Third Degree Cocktail

  • 2 oz. London Dry gin
  • 1 oz. Dry vermouth
  • 1 tsp. Orange juice
  • 2 drops Absinthe (I recommend Pernod for this drink)
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass or coupe.

~Adapted from "Bartender's Guide" by Trader Vic

In addition to writing about spirits& cocktails, I also spend several nights a week at a bar dispensing booze to people unable or unwilling to make their own drinks. A big part of the gig is talking to those people, and I'm grateful for it. Interacting with customers is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job, and if you place a priority on giving your patrons a good time, it's a safe bet they'll come back. Assuming you've done your job competently, you may even cultivate a gang of regulars who make your bar "their" place.

If you're one of those regulars, you may wonder about the "hows and whys" of your bar. Even if you've logged an impressive amount of time on a barstool, the inner workings of your favorite watering hole may still seem nebulous and arbitrary. In an effort to provide both novice and experienced bar-goers with some perspective, here's a list of questions bartenders frequently get asked, accompanied by my thoroughly helpful and completely objective answers.

Can you change the music?

Possibly. Have you been an obnoxious pain in the neck from the minute you came in? If so, unlikely. If you've been cool, then yeah, we probably can.

Do you have a phone charger back there?

Oh, you don't carry your phone charger around with you? Neither do we. And contrary to what many people believe, bars don't normally stock a full assortment of chargers for every type of phone. We're usually more worried about having an ample supply of alcohol, glassware, etc.

Why don't you have my favorite liquor/beer brand here?

Because booze is expensive and bars are small. Generally speaking, if we can't sell enough of it to justify giving it space on the shelf, we're probably not going to stock it.

Also, sometimes bar managers just don't like certain products. They're funny like that.

But you should definitely have it! It's really good!

The first chance I get, I will explain to my boss how important this matter is. In the meantime, will you sign this document promising that if we invest in a bottle, you'll come back regularly and drink it?

Can I smoke an E-cigarette in here?

Sure. As long as you're fine with everyone else discreetly mocking you for the rest of your stay.

I know the kitchen is closed, but can I still order food?

Everything's been turned off, all the food has been put away, and there's no one back there anymore...but yeah, I'm sure we can whip something up for you.

Can you use vodka instead of gin?

Absolutely. And there's no charge for making your drink less interesting!

Can you make a "skinny" version of (insert classic cocktail)?

Yes. And it will suck.

What's your best drink?

There is no such thing as a "best" drink. Everybody likes what they like, so you should probably just order what you were planning to have anyway.

The bar down the street has this awesome drink. Can you make me one of those?

Doubtful. Not because we don't want to give you a nice drink and make you happy, but because in all likelihood we haven't the faintest clue how to make it. Even though a lot of bartenders know each other and go to each others' places, we generally don't make a practice of swapping recipes...especially if they're for a signature drink.*

Can you call me a cab?

Always. And you just became the smartest person in the room. You have no idea how many people should do this and don't.

The other bartender down there...what's her story?

She came from humble beginnings, growing up with little opportunity or encouragement in a small rural town. Despite these early hardships, her perseverance paid off and she has flourished both personally and professionally. We're all very proud of how she overcame adversity to become an inspiration to everyone she meets. Oh, wait. You mean is it okay to hit on her? She has a boyfriend, bro.

Can you put the game on?

No problem. Which game? Some minor college tournament between two schools no one has ever heard of? You got it. What channel? You don't know? Okay, we'll find it. Just let me set aside the five drinks I was in the middle of making and spend as long as it takes flipping through several hundred channels until it appears. I'm sure everyone else will understand. Oh,'re not sure if it even started yet? No worries. We can do this all over again in ten minutes.

Did you go to school for this?

There are bartending courses available, but I don't personally know many people who have taken them. The majority of bartenders I've spoken to tell me that most of the really valuable stuff they've learned was picked up on the job or came from talking to other bartenders. However, bartending school sounds like one of the few places you can drink during class, so I don't want to dismiss it too quickly.

Where's the bathroom?

Right through that doorway over there.

*Although sometimes we do get together informally to share info, kick ideas around, and show off new creations. It's like a quilting circle, but with booze.

Thanks for drinking!

~ Dr. Bamboo