Normally I try not to make cocktail posts on the site about me, I just don’t see how they’d be interesting to a reader. Recently however I got to do a few things not every food and cocktail writer gets to. Work a full time kitchen job and work a full bar shift. It’s a good bit different than you might imagine, and I thought I might share the experience and an impromptu post shift drink with all of you. Hopefully this will explain away last week’s absence of post.
My days have been starting and often finishing in the pantry station of a production kitchen for a restaurant which I won’t name due to the nature of my often loud mouth. If your an avid home cook and have ever thought about perhaps trying your hand at it as a profession let me tell you, no TV show can prepare you. Production kitchens are about speed and cleanliness with a constant eye to food cost and organization. Your not going to be working alongside future food network stars, but you will learn Spanish and a few new curse words. If you take time to reflect though after the tickets are gone and the floor is swept there’s satisfaction in all the hard work it took. As well as all the people who had dinner thanks to you. The kitchen requires a certain kind of person, or atleast a certain mindset. The stress, constant stimulus, and rapid pace can easily leave you crumpled in your chair at the end of a shift. Though they may not always be well mannered gentleman, I have respect for the hard working men and women in the back of the house. The sheer amount of things each station of a kitchen has to do to feed you delicious food and keep you safe is far more staggering than you might believe. Especially when it has to be done with an eye toward speed. Working in a kitchen, I think, is a good experience for every foodie and front of the house employee to have.
Everyone has there strengths however, some people thrive on the chaotic energy that is the kitchen. I myself felt much more at home when I finally got behind the bar at my first real gig. I arrived at mid afternoon to help set up for a surprise wedding party and reception. My day began by icing down beers and 1.5L wines which were comped to guests. I realized quickly what I’d be popping and pouring all night. After cutting the citrus and finishing the setup we took to the task. I got a crash course in keeping tabs and running a register as we started popping beers and pouring pinot’s for guests. Naturally I made a couple of missteps along the way, but by the end of it I was taking care of 4 to 6 people at once and keeping a clean space. Sadly not as many cocktails were mixed as I might like, but then again we can always pray for a next time. Though I worked for 8 hours that night it sure didn’t feel like work, I’ve never finished up a job as happy with myself as I did that night.
I was lucky to work with a great bunch of cats from the bar hops who patiently set me up for success. A big thanks to them for there patience and generosity. Even for a simple service like the mostly beer and wine wedding was there were still things to be impressed about. For one I never realized how hard it was to hear a customer when behind the bar sometimes. Between the space and the music one can really lose a lot of words. Where you place things is also extremely important. Your bottle opener can’t be in your pocket or over on the bar. It needs to be near the bottles. Little things that seem obvious become helpful revelations when you have a conga line of comped patrons eager to drink away the best of the 80’s dance music. Even breaking down after a function had some revelations, like just how heavy a trashcan full of bottles is, and how to clear a ice bin without plumbing.
After the shift jokes were told and a few rounds were had. This is not the usual drink from me, nor was it in any way planned. Thus when it was made there was no thought to snap a picture. Also these brands are all hard to find here and not in my home bar sadly. This drink was dry, spicy, sour and herbaceous with light notes of heather. The Drambuie acts as a mediator and a balance to the other assertive ingredients.
2 oz Knob Creek Rye Whiskey
½ oz Drambuie
¼ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
¼ oz Vieux Carre Absinthe
Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a double rocks glass with a huge ball of ice.
Cooks, and Bartenders work hard to bring you a good night. They work when other’s play and rarely ever make a king’s ransom. Something draws them to it however. As I joked with wedding guests while pouring wines I realized just why I’ve wanted to be a bartender all these years. I Certainly hope Saturday’s shift wasn’t my last. Who knows, maybe I’ll have more beginner’s luck. We’ll have some more Tiki fun soon as we work to bring everyone out next big MxMo post.
You Get Hammered America! – JFL