Key On New Year’s Eve

Originally published 31st December 2010

After St. Patrick’s Day, there is no bigger rookie drinking day of the year than New Year’s Eve. It the night when friends and family converge upon the club to celebrate the passing of time by drinking like Dudley Moore. I was reflecting upon holidays past and had a couple of observations about the night.

Pick your poison. Too often the reason bartenders dislike working on New Year’s Eve is because we have to deal with people who don’t drink very often. I’m not talking about the constant Svengali, mind-reading where I have to guess the green drink you had in Bismarck ND four years ago. I’m referring to people who want to check-off every drink they didn’t have in the last year and think New Year’s Eve is the time to try Liquid Cocaine for the first time.

Try sticking to things you’ve had in the past. New Year’s Eve is not the time to start experimenting. Now, I am more than willing to put you in a chokehold with Screaming Nazis, Alligator Sperm, Upside Down Pineapple Cake, Lemon Drops and Black Fairies. But if you want to see the balloon drop from anywhere than besides the toilet, you might want to choose a safe stand-by. If I suggest something that you like try drinking that cocktail for the balance of the night. Come to the club another time and I’ll put you through the works.

It’s also important to remember that your new friend, Cheap Champagne will be joining whatever you’ve been drinking tonight shortly. The champagne toast at midnight is a part of New Year’s Eve but nothing spell disaster like a belly full of tequila, Mind Erasers and Coors Light topped off with some bubbly-wine.

I know all too well that people want to get drunk on New Year’s but remember two things: One, everybody around you wants to get nice and tight. Because the bar is busy, help the bartender help you by knowing what you want and have your money ready to pay for it. Two, it’s a long night. You don’t need to ask me what has the most alcohol in it. Want to get drunk on the cheap? Beer and shots.

What is people’s fascination with Bacardi 151-proof Rum? Anything that can take the enamel off your teeth, clean a crankcase and destroy your family has no business in your glass. I won’t pour a 252 (Wild Turkey 101-proof with a floater of Bacardi 151) nor will I put a floater of it in anything besides a Mai Tai. Ordering Bacardi 151 and cokes tells me three things: you’re a dangerous loner, you have no long-term health plans and you hate you father. I wouldn’t be surprised if you had meth in your pant pockets and you’re not kind to animals.

Just because we have alcohol, doesn’t mean you need to drink it. I wonder if we are doing our customers a disservice not having gasoline available? Should we be pouring diesel and tonics? I would call it a Dale Earnhardt. I’d serve them  in a commemorative #3 cup. What would you garnish a diesel and tonic? A lug-nut? A dipstick?  An all-beef Slim Jim? Well, before any of you knuckleheads get any ideas, I’m not going to pour you a Dale Earnhardt because you’ll want a chaser of milk and I hate making dairy-based drinks.

Eat something. New Year’s Eve is a special night. We’re saying good-bye to 2010 and welcoming 2011. I suggest that having a nice meal before coming to the bar can both enhance the evening and give your stomach a platform to build for the rest of the night. And don’t just forget to have your after club food ready. Trust me, after downing cocktails for six hours, you’re going to want some rolled-tacos at some point. It’s better to have food waiting for you at the house. It might help cut into the hangover you’re definitely going to have the next morning.

Spend it with friends. The curse of bartending is that we have to work when everybody else plays. Last year was the first New Year’s Eve I’ve had off in 15 years. I had just sold The Woodshed and wasn’t working at Keys on Main yet. Erin and I were able to go to dinner and watch the ball drop at a friend’s house. It made for a special evening. This year we’re forced to coordinate our New Year’s kiss. If you can, you should try and spend this night with friends and family.

With that said, I have seen that New Year’s Eve is a great night to hook-up with people. Unlike other nights of the year, there is a level of desperation in the air. People don’t want to start the new year off alone. Even with my well-regarded reputation as a lady-killer documented, I don’t have any advice for the fellows on New Year’s Eve other than buy her a drink and try not to quote “Jersey Shore.” Having me send over shots is a great idea but make sure you’re following me when I drop them off. I hate it when guys buy a drink for a girl, I deliver it and they wait for her to come to him. Scared chips don’t win and I’ll be too busy on December 31st to chase her around for you.

Getting home in one piece. It is easier to get into the LDS Temple than it is to catch a cab at 1:30am on January 1st. Salt Lake is a lot of things but it is not a great taxi city. The key to a great night is being able to get home in a reasonable amount of time. That means coming up with a game-plan. Utilize UTA, get a friend to pick you up, don’t get drunk or use a designated driver. I always appreciate when people makes plans to get home safe but designated drivers need to lock it up a bit.

I have said repeatedly that the worst customers are pregnant women and designated drivers. Have we become so soft as a society that a grown man can come to the bar and ask me in a clear and honest voice “what do designated driver get?” Really? I am so tired of the sanctimonious attitude I get from somebody informing not just me but anybody within his holier-than-thou voice that, “No. I can’t drink because I am sacrificing my fun tonight to insure the safe return of all of my friends to their home. Not only should I receive free non-alcoholic drinks all night but I expect to be treated as a saint amongst all of these sinners. And if you forget that I am the DD, keep an eye out for this six-foot cross I’m carrying around the bar.”

Acting like you walk on water will only get you that: water. I’m not in the business of dispensing free soda just because you keep company with a bunch of drunks. I reward people who do drink! Not those namby-pambies who can’t just drink beer.  Everybody is so quick to point out that Utah’s 3.2% beer is not real beer. Well, if that’s the case, the guy responsible for getting everybody home can have a couple of Chasing Tails or Cutthroats. And if you believe that intoxication starts with the first drink then kill two birds with one stone – get the knocked-up chick to drive.

Frankly, I’d be more inclined to give away a soda to a customer if I knew that person was the designated driver and not some cheapskate Mormon trying to bilk the bar out of a free Sprite. Don’t get me wrong: I believe that drinking and driving is a problem that effects everybody in Salt Lake City. The damage that it can do to both people and property is problematic. If you have been drinking, do everybody, including yourself, a favor and find a sober ride home. But don’t expect something for free because you’re getting everybody home on your high horse. Try pulling that line on a 7-11 clerk and see how many Big Gulps they hand out.

I’ll know if I did my job on January 1st if you wake up in a familiar setting and you immediately start negotiating with God to remove your hangover. Take some aspirin, put down a sports drink, eat a greasy breakfast and watch some football. I’ll be getting up early on the 1st to start breaking New Year’s resolutions.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin.

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