand, even though they’re chewing gum the whole time. They might call you ‘Boss’ or ‘Chief’ or ‘Buddy.’ They snack on ‘appies.’ They suck. They are the douche bags.”— Josh Pape, The Diamond
Is there a drink that’ll get a customer laughed at if they order it?
“Anything blue—Blue Hawaii, etc.—gets a giggle. If you’re not on a beach, you should leave those drinks alone.”
—Trevor Kallies, Granville Room
“A Cosmopolitan” — Giovanni Giardino, Campagnolo
“Smirnoff Ice. Ciders. Coolers. Bacardi Breeze. Blue Hawaiian. Sex on the Beach. Midori on the rocks—no wait, ‘Disaronno on the rocks.’”—Ryan Steele, 1181
What’s the best (or worst) pickup move you’ve ever seen?
“Buying a nice bottle of wine at last call, putting the cork back in, and writing the address on the label where we could share it.”—Steve Da Cruz, The Corner Suite Bistro De Luxe
“From what I’ve seen, simple and straightforward works best. You can’t beat, ‘Hello, my name is so-and-so.’ Worst pickup strategy: start talking about yourself.” —David Wolowidnyk, West
“Many pro hockey players frequent our bar. Many women come hoping to meet a hockey player. The players are always wearing suits, drinking Coors Light, and holding fistfuls of U.S. cash. A couple of guys came in dressed the same, played the role, and convinced several ladies they played for the ‘away’ team.”—Marc Mital, The Roxy
“ ‘I’m 38, I’m unemployed, and I live with my mother. Wanna get outta here?’ ”— Colin Turner, CinCin
Who’s the best/worst sort of customer?
“The best customer is patient and tips well, period.” —Marc Mital, The Roxy
“Best customer: well educated, well read, and slightly drunk. Worst customer: musclehead in an Ed Hardy T-shirt who thinks he can intimidate me.” —Colin Turner, CinCin
“Best: someone who comes in to discover something, someone who comes in with an open mind (and liver). Let me take care of you. I love making the drink that’s right for you. Turning a cynic into a believer.”—Jay Jones, The Pourhouse
“The worst is the guy who brings his own booze. Or men who have call girls delivered. And the ones who forget their PIN number.”—Steve Da Cruz, The Corner Suite Bistro De Luxe
“Worst: you know who you are. Pushing your way up to the bar. Snapping your fingers to get my attention—which, by the way, never works—then ordering a double Patrón on the rocks with a side of Sprite and not one but two limes.”
—Wendy McGuiness, Chambar
“I tend to favour polite, generous piss-tanks. On the other side of the scale, I can’t stand desperate loser guys who insist on using the barman as a middle man to buy drinks for girls across the room who are clearly wayout of their league. I used to tolerate it, but these days I just say no and make them feel as uncomfortable as I can. If I was cooler I’d say, ‘Save your money on the drinks. They’re not interested: you’re too fucking ugly.’” —Nick Devine, Cascade and Habit
Have you been given anything other than money as a tip?
“A diamond ring. (It ended up being a cubic zirconia. Very disappointing.”) —Sherry Diggle, Opus Bar
“Panties. Sounds cool, but trust me, it wasn’t. I threw out the tip jar, including the money in it.” —Marc Mital, The Roxy
“A love poem, in perfect iambic tetrameter.” —Karen Robertson, Bacchus Lounge
“A shopping spree at Holt Renfrew—that was a little surreal.” —Jamie Weed, Cactus Club
“Pennies don’t really count as money.” —Tannis Ling, Bao Bei
What’s the most outrageous drinking feat you’ve seen?
“Alphabetical whiskey shots: he made it from Aberlour to Glenmorangie in an hour (about 9 whiskeys)” —Karen Robertson, Bacchus Lounge
“Probably when someone I worked with decided to drink every Belgian beer on our list, about 25 beers, ranging from 5.5 percent to almost 10 percent alcohol. I think he missed one, but we gave him the victory.” —Tannis Ling, Bao Bei
“Six Vancouver bartenders, consuming 30 or 40 standard drinks, for five days straight in Kentucky.” —Jay Jones, The Pourhouse
“Watching a Canadian hockey legend drink 23 Labatt Blues in one sitting.” —Simon Kaulback, Boneta
“Girl drinking a Flaming Lamborghini. Just say no if anyone asks you to drink one of these: Wild Turkey, Bacardi 151, Green Chartreuse, Blue Curacao, Sambuca, and Baileys. It’s lit on fire and you drink it through a straw. Worst drink ever, and you’re guaranteed to black out five minutes after consuming it.”—Danielle Tatarin, db Bistro Moderne and Lumière
“The stockbroker who drank three bottles of Chardonnay before 10 a.m., paid his bill, then left for a meeting.” —Colin Turner, CinCin
What’s the weirdest drink request you’ve had?
“A Flaming Lamborghini, off of my chest, would take top spot. I declined.” —Simon Ogden, Voya at the Loden
“ ‘Do you purée vegetables back there?’ ”—Steve Schmietenknop, Gotham
“Half beer, half Coke. Or Jim Bean and milk. Gross. ”—Ryan Steele, 1181
“Pepto-Dom Bomb. I’m serious. Pepto-Bismol dropped into Dom Pérignon. I sent my busser to the store for the Pepto and informed the guy it would cost $300 for the Dom. He and his friends spent the next 20 minutes dropping shots of Pepto into glasses of Dom.” —Marc Mital, The Roxy
“A friend from New York introduced me to the Pickle Back: a shot of Jameson chased with a half-ounce of pickle juice and a dash of Tabasco. Apparently it’s all the rage with NYC bartenders. It could be a bit before I try it again.” —Trevor Kallies, Granville Room
What’s the most outrageous thing a patron ever confided?
“A regular told me she had an STD. Poor girl. Was even harder watching her make out with some guy later. Poor guy.” —Marc Mital, The Roxy
“After many hours and rounds of drinks, a woman at my bar said, ‘I’m getting my tubes tied, but don’t tell my husband.’ ” —Colin Turner, CinCin
“That he has mass amounts of cocaine and other drugs in his car, if I’m into that.”—Lauren Mote, The Refinery
What’s the quickest way to piss you off?
“If you attempt to come behind my bar, or get on my bar, there will be blood. Also, if I’ve cut you off and you are trying to be inconspicuous and order another drink though someone else, I notice because you’re wasted and you’re doing a piss-poor job of volume control.” —Lauren Mote, The Refinery
“Order a drink that I try to explain that you won’t like. Then send it back because you don’t like it”
—Trevor Kallies, Granville Room
“People who order drinks with the mix first. Like Coke and rum. Or people come in and say, ‘Why is it so dead?’ Or, ‘Why is it so busy?’ Like I’m supposed to know.”—Ryan Steele, 1181
“Request a drink that you think you had 10 years ago, in Boca Raton. Tell me what you think might be in it. Then send it back because it’s not exactly how you remembered it.” —Colin Turner, CinCin
“Paying for one drink with a credit card. Again, and again, and again…” —Marc Mital, The Roxy
“Substitute vodka in place of whatever ingredient we have carefully chosen. We hate it. Try something new. Gin is your friend. Trust us, we’re professionals.”—Josh Pape, The Diamond
What’s your most outrageous bar-related anecdote?
“In the weeds one night, three deep at the bar. I notice two guys and a girl push their way up. They order three tequilas with lime and salt. One guy opens his trench coat and the others huddle under his outstretched arms. Next thing I know, the girl has her top off and the guy is moistening her bosom in order to get salt to stick. “Body shots,” the guy wearing the coat says, with a smile. I was the only one who could see what was going on.”—Giovanni Giardino, Campagnolo
“One night a young American girl dancing on my bar starts to take her skirt off, then her underwear. People are cheering and she loves the attention. She asks me for an unopened beer to show us a trick. She takes the beer and attempts to open it with her bum. She inserts it and twists! The best part is that it didn’t even open it—she actually cut herself. I laughed so hard I cried.” —Marc Mital, The Roxy
“I worked at a pretentious private member’s club in London. A good mate of mine, Mucky, was serving Tom Cruise’s table. He leaned in toward Cruise’s ear to take the order, and said, ‘Talk to me, Goose.’ I always thought that was pretty money.” —Nick Devine, Cascade and Habit
“We had the crew from Gyoza King at Chambar for their staff party. At the end of their meal they ordered three shots of tequila, three short glasses of water, one double rye and Coke, and a pint of Hoegaarden. They lined them up in front of one petite girl. The table started clapping and singing, and this tiny Japanese girl began working her way down the line. Keeping to the beat of the drinking song, she finally picked up the Hoegaarden and finished the entire beer. The whole bar erupted in applause. Two minutes later, she got sick everywhere. —Wendy McGuiness, Chambar
“This shouldn’t be funny, but it still is after all these years. A regular at a pub I was working at got the whole bar in a tizzy one day taking bets that he could open a bottle of wine without touching the cork. There must have been 500 bucks on the bar in front of me when I handed him a bottle of cheap red something-or-other. He took off his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to whack the butt end of the bottle on the brick wall at the end of the bar to expel the cork. Whereupon the bottle sheared neatly in two, and sliced him cleanly from wrist to elbow. I’ve never seen so much blood in my life. I collected the pile of cash from the bar while I dialled 911, and I made sure he got every dollar as soon as he was released from hospital.”—Simon Ogden, Voya at the Loden