Letters to an Aspiring Bartender #2

by The Bon Vivants

We harken back to Letters to an Aspiring Bartender #1 we wrote in late September – this will be the second in our ongoing series that will be mixed in from time to time with our other articles.  We now offer a few more hard earned bits of experiential knowledge (as in we have done the opposite of these things and they didn’t work out so well).  The holidays are upon us.  This is a time when we as people in the service industry hopefully slice off a big hunk of cheddar.  Events pop out like prairie dogs, and customers are as generous and as obstreperous as they will be all year, with the exception of maybe their birthday.  So without further ado, we say…

  1. Work.  Work.  Work.  You can sleep when you’re dead, i.e. the month of January.  This is the time to make much deserved and much needed cash before hibernation.  Tis’ the season to put on event blacks and make drinks from a batch bucket, uh we mean a Tom & Jerry Bowl.  Smile a lot, and wink, and gesture to the tip bucket.  If you have a bell and a Santa beard, ring it loud and proud.
  2. Eat.  You are going to drink after working all these parties and events and mayhem-laden shifts so eat, and eat well.  Soak up all those Mezcal shots or Bailey’s shots with any and all that you can eat.  Its winter, (unless you live in Miami) it’s cold, so who cares if you get your gut on.  Defend your liver with mashed taters and roast beef!  The occasional multi-vitamin and mega B vitamin dose wouldn’t hurt either.
  3. Sleep.  The holiday season is like trench warfare for a hard working bartender.  Sleep whenever, and wherever you can.  We do not advise taking a forehead-down nap on your local bar, or sleeping on the train on the way home from work and missing your stop, having to jump off three stops down, forgetting your bar bag, work clothes, and favorite pair of boots in the flurry (yes, this did happen).  But, do nap when possible, and if not, just get off your feet. Those dogs may not be barking now, but just you wait.
  4. Go see your friends at their bars.  Yes, they are busy, so what?  Hit the town if you have a night off while still being mindful of #2 and #3.  Go spread a little cheer, give your bartender buddies a break from civilians and be their safe haven for an hour on a barstool.  Maybe even get some quirky fun gift, and as you vanish into the crowd leave it next to their tip.  It makes making people smile easier if you get the chance to make a friend smile.
  5. Get your Nog on.  Make homemade Nog and offer it to guests as a “petit four” of sorts.  Make it however you like, traditional, mixocological, barchefacological, or whatever.  Just have fun with it and make sure it doesn’t suck.  Serve and smile, and they will smile back, unless they are lactose intolerant and then they will not smile back.
  6. Decompress.  If it’s possible for you, take a few days off in January or February.  Have a stay-cation and watch every episode of Breaking Bad or whatever show you missed.  Or, if you can, book a flight, or take a drive and stay in some roach-y motel along the way.  Decompression is not a luxury, it is a necessity.  You have earned it. Whatever floats your boat, do it.  We do not recommend a late January trip to the Hebrides to barrel taste Scotch but to each their own - bring your cable knit if you go.  We tend to head toward the equator and we all know there are plenty of barrels near the Tropic of Cancer to sample.
  7. Be gentle.  This is the time to muster all the goodness and patience you can, and then pass it onto your guests.  They are more than likely stressed, money strapped, time strapped - you name it they are strapped by it.  “Daddy buy me this!” “Mommy why can’t I order the lobster?”  “Oh, you like the diamond in the platinum setting?” We can give them the gift of liquid therapy and a smile to those weary and holiday broken.
  8. Make New Years Eve count.  If you are working it, obviously work it.  Bring your “A” game.  Come rested and ready.  December 30th is “go to bed early night.”  On January 1st, when the last guest leaves and the money is counted, pop that special bottle of champagne, kiss that person that you couldn’t kiss at midnight because you both were working, and tie one on ‘til your hearts content.  Lets be clear, do not forget to have a drink or three around midnight with everyone else. If you are not working, totally go for overpriced bottle service at the club. 
  9. Fear the resolution.  The New Year’s “resolution” can be a big source of self disappointment as we all know.  We are fans of a New Year’s “aspiration.”  Gradual, earned change sticks better than the all in, jump without looking approach.  Start the New Year gently.  Remember you are just out of the trenches.  Wait until after “the trip,” and then start to think about sweeping changes for Spring.  It is Spring, after all.
  10. Make your gifts permanent.  The legacy gift, something that will endure and be used to make someone’s life easier.  It seems the days when things were inscribed have faded into a distant memory.  Buy someone a book and inscribe the inside cover and date it.  Get someone a nice chef knife and get the blade engraved… or whatever they need and get it engraved.  We like the gifts you only have to buy once. We like things that are sturdy and well made.  We like things that leave you with a memory forever.  No “sweaters,” unless of course it’s a fine cable knit sweater to have with the Nog in the Hebrides, just before a hearty meal, and then a snooze.

Aspiring bartender, we look forward to our next correspondence.  Until our next letter...

We remain sincerely,


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