Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Some Goals for Bartending

Hm. I know I'm way behind on my supposed writing goals, but I'll get there I promise! Work, again, is taking up a nice portion of my life right now, and I'm not budgeting my time as well as I should. I certainly haven't forgotten those other articles I've promised to write, but for now I'd like to introspect on my new career advancement.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I got promoted to bartender at work! I'm still in training and haven't gotten my own shifts yet, so I'm still balancing it with my usual dish-washing fare, but it's awesome that I'm finally in a position where my mind can be in my work. For career satisfaction, the most important thing for me is to have something that's intellectually satisfying. I don't care how physically laborious it is as long as there's some mental aspect in it that keeps me thinking, and I'm seeing quite a world in bartending.

My position is quite ironic actually, as par my normal habits I don't drink, and my Paleo dietary guidelines would keep me away from things like beer and whisky anyhow, but I shall enjoyably adjust anyhow and start including alcohol in my life to expand my culinary repertoire. In the long-run I want to become a chef specializing in meat -- perhaps offal meat in specific -- but until then I say all culinary knowledge and experience is relevant knowledge and experience no matter what. Things like brandy, bitters, and wines seem like they could be incorporated into a Paleo lifestyle in moderation, and for tasting things like beer I can take the traditional wine-tasting route and spit it out at end. On that latter note, I could also do this in coming up with my own special recipes, and even with ingestion I wouldn't be drinking very much; you don't need a whole lot in order to judge its taste properties, which will enable me to also come up with recipes including things I wouldn't actually sit down and drink a whole glass of.

I'm very excited since there's so much to think about, learn, practice, discover, and more. I didn't know the world of bartending could be this complex, and my imagination is just on fire with all the knowledge I can seek out, all the various nuances that will compose my style, and what great of height of skill I dream is possible to me. I need to get hard at work, as my thinking has made me realize there's a vast amount of things I need to do and can do to develop my skills.

So far, here's the guide I came up with of what goals I want to pursue. They're structured roughly in order of importance.

1.) The basics:

    * Memorize liquor stock: Important in being able to tell a customer promptly what we have or don't have, and in knowing whether something can or cannot be made.

    *  Master pouring: This does have a little difficulty, surprisingly. It's important that the alcohol hits the glass just right. Beer, for instance, needs its glass angled so that a minimum amount of head foams up. Another example would be different wines, as some wines should hit the side of the glass in order to release the aromas while others should hit the center for minimal disruption. There's special grips too for various bottle.

     * Memorize basic recipes: This includes things like the Bloody Mary and Screwdriver. The more I memorize means the less likely and often that I'll need to consult any book or internet guide, thus speeding up service.

    * Be able to distinguish various types of alcohol: This both is and isn't a separate step. It's separate in that I'll need to knowledge in order to be able to discuss things with customers, such as alcohol content or a beverage's production, and it isn't separate in that I'll probably combine this with my endeavor to memorize the liquor stock, as this type of knowledge would aid memory.

    * Memorize the work menu: I did memorize enough to pass the cashier's test required for my position, but I don't think I've mastered it enough. I need to study some more, handling less information at once. For instance, I'll probably work to master each page individually at separate times rather than trying to mentally ingest/review the whole thing at once.

    * Master cuts for special garnishes: I've been thoroughly enjoying the bartending book I bought, and one thing it has introduced me to are some rather elegant cuts for garnishing drinks. For instance, there's a neat way to tie fruit skin into a knot, twirl it around a straw, curl it and give a drink a "horse's neck," and much more. I don't think we do much of it at work, but they're so attractive and beautiful that I can't pass it up. Somewhere down the road I'll probably buy a bunch of the different bar glasses and practice putting the garnishes on them with bulk purchased fruit. One has to invest money to make money.

    * Cultivate mental math skills: Sure, there's calculators and an electronic cash register, but a competent mind is always the best choice. Establishing this kind of skill would definitely speed up service some more, and with a high level of competence I might even be able to perform intelligent tricks such as telling a customer precisely how much alcohol is in the special mix I made them. I plan on perusing three books so far: Quick Arithmetic, All the Math You'll Ever Need, and Culinary Math. Time to get nerdy.

    * Nurture good character for customer service, and fluent speaking/vocabulary for personal aesthetics: Among other things, I note that I need to speak louder and more directly, and be less meek in my manner. I don't think I really need to set any particular goals other than consciously match up my actions with what I view as the ideal personality in my mind's eye. Citing Aristotle: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is a habit, not an act." If I want to nurture an appealing personality, then I simply need to repeatedly do what I view as ideal until it becomes a habit and an actual aspect of my character. Speaking, on the other hand, may require specialized practice.

2.) More advanced improvement: Once I get the essentials down, here's how I plan to step it up.

    * Nurture creativity: One piece of advice given to me was to try and specialize in something, like a particular drink. It's broad and abstract, but I want to set my specialty as "adaptation" or "growth." In other words, I don't want to voluntarily limit myself and shrink my repertoire to a single drink. I'd like to be the kind of bartender that customers can always go to for some new recipe on a regular basis, so that there's always something fresh to try out. In the long-run this would be very beneficial for nurturing a creative culinary mind, and it would be profitable in establishing the potential for repeat customers who can consult only me for my personal signatures they can't get anywhere else or make themselves.   

    * Deal with special ingredients, such as seasonal fruit and whole spices, and other things: With essential skills established, why limit oneself to lemons, oranges, and limes? There's whole spices (e.g. nutmeg), seasonal fruit (like pomegranates), confectionery (e.g. red licorice), and more. There's certainly a limit on what I could bring into the restaurant, but I doubt I'd have any difficulty with, say, bringing a sealed package of gummy bears, or a few apples if I submerged them in the produce sanitizer we have.

To gain an edge in persuasion, I think I could utilize a tiny, personal chalkboard that would encourage customers to make certain demands, and I could justify the special ingredients with documented requests. I have some other ideas of how to make use of such a chalk board, so that wouldn't be its only purpose. Perhaps I'll flesh out the chalkboard idea later on.

    * Bar tricks: Definitely. Definitely, definitely, definitely. This would add greatly to the aesthetics and enjoyment of both the customer and I, and would be immensely profitable. My current housemate told me that he has a friend who does such tricks at his employing restaurant, and he pulls in about $200 in tips on weekdays and $500 on the weekends. Certainly can't pass this up. I'll practice at home with my own glasses and equipment, and will try to get into the restaurant early in the morning, before opening for business, so I can practice there and get used to transferring my motor skills to the new environment. (And if any of my bosses are reading this, yes, I'll do all the practice with my own glasses and with water, so no company property is at risk.)

There might be a limit in what I can do since our company stoppers aren't specialized for the purpose, so I may have to settle for juggling the Boston shaker and whatnot, but we'll see. I love my career enough that I'd be willing to buy the special stoppers myself.

    * Slight of hand: A little elaboration on the bar tricks. In thinking of bar tricks one of the first things that came to my mind was magic. Magic tricks, if they can be incorporated, could add greatly to the aesthetics and theater of bar tricks without being gimmicky. For instance, wouldn't it be neat to ignite a flaming drink by, to the perception of the customer, snapping one's fingers? Or making ingredients appear in hand without anyone see them be picked up? There is a specialized magic shop around here in Texas, so perhaps I should give a owner a contact.

    * ???: There's endless possibilities, and I certainly haven't thought of them all. One possibility could be incorporating science in someway. For instance, an idea I've been semi-entertaining is aromas. From the Alinea cookbook I learned that this science and theater based restaurant utilizes aroma pouches to stoke the appetites of their customers. They're not very big and are hidden, and release their scent when a waiter sets a plate down on top of them, as they're concealed by the place mat, napkin, or whatever. This would be a great accompaniment to some drinks. Imagine serving something that emphasizes cinnamon, and emphasizing it by discretely dispersing a cinnamon aroma. Its practicality is questionable at my particular restaurant, however, so it's just stuff to keep in mind for now.

* * * * *

There are other things to do to that I haven't listed on this guide. I'm reading a memory book to enhance my speed of learning and recall, for instance, and intend to do other things such as read neurology books (like this and this) to see what practices I can take up to help enhance the competence of my mind, make me adapt motor skills quicker, and so on.

Bartending is certainly a lot more than simply pouring a drink. I'm incredibly excited to start sinking my teeth in all these things.

1 comment:

  1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleight_of_hand
    "related to sly as height to high" (H.W. Fowler)


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