To be a great bartender you have to have generosity in your heart. Every night you come to work and shed the skin from your day, shed the hangover from the night before, shed the fight you may have had with your beloved partner or possibly the news that you can’t register your car because “oops,” you didn’t pay your parking tickets - and you go to work. You smile and you mean it. You inquire about someone’s day and you genuinely listen to their answer. You feel your way through the experience and you do your best to give them what they need so that they walk out feeling satiated, and that it’s a brighter world than they may have thought. We all do that on a good night and it feels great when it happens. We counted on that attribute in bartenders when we cooked up the idea for “Pig & Punch.”
We have been saying we want to “build community around the act of drinking” for quite awhile. We also have been saying our style is “delicious not precious.” Late one night, pre Tales 2010, one of us suggested to the other that we should try and get some bar folk together to volunteer for a charity. New Orleans hosted us in all our drunken glory the year before, and not just us, our friends and peers – our general tribe. We hadn’t done anything that any other group hasn’t done. We got rippin’ drunk and tore through the French Quarter. The only difference between us and everyone else being we got to drink a lot of really good and free booze. We knew we would do it again and we thought, to offset the mayhem a bit, we should volunteer and also try and raise some money for the charity. The idea took shape very quickly. Immediately punch seemed to be the obvious way to celebrate as did the roasting of an entire hog on a spit – communal, primal, delicious, and not precious. We decided to have the party in the daytime at a park near the house we planned to rent in the Marigny just outside the Quarter. We’d have live music and lawn games and we’d count on the generosity of bartenders to help us realize our vision. The idea for Pig & Punch was born.
The short version, our pal Mega Dave drew up a t-shirt with a pig getting punched in the face. We called the restaurant Cochon, befriended Stephen the head chef and told him the deal. He helped source local pigs, local produce and let us use his spit for free. We called Hands on New Orleans and organized a volunteer day. In 2010, we had 11 close friends come from different parts of the country to volunteer. We worked at a KIPP charter school and had a wonderful time with our friends. A few days later, we cooked around 100 pounds of pig. We had 3 barrels of punch and at the end we had some left over that the local folks bottled and took with. We sold every t-shirt we had made, around 150, including the shirts off our backs. A little over sixteen hundred dollars was raised and donated back to the art and music programs of the new KIPP Charter School we had volunteered at. It was a success and a ripple had been created that seemed to resonate over the last year. People talked, they facebooked, they twittered. People began to ask about next year.
To say the least, this year’s stats blow last year’s out of the water - 45 friends from around the country on volunteer day at the Kingsley House. 450 t-shirts sold. 440 pounds of pig consumed, 4 punch barrels and a host of wonderful sponsors (bigger than last year) and none left over… And a little over six thousand dollars was raised and donated back to the Kingsley House.
“You generous bastards, you bartenders.” Nothing could make us prouder to be a part of this profession than Pig & Punch and its pre-requisite volunteer day. It is important to us that we are able to step outside ourselves every once in a while and collectively channel the power of our fraternal order to help those less fortunate, do our part to cast our profession in a more positive light, and also to relax and let our hair down a bit (we owe that part to ourselves). At its peak, to stand and look out over the sea of people and see them dancing, laughing, eating, throwing water balloons, and having what we feel is a “good ass time” in the park with friends is a highlight of our year. It makes a lot of what we do make sense. We bartenders, chefs, brand folks, people who work in bars and restaurants, and people that love a good drink and good food are a powerful bunch. Let’s continue to use that power for all things good. We look forward to the 3rd Annual Pig & Punch NOLA and the 1st Annual Pig & Punch in your city.