Professions are like tribes; their members tend to adhere to certain rituals and have similar preferences and priorities. Bartending is no different. From having perfectly ripe fruit to the cycle of the moon, here are seven things that bartenders find terribly important, but the rest of the world doesn’t really care about.
1. Perfectly ripened fruit
While everyone appreciates perfectly ripe fruit, bartenders have a chef-like obsession. What good is a carefully crafted cocktail if you are serving it with a brown-edged lime? We sort through boxes of citrus searching for the best-looking lemons and oranges. We send the barback to the grocery store to fetch fresh mint. We ridicule the lazy bartender using the leftover garnishes from last night’s service. God forbid we see any pith on that orange twist in your Negroni!
2. Hand cream and lots of it
Come winter, everyone is clamoring for the Eucerin, but bartenders keep well stocked all year round. A well-manicured bartender is kind of like a skinny chef, technically it’s possible, but you don’t really trust them. Some bartenders are fiercely loyal to certain hand creams and oils, but as in most things, the most effective hand cream is whichever is readily available when you need it.
3. A decent pair of compression socks
Move over athletes and octogenarians, bartenders also appreciate a compression sock. They save our feet on those 12-hour shifts by cutting down on the swelling and offering support to our tired muscles. While our bodies still feel the strain of a weekend on our feet, compression socks help us recover faster.
4. The cycle of the moon
Emergency room staff will surely second this, full moons bring out the strange. As a bartender, you must mentally prepare to work a bar shift on a full moon, when the normal rules of social behavior no longer apply. Some nights, it feels like none of your bar guests has ever been to a bar before. Communication feels off, everything feels heightened, the alcohol hits the bloodstream more quickly. Chalk it up to superstition, but the moon has the power to affect a crowd.
5. Perfect ice
Bartenders tend to be quite picky about what ice to use for certain cocktails — crushed, kold draft, cubes, spheres — and when to put ice in a drink. Ice can make or break a cocktail. Some say to ice the glass first for efficiency; others ice the glass last to stave off dilution. While most bar guests appreciate attractive ice, they rarely realize the thought process that goes behind it. There are entire chapters in cocktail books dedicated to the science of ice.
6. Splitting checks
When out with friends, bartenders hate splitting the check. We see it as an exercise in karma. We’ll pay this time; our friends get us the next time. It all evens out in the end, and it feels good to take your friends out. Plus it saves time for the server or bartender who is taking care of us. Perhaps going Dutch is the fairer move, but we feel like chivalry isn’t dead, at least for our platonic friends.
7. Knowledge of digestifs
Bartenders have the luxury of tasting many different types of wine, beer, and spirits in our line of work. As our palate develops, we start seeking out more and more complex flavor profiles. Enter the world of aperitifs and digestifs. Vermouth, amaris, bitters — these types of liqueurs come from a proprietary blend of herbs and botanicals, often with recipes that have been guarded with secrecy for hundreds of years. Discovering new spirits inspires us to build new cocktail recipes and have new conversations.