Of all my service positions, bartending is a skill I excel in. These days, the bartending jobs seem harder to come by so when I am assigned a party to work behind the bar, I celebrate it. I notice a different approach to my job. The smiles come more easily instead of the fake ones I muster up when I work as a waiter. The creativity and the confidence shine without any effort.
I get to own the bar the moment I approach it to begin my set up. It is the one place in the service industry where I am free from power hungry captains or managers who talk down to servers. It is also a place I am great at. There is magic to mixing drinks with speed while pumping to the music, or stirring a classy martini at an elegant setting. I get a thrill out of thinking on my feet and improvising the drinks when I run out of ingredients.
Overall, the guests tend to trust the bartender. They acknowledge you when you are behind the bar as opposed to the servers they ignore who are working hard to serve them. To some level, the bartender is often part of the party rather than one merely slaving to make it run smoothly without recognition.
Of course the bar is a great site for observing human behavior. For instance, it is ironic that guests tend to tip when they have to pay for a drink regardless of how overpriced it might be. On the other hand, when they are treated to a free open bar, tipping seldom crosses their mind. All the cash they are saving from getting free drinks remains stored safely in their wallets.
Young single women also tend not to tip. It almost seems that they feel bitter at having to purchase their own drinks as it is. “Don’t the men realize that they are just too attractive to have to pay for drinks?” My heart goes out to them a little because it seems that having to purchase their own drinks poses an identity crisis for them.
The mature women on the other hand tend to air on the generous side. They actually engage in conversation as I mix their cocktails and I try to ignore the feeling I get that I am being undressed with their eyes like some sort of cabana pool boy. Even my visible wedding band seems to make no difference sometimes. My gift to them along with my well shaken cosmopolitan is my friendly smile or compliment that gives them the feeling of youth.
Of course my smile can get me into trouble with the all American jocks who automatically assume I am hitting on their women. “Really?” I think to myself. “You are an attractive, wealthy all-American jock while I am a funny skinny Indian guy behind the bar serving you… and you STILL feel threatened?” My remedy to that is a compliment on their “Manly” choice of beer and that buys me a little more friendly acknowledgement and a little less macho attitude.
My favorite clients are the older gentlemen with their fine manners and interesting stories. There seems to be no expectation from them except to make a connection with a new friend. The gay gentlemen liven the bar with their humor, making it a happy place. Then, there is the occasional underage child of a celebrity who amuses me with usurp of name dropping and attempts to seem older than they are. I am probably least liked by them because they leave my bar without an alcoholic beverage. Even the offer of a Shirley Temple with a cherry garnish seems to insult them. I wonder why because Shirley Temples are so delicious!
Time passes all too quickly when I am bartending. Between the constant speed of drink mixing and the pure enjoyment of my craft, I feel a sense of invigoration. When the bar closes, the party begins to shut down. Until then, my bar delivers relaxation, acceptance, and shots of cheer for every individual who will receive.