The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

THE LOST ART OF BARTENDING
bottoms up!
I don't know if this is something that happens just to me, or just in this area, or if it's true throughout the U.S.

I go out to bars and clubs fairly regularly--about once a week at least. I don't drink beer, so it's mixed drinks all the way for me. I pretty much stick to the same boring choices: gin and tonic, vodka tonic, whiskey sour, whiskey and water, an occasional martini. I don't necessarily do this by choice, although I like all the drinks I just mentioned. The reason I go for these basics is because I've found that most bartenders around here can't handle anything more complex.

Part of the fun of going out to drink, sometimes, is to try something different. That means I'd like to belly up to the bar and order a zombie or gimlet or rocket fuel, instead of the usuals. Yet whenever I ask for something like that, I get blank stares back from bartenders in the Tampa Bay area. Heck, I've even had a couple of bartenders look at me funny when I ask for a simple screwdriver, for Christ's sake!

So, what's the deal? I mean, if you're a bartender, shouldn't you know how to make a variety of drinks? I realize that 99% of the orders they get are for draft beers or basics; but shouldn't a basic knowledge of mixology be part of the job description? Maybe I can see how bartenders at dance clubs wouldn't know shit--they're hired for their looks, not for their drink-making repertoire. But I've run into this ignorance everywhere: restaurants, hole-in-the-walls, martini bars, etc.

What I really hate is when, after getting the blank stare, the bartender then asks me how to make said drink; and when I say I don't know, it almost makes me look dumb. It's ridiculous. Just because I like a drink, it doesn't mean I know exactly what goes into it. I like going out to eat at restaurants, and enjoy many dishes they serve; it doesn't mean I know what each dish is made up of. Same thing with drinks.

I guess I'd like to know if anyone else has experienced this, in Florida or elsewhere. Has the bartending profession really slid this much? Or am I living in the 1950s or something?