Sunday, June 30, 2013

How Much Should A Bartender Know

Last week Melvin and I met up at Sazon down in TriBeCa before Alice's going away dinner at Gowgirl Seahorse. Sazon is a Latino/Puerto Rican restaurant that had a nice vibe from the old school salsa playing throughout the place. Now my issue isn't with the restaurant but with the bar. Melvin asked the bartender what kind of Rum they had. Melvin is a rum fiend. The bartender starts to tell us the rum selection in no read order until she says Zacapa. Zacapa is one of Melvin's favorite rums and asks her which Zacapa they were carrying. For those who don't know, Zacapa has two rums they distill. One is the Zacapa 23 and the other is the Zacapa XO. Given that, Melvin's question shouldn't have been difficult.

Instead of an answer of Zacapa 23 or Zacapa XO, we were met with a blank stare and a shrug. We also asked the other bartender if she knew what kind of Zacapa it was and she was even more clueless. Melvin asked if we could see the bottle and bartender number two didn't even know what Zacapa was. After a few minutes of her searching for the elusive Zacapa bottle, it took the barback to bring it over to us. It was indeed the Zacapa 23 (without the distinctive wrapping along the bottle). After all that we finished our Zacapa on the rocks and left. So this brings me to the title of this post: How Much Should A Bartender Know.

I've been a bartender now for a little more than two years so I would never consider myself an expert in spirits. In terms of spirits that we sell at the bar, I try my best to learn about what we stock. My biggest deficiency is with wine. I don't drink wine so it can be hard for me to answer super specific questions but I've taken it upon myself to go online and read up about the wines whenever possible. In terms of a new and unknown spirit, we sell Dorothy Parker American Style Gin which is made by New York Distillery. It is a local gin that unless someone with knowledge of that particular gin and/or distillery people don't know it. So I believe that my job is to try and sell the gin and to do so I need to know more about it aside from it being a gin named after a famous poet, playwright and satirist. Now I'm not expecting a bartender to give me Ms. Parker's bibliography of works but a general knowledge of what you are pouring into someone's glass is sufficient. 

I don't think it's too much to ask to know what kind of rum (or any other spirit) your bar sells. I find that in bars and neighborhood near to where I live in the Bronx, they have bartenders that are fine making a cocktail with one spirit and a mixer (or a Long Island Iced Tea). But ask a question about a specific spirit and you get a reaction similar to the one Melvin and I got. It can be frustrating, especially since we're not asking for Planters Punch or something complex containing shrubs, bitters and obscure spirits. We're just asking for what type of a particular spirit is being carried.

Am I wrong? Am I expecting too much? Is it too much to ask? Please let me know what you think.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla