BOOZE can be mystifying to people who don’t work in bars or around alcohol all the time. I hear a lot of assumptions about the industry I’m in that are — much like 90% of what you hear in bars — completely false. Here are a few you’ve probably heard yourself.

1. Amaretto is almond liqueur.

I’ve been hearing this one a lot lately. One never really thought much about amaretto ten years ago, but now it’s all over the place. I suspect this is not so much because amaretto is a wonderful liqueur as much as those ads (“DiSaronno on the rocks…“) are: on all the time. horrible.

Sure, okay, it tastes like almonds, but did you know that amaretto is actually made from apricot pits? It’s true.

Disaronno Originale is from the town of Saronno, Italy and is most likely the original amaretto liqueur, dating back to 1525. It is made from apricot pits steeped in either brandy or neutral spirits, with the addition of herb flavors and sweeteners. So the next time you hear someone refer to amaretto as almond liqueur, set them straight.

And DiSaronno, please do something about your ads.

2. Gin and vodka are completely different liquors.

There’s a real myth about gin, that it’s alcohol made from juniper berries. While this is partly true, gin and vodka start life pretty much the same way: as grain-based neutral spirits. The difference with gin is that it undergoes a final distillation — or sometimes just an infusion — that flavors the spirit with juniper, cinnamon, lemon peel, cardamom and other exotic flavors.

Sadly, gin often gets a bad rap from neophytes who only drink vodka. However, if you’re one of those considering a leap past flavorless grain alcohol, think of gin as a form of infused vodka and you will begin to explore the beauty, sophistication and exotic flavor of a truly wonderful spirit.

3. Any drink served in a cocktail glass is a martini.

A Martini is a drink made with gin or vodka, vermouth, and olives or a lemon twist. That’s it.

A Martini does not involve:

Not a Martini. Photo: @giovanni.

    apple schnapps
    raspberry liqueur
    lemongrass-infused ginger vodka
    fresh lime juice
    grenadine

A Martini is not:

    “shaken to perfection”
    served with a graham-cracker rim

There is no cream in a Martini. A Martini does not have jalapeños in it. There is also no such thing as a “chocolate martini.”

A Martini is a drink made with gin or vodka, vermouth, and olives or a lemon twist. That’s it.

Although the name of the glass we serve Martinis in has slowly been bastardized into martini glass, its true name is the cocktail glass, and anything served in it is a form of cocktail. Even the, uh, Martini.

So the next time you’re in a bar and they offer you their “Martini Menu” full of wonderful syrupy-sweet concoctions with names like the Sour Apple Martini, the Espresso Martini and the ubiquitous Pomegranate Martini, smile quietly and remember that you know better.

4. Women that go to bars alone are looking for sex.

In one way, women are no different than men: sometimes they just want to get out of the house and have a drink.

Maybe she’s single and tired of studying for exams, maybe she’s a stay-at-home mother that was offered an hour of relief from her husband and wants to enjoy a quiet glass of wine by herself. For whatever the reason a woman is sitting at the end of the bar, it’s probably none of your business. Have some class. If you do decide to approach her and she doesn’t appear to want your company, show some respect and leave her alone.

At my bar, we take very special care to dispel this myth, and as a result our establishment is a very comfortable place for women to patronize, alone or in groups. It’s something we’re proud of, and we’re more than happy to kick you out for harassing someone that doesn’t want your company.

5. People that work in bars are uneducated.

Maybe it’s just because I work and live in a college town, but some of the most highly-educated people I know work in bars. My co-bartender is a former sports journalist. The bartender at the pub I have a drink in after work has a law degree. Myself? I have a degree in architecture. And there’s one question we just love hearing night after night.

“So why are you still just a bartender?”

Well, we’re still just bartenders for many reasons.

    We like the hours.
    We like meeting new people every day.
    We’re passionate about mixology.
    We’re lousy at sitting in an office all day (we’ve tried.)
    We actually enjoy bartending.

So before you judge that woman behind the bar, just remember: she could have a PhD in botany and be bartending so that she has time to work on her book about South American agricultural anthropology. Seriously.

6. Male bartenders go home with a different woman every night.

When I got my first job bartending at a tender young age, I had visions of Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail: hotel room keys sliding across the bar as I coolly sipped a spiked coffee, standing with one foot on the brass rail and gazing across the emptying room at the end of a long night while I decided which young vixen to go home with.

The real truth hits me every other Friday night, as I lie on my stomach in an inch of standing water, trying to fish a whole lime out of my floor drain with a steak knife in a vain attempt to keep the entire bar from flooding. The truth of the matter is, bartending is a job like any other, but with eight more hours of standing and a wild pack of drunks to tend to every night. At the end of that night, there’s an hour’s worth of cleanup to do, and the sad truth is that by the time most of us are done,
most people are sound asleep.

Sorry to break it to you, young bartenders, but I think you should know this before you become disillusioned and bitter.

Like me.

Behind the scenes. Photo: gagilas.

7. Bartenders that measure ingredients don’t know what they’re doing.

I’ve been bartending for over ten years now, but I still measure a lot of what I pour. Why? Well, sometimes it’s because I don’t have a pour spout in that bottle of 12-dollar-a-shot single-malt scotch. Sometimes it’s because I’m making the perfect Mai Tai and I know there’s no way I can measure out an exact half-ounce of simple syrup from the plastic jug. Sometimes it’s because I want to make sure you get every drop of the liquor you ordered and not short you – or my bosses.

In these days of “flair bartending” (juggling), with dollars worth of booze literally spilling out all over the floor every night, I find it refreshing when I sit at a bar and see a bartender who cares enough about me, and his/her job, to measure out a perfect shot of alcohol.

After all, being a great bartender is about having a deep respect for alcohol, and there’s nothing respectful about the floor behind most bars. Trust me.

8. Bartenders are walking databases of every drink ever created.

I swear to you that the following story is true. A couple of years ago, a group of people came in to my bar, and they all wanted this drink called a Woodpecker. I, like you, had never heard of this drink before in my life, so the first step I took was to look in the Big Book of Dumb Drinks that we keep behind the bar. Nada. Then I did what you would have done in a situation like this: I asked them what went in it. Nobody knew.

“Um, it was like, kind of a greenish color, but with some red in it, like a woodpecker.”

Hmmm… probably something with Midori in it. This drink is off to a very bad start. A green woodpecker? I asked them if it tasted like melon.

“No, it kind of had a coconut flavor, but with lemon in it. Like a coconut cream pie.”

Ouch. Malibu Rum. I can’t believe there’s a bar in town serving this crap. Maybe I know the bartender and I can actually find out how to make it sometime. I asked them where they had this drink.

“At our friend Dave’s house last night. He invented it!”

I was nonplussed to say the least. These otherwise intelligent, professional people were actually asking me if I knew how to make a drink that their friend made up — and named — at his house the night before.

Remember, kids: if it’s foreign to you, it might be foreign to your bartender. Tread lightly and don’t be disappointed if you don’t get what you’re looking for.

9. The real fun begins after we close.

The idea that we’re having a big party without you once the bar closes is absurd. We’re tired, we’re cranky, and we’ve still got an hour and a half of work ahead of us. I actually told you all this a half hour ago, so why are you still here? Ah, yes, the after-party. Let me tell you something, bub: it ain’t here.

One thing I’ve never understood about bars was the expectation, night after night, that we should let people sit around after we’ve closed and feed them free alcohol. Are there people hanging out at Wal-Mart around closing time trying to get the cashiers to give them free DVDs? I seriously doubt it. So why do some people insist on doing the same in bars?

Sure, there’s probably a bar in town where people are sitting and drinking for free at four in the morning. However, I can guarantee you that not one of those people was invited in for overstaying a welcome. If the lights are up and the music is off, the party’s over.

Go home.

10. Mixing alcohols will result in a hangover.

All drinkable alcohol is ethyl alcohol mixed with water and flavorings. Sure, some alcohols are made with things you might be allergic to, like wheat or the cogeners and sulfites found in grapes, but for the most part, it’s all the same: beer, wine, gin, tequila, it’s all ethyl alcohol and flavor.

I’m going to put this as clearly as I can: the reason you had a hangover last Saturday was because you had three beers, a glass of red wine, two shots of tequila, a martini, and four gins and tonic.

Simply put: it’s not the variety of different drinks you had: you simply drank too much.

[Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s blog.]

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