Monday, February 23, 2015

Entitlement has got to go

Being entitled to certain luxuries is a fad that never dies, it seems. All generations do it, from all walks of life and all cultures. As a bartender I have a front row seat to different levels of entitlement from both the end of the customer and from the staff. I recently read an article that implied guests who are more well dressed are better customers, which I could not disagree with more. From time to time I've seen memes pertaining to the hospitality industry floating around on Facebook, such as tip jars with "the more you tip the better your service" taped to them. On the other hand I believe most of us are at least familiar with the awful people who leave messages on the receipt when they have a homosexual server, as if, whether it's a lifestyle choice or not, being a customer to a person entitles you to leave discriminating comments that can completely ruin someone's day.

It's got to stop, but I honestly don't know how to make it stop. I would suggest that one Avenue of defense, on the side of the industry would be to take a firm stance and refuse to give service to people, but the truth is I know where that sort of attitude might lead. I don't want every restaurant and bar to have the same sort of air of arrogance floating around the staff like most night clubs or dive bars, where the mantra is along the lines of "the customer's always wrong". Maybe it would be easier for waitstaff to play nice if entitlement disappeared altoghether, but again, we're all mature enough to know that utopian paradises do not exist.

Keep your wits about you, and stay positive!
Referring back to the article I mentioned in the earlier paragraph, the writer says regarding dressing up 'There are eight billion reasons why you should do this, but a well-groomed and well dressed man with a smile says to a bartender, “Hey, I am not going to be an asshole”'. I don't know in what context this came out of, but I could not disagree more. Time and time again, I've had unkempt people be absolutely delightful, polite and generous with tips, or well presented people be absolute jerks. The reverse has also been true, and I'll be the first to say the old adage to never judge a book by its cover is one of the truest metaphors I've ever known. I understand the temptation of wanting to believe that there's a way to pin people as having a certain personality, but looking at someone's style is not that way. Treat everyone the same the first time you meet them, and form your opinion of them based on that. Have your wits about you, and if someone's personality seems a bit off, just try your best to work around it. Some customers can turn around if you improve their day or night, others need to be dealt with in a more firm manner, but one's effort put into their style and appearance are not the answer. In my mind, this is just another way of unjustly discriminating. My guess is that if poorly dressed people are jerks to you, it's because you're assuming that they're a lesser deserving person.

The writer of the article makes a few other fair points, but they still have an air of entitlement attached to them. Points like being prepared with backup orders, awareness of tip etiquette, and "never use change" have their merrits, but also have their downfalls. Unless people work in the industry, they just can't relate, and that's all there is to it. It's fine to give favor to customers who tip well, you like, or are regulars, but always remember, the reason you even have this job is to make sure people are having a good time. That's your business. And I almost guarantee you that the better your attitude and the more freely you treat everyone, the more business and tips you will make.

Tips are like a free research tool. If people like you, and like
the service, they'll tip, regardless of how they're dressed.

You may have gathered from this piece that I have a fair level of contempt for certain behaviors in the industry, enough so that most of my focus has been on the employee rather than the customer. I believe that if you want to fix something it's much easier to fix it from the professional end, than the consumer end. If you have a certain level of professionalism and follow the Golden Rule (treat others as you'd like to be treated), I can't promise that customers will always be perfect, but I know that good attitudes are infectious and self entitlement in customer service really bothers people. I mentioned I don't know whether this is a cure all or not, but at least being the calibre of person who treats others in a non judgmental way ensures that you can be proud of yourself, minimize conflicts, and make a boatload of tips.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Career Bartending part 1; How to Make a Pimpin' Resume

If you're a bartender looking to make their job into a career, you may have run into the problem of how to stand out from the other skilled bartenders in the industry. Let's face it, bartending isn't rocket science, and as such there are a ton of skilled bartenders, while there aren't that many rocket scientists. So how do you let every potential boss know how valuable you are?

First of all, if you're going to be serious about career bartending, ask yourself a few questions. What is your ideal bar to work in? Whether you're just starting out, or you've been in a couple of bars already, you most likely aren't in your perfect bar. When you think about this, make it unrealistically good. This is your fantasy bar, but also consider each element of the bar and either write it down or make a mental note of it. Another question you should ask is where you want to go from bartending. Make a short term, mid term, and long term goal. Think management, ownership, corporate, consultant, or any other intimidating businessey sounding words. Bartending at someone else's bar should not be the end of the line for you, right?

(If you have photo proof of classy looking cocktails you've made
maybe including them could spice up your resume.)

With the answers to those questions in mind, what do you think the most important thing for accomplishing your goals is? Hopefully, you said something along the lines of 'experience'. Experience will do a number of things for you. It'll help you build a skill set, make connections, and get your brand out there....

That's right folks. I said 'your brand'. You're going to want to start thinking of yourself as your own business. Businesses that work on a consistent brand are a couple of steps ahead of the game. You need to be conscious of what your competitors have to offer, and what the industry expectations are, but most importantly, what makes you, you. Following the trends and dialogue of successful bartenders and bars will help you a great deal, but being true to yourself and figuring out the unique offerings that you possess will get you even farther.

(Image credit: check out their
article on 7 creative social media resume designs.)
Your resume will often be the first impression that employers will get of the business that is you. This isn't to decrease the importance of meet and greets, drop-ins, or whatever other method you have of meeting before you hand off your resume. Sometimes physical resume drop offs are impossible, or the managers in charge of hiring don't accept drop-ins. It's at these times that either your resume will do most of the talking or you'll have to come up with some Mission Impossible delivery method to help you get behind security (that's a metaphor... hopefully the comparison is clear though).

Your resume should start off with your name and contact information, but directly below that start your work experience off immediately. Don't fall for the mistake of putting bartender, and then explaining what a bartender does. Everyone knows what a bartender does, and most of your competitors will be falling for that trap. If you're going to mention how busy your bar is, make sure you use sales or volume numbers, but try not to be too hung up on that. Briefly describe the restaurant or bar and include any information that might make you stand out from the pack, like management experience or other leadership responsibilities. If you managed your company's social media accounts, or have experience with Excel include that, but do not go overboard on details. This part of your resume should take no more than half of the page.

(Daisy Tang has an awesome resume at )
For the next section of your resume, it's all you. This is the part where you get to add a personal touch to your experience. Languages spoken is a good starting point, as well as relevant certificates and training programs. If you haven't done any certified programs, get onto it. There are always wine tasting courses available in large cities or online. Bartending and flair classes float around as well as general hospitality programs. If there are any bartending organizations in your city, region, or country, join them. If there are competitions, try out for those as well. Start a blog, youtube channel and personal website, and include all of those things in your resume. Try to volunteer at exhibition events, wineries, breweries or distilleries to get knowledge on the product end of things and include that on your resume as well. Build a skill set. Make it large. Make it professional. And make it easy to read.

Don't use flowery language to fill out your resume though. Keep it brief, and relevant. Let your skills speak for themselves, and keep your resume under a page, but not condensed to the point of being a page full of cluttered text. Think of it as a summary of your skills, and don't do so much explaining that you have nothing new to say during your interviews.

(It's hard to add style to a resume,
but QR codes can help convey a certain
level of creativity, professionalism,
and technological literacy.)
With your new resume crafted, start playing around with different ways of formatting the layout and font of your new document. Make something simple, aesthetically pleasing, and interesting to look at. Including a professional photo of you on the job can help as well. The style of your resume should mirror your own style and brand, as well as fit into the brand of the place you're applying to. If you do opt for the photo, make sure it's appropriate to the venue you're applying at. As for stylistic, or very design oriented resumes, there are a few awesome ideas out there, but make sure that if you're going to go this route that you can pull it off in a way that doesn't scream 'kindergarten art project'.
Your resume should now be a solid document, but nevertheless, have some people of different professional fields look over it. If you know any managers in hospitality show it to them. Hell, they might even offer you a job if they like what they see....

With this document in your possession, you should have a solid piece of paper that you can toss over the desk of a hiring manager and get a respectable response. Keep tweaking it once in awhile, and make necessary changes when you're applying to different sorts of places.

And also, stay tuned for the next in my series of blog articles on making a career out of bartending.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Amado Sur Malbec Blend, 2012 Vintage

It's officially Valentine's Day, and if you're an attached human male, there's a good chance that you haven't thought it out as well as you gave yourself credit. Which is a perfect note to begin this Tasting Notes review on! This time, we'll be looking at an Argentinian wine which I quite enjoy, the 2012 vintage Amado Sur Malbec Blend.

Firstly, the three grape varietals - malbec, bonarda and syrah - are fermented separately in stainless steel tanks. When fermentation is complete, the varietals are then aged separately in French oak barrels for 8 months, before being blended and aged again in stainless steel barrels for 6 more months, and finally being bottled and aged for another 5 months before hitting the shelves.

The results of this process are a fruity wine blend, tasting of blackberries, cherries, cranberries and apple. It has a light crisp acidity, accompanied by a velvety feel on the tongue. Like many reds, it's flavor shines most when you enjoy it with a meal, or let it air out for a short time. Decanting the glass briefly reveals spice notes of clove, coriander and black pepper, along with hints of dried fruit, such as craisins and black currants.

While it's a wine I enjoy, making it an easy review for me, it's also easy as it happens to be quite versatile in it's ability to pair with food. It's an ideal wine for red meat meals, preferably the more rich and tender options such as prime rib, tenderloin, or lamb. It also pairs well with spicy Mediterranean, Indian or far eastern dishes. On a lighter note, I'd recommend it with a diverse cheese plate, or simply with pizza and wings; the first way my girlfriend and I enjoyed it.

I won't be rating this wine, as wine tastings aren't really my niche, I don't think I can give it a fair rating. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend this as a good meal value wine.

Friday, February 13, 2015

How to Make an Amaretto Sour

As craft cocktails, and small batch spirits are making their mark on the world, liqueurs are mostly getting the shaft in the world of bartending it seems. Relatively speaking, anyway. Enter the Amaretto Sour. An Amaretto Sour is a spin on other popular sours, including classics like the whiskey sour, the Pisco sour, and the sidecar. This is a somewhat different kind of sour cocktail though.

The Amaretto Sour's strength is in it's flavor and sweetness. The necessity of sweetening your sour to balance out the citric acids disappear. Furthermore, while other sour cocktails almost always prefer the use of the milder lemon juice, this one is very palatable using lime juice instead.


  • 2 oz of Amaretto
  • 1/2 oz of lime juice (or half a lime)
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
First things first... my Amaretto of choice for this cocktail was the Sons of Vancouver small batch product which I recently acquired. You can use whichever you prefer, though, I went for this one, partly because I enjoy it, partly because it's available, and partly because it's local. The Sons of Vancouver distillery also crafts Amaretto Sours using their liqueur, which is what exposed me to the fine tasting cocktail to begin with (I'm not going to lie here, I'm sort of biased in the direction of bourbon sours or scotch sours, being the fan of whiskey that I am).

Boom! Sons of Vancouver.
Mix the Amaretto and lime juice, and in another glass or tin, separate the egg white. Note the suggestion to do these things separately. If you get eggshell or yolk into your other mixes, the cocktail will be unpure (not really, but it won't be the same).

Mix all the ingredients, and shake without ice (in the business we call it 'dry shaking' - make sure to wrap the tin with a cloth, as it won't properly seal without ice inside) for about 20 seconds, and then shake again with ice to chill the mixture. The process of dry shaking an egg white will create a thick layer of foam for you to play around with; but if it's not thick enough, by all means, dry shake it once more. Once your cocktail has reach desired foaminess, dash Angostura Bitters on top for that finished look.
That finished look.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Buffalo Trace - Tasting Notes Review

Tasting Notes reviews will now be returning to The Bottle Opener blog! Or rather, articles in general will be returning to the blog. After a somewhat lengthy hiatus and launch of another blog (*cough* The Social Y), we're come back, in a big way! We're starting our return off with a review of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Those of you who don't know how exciting this is for me, probably aren't huge fans of either bourbon or whiskey. Let's put it this way: it's been a good week, tasting this stuff, and preparing for this review.

Starting out with a bit of backstory; Buffalo Trace gets it's name from the days of American western frontier pioneerism. Pioneerism isn't a word really, but you get my drift. The first Americans to travel westward, and stake their claim on resettled land (note, my care to say resettled, rather than the explicitly untrue unsuttled!) As they helped their nation grow into an empire of manifest destiny, they had to find fertile land in order to sustain their population and growth. The answer, was to trace out
the Buffalo's migratory patterns, and the reason was, because the Buffalo migrated between fertile grazing lands.

Buffalo Trace distillery has branded themselves quite successfully as an establishment which aims to make the world's best bourbon. A claim which they say they have not yet achieved. Part of this process is a lot of experimentation in their small batch bourbons. While that is an interesting topic (indeed, perhaps even more interesting than the generic Buffalo Trace), it is a topic for another day!

On to the tasting then!

On first nosing, Buffalo Trace smells strongly of oak. Not so surprising, I suppose. Hints of sherry and vanilla are apparent at every level of nosing, popping through more as the spirit is diluted with water. Along with the dilution comes stronger notes of demerara and molasses, which leak through the oak with growing intensity as the glass decants. Nosing an empty glass reveals stronger scents of molasses and honey.

The body is pleasantly sweet, and not too rough, despite the 45 % ABV. It's oily in texture, with a
wine-like acidity. The body welcomes the palate, which offers desert notes of honey, vanilla, and toffee, is marked with a light pungency of black pepper. The corn notes come off as warm creme of corn, and decanting the glass for some time reveals more and more rye notes, which play out over time as notes of sour dough rye bread. It has been said that tobacco is prominent as well, though, I do not notice it much - what I do notice is a sense of mint, or menthol flavoring.

The finish is possessed by oak. BIG, dry and sour oak, with light smoke. As the finish diminishes, a sense of mint julep becomes apparent, before settling out.

As a cocktail, I recommend keeping it fairly simple. Old fashioneds, and mint juleps are probably the way to go, but for those who can't palate the high proof, I'm sure a bourbon sour would work fine as well. My preferred mode of drinking would be with a few drops of water, as with most whiskeys.

As for food pairings, steak and burgers with fries or potatoes would do fine. And let's not forget corn boils! Ah yes! Corn bo ---- okay okay. While I have been to a few corn boils, I'm totally not that folksy. I can however say, that my own folks would do this sort of thing from time to time, and their preferred beverage was usually Budweiser. I think they were gravely ignorant to the quality of bourbon available at the time!

In any case, moving on from that, I would also recommend this as a gift to your boyfriend for Valentine's Day. That's right ladies (or gents, depending on your batting cage of choice... is that even a saying?) This bourbon would make a great gift for your whiskey enthusiast significant other, if you aren't willing to shell out for the higher priced Eagle Rare, which I also quite enjoy, and which is also a brand own by Sazerac.

How does it rate on the Tasting Notes scale?!


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