Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis translated from Latin means “More Irish than the Irish.” It was labelled upon immigrants to Ireland after the Norman Invasion to Ireland between 1168-72 who absorbed into the Gaelic culture quickly and claimed Irish heritiege. They adopted the Irish language, culture, dress and lifestyle quickly and were slapped with that fancy Latin expression in a deragatory fashion. Apparently, the Celts of the 12th Century didn’t have a regional word for “Poser.” After my experiences from Thursday, I had more than my share of Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis.
I came in early to set-up the club. I believe in the importance of having the everything ready for potentially busy night. We were running really good drink specials on Thursday. We were selling $3 Jameson, $3 Guinness, $3 Bud Light green cans and $5 Irish Car Bombs. Let’s talk about Irish Car Bombs for a moment. This high-impact shot is a shot glass filled with Jameson Irish Whiskey topped with Bailey’s Irish Cream and it is dropped into a half-pint glass of Guinness. This is not a sipper: this is a chugging drink. It’s the equivalent of shotgunning a beer after a whiskey. Speaking from experience, this is a very dangerous shot.
The origins of this drink are unknown but the name has basis in the history of Irish The war for independence in Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland has destroyed families, displaced generations of people and harmed the Irish national psyche for over a century. The demand for home-rule in Ireland is nothing unlike the American experience during the Revolutionary War. The Irish wanted to govern themselves and not bow to the whims of another nation. These are concepts that should not be unfamiliar to every citizen living under tyranny. With that said, the fact that the most popular shot ordered on St. Patrick’s Day shares the name with the preferred method of civil disobedience is a little disrespectful.
If I created a drink that was composed of Manischewitz wine poured into a shot glass and topped with Bailey’s Irish Cream then dunked into a half-glass of Polygamy Porter and called it an Israeli Suicide Bomber, I’d be called an anti-Semite. Even worse, the drink wouldn’t even be Kosher. You can’t be mixing dairy with wine. For whatever reason, I wished we called this shot a Paddy Wagon. Drink to many of them and you shouldn’t be surprised how you get home that night.
Don’t get me wrong. I goto bed ever night yelling, “Brits out!” My experience with the British at the bar has been a group of self-intitled knuckleheads who forget who took care of business at Lexington and Yorktown. On this year’s St. Patrick’s Day, however, I felt more like yelling, “D-Bags out!” I knew we were going to busy but I had no idea how challenging the night was going to be.
The guests came in all shapes, sizes and manner of dress. They ranged in age from 21 to 65 and they all share the single passion of getting blind-drunk for the entire evening. Because everything was so affordable at the club, we had our hands full trying to push back the waves of party-goers. From a technical stand-point, we were at a disadvantage behind the bar because the we only had one tap of Guinness and we pour our Jameson off of the Wonder Bar. This meant for the three bartenders working that night that we had a lot of times we were waiting to be able to pour drinks. Looking at a sea of people wearing Old Navy St. Patrick’s Day T-shirts, Budweiser shamrock green beads, Boston Celtic caps and any combination of cheaply thrown together green clothing was maddening when you’re waiting to pour five Irish car Bombs and they’re screaming because their BAC is dipping below 0.15%.
I was wearing my traditional St. Pat’s Day attire: Irish rugby jersey, jeans and patch worked cap. Most people were decked out in some sort of costume that looked like a reject from “Boondock Saints.” Kilts are cool and I don’t have a problem with them but with the exception of the piano player, nobody wore one. Everything looked ill-fitting and superficial on the guests. I always imagine traditional Irish clothes to be a bit disheveled in neutral colors. The average guest at the bar could have either been attending a St. Patrick’s Day party or a Pride parade. They had the mark of the amateur drinker because their clothes lacked deep pockets and sturdy boots. It’s hard to get drunk and get home safely without these two things.
Is there anything more obnoxious than someone actually from Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day? I had some woman in the club last night that was reminding anybody within earshot that St. Patrick’s actual colors is gold on dark blue. She was openly mocking everybody for wearing green on the 17th of March. Be that as it may, St. Patrick’s Day is a chance for everybody to be Irish even if you hail from Timbuktu. The last thing anybody wants is an actual Irish civics lesson from some mousy tart wearing a blue cap, drinking margaritas and lecturing anybody within earshot her thoughts on America’s canalization of St. Patrick’s Day.
When did people forget to bring cash to the club on St. Patrick’s Day? The term for when an individual orders a single drink and uses a credit card for a single transaction is “Cash-n-Carry.” In the pantheon of pet-peeves all bartenders have is a person who repeatedly cash-n-carry throughout the night. Club owners hate it because they are charged on each transaction, bartenders hate it because credit card machines are slow and fellow patrons hate having to wait. Let’s be straight, cash is king. Does anybody realize that credit cards take time and are not the best way to get on good terms with the bartender? Admittedly, I work in a profession were the majority of my take home pay is cash but if I were to go out on a special holiday, I would have enough money to eat, drink and possibly get a cab ride home. Just because you go out with $100 doesn’t mean you have to spend it all. I think one of the problems that a lot of customers have is that they are filled with such self-entitlement that they don’t consider their actions on a larger scale. By being able to pay for your $3 beer in cash as oppose to having me run a credit card for every draft you order, you are saving me, you and everybody in the club a lot of problems. If you can’t do this then start a tab.
The highlight of the night was somebody who should never should allowed into the club and he turned out to be one of the biggest problems I’ve ever experienced behind the bar. The person was a severely mentally and physically disabled man bound to a wheelchair who came into the club to use the restroom. He had use of his legs a la Christy Brown to propel himself through the bar and grip that was short of bear-trap. His wheelchair had a backpack attached to it and it was filled with VHS tapes that he was selling. I suspect he was homeless or was living in an assisted living facility but I never was able to find out. He was wondering throughout the bar drinking beers that were left on tables and taking shots that frat boys were buying for him. Because I was so busy, I didn’t even see him throughout the night until I was called over by the cocktail waitresses when he fell over.
At midnight, the guy tried to climb out of his wheelchair and go to the bar. I rushed over to help him and figure out what to do. I got him back into his chair and asked if he was all right. I couldn’t understand him over the volume of the bar but I thought he was asking to go to the bathroom. I took him to the back and was trying to get him into the bathroom when I realized he wasn’t asking for the bathroom but for April, one of our cocktail waitresses. He saw her and suddenly lunged at April. I pushed him back into his chair and tried to wheel him out of the club. I was by myself and he had locked his wheelchair on me. I asked him to stop and that it was time to go but he snatched me, pulled me in and tried to bite me.
I pushed off him and took control of the back of his chair. I dragged the entire chair to the front door where the doormen were able to help me get him out of the club. I went back to the bar and grinded out the rest of the evening. I couldn’t help but think of those pandemic movies where some poor soul is bitten by an infected guy and spreads the infection throughout the world. I was an inch away from being the guy who was bitten in Act I to help explain how the infection was spread. I felt like I could have been Patient X if that guy got his choppers down on me.
After fighting off George Romero’s zombie apocalypse, the icing on the cake was a customer accusing me of not pouring Patron Silver because I used the Wonder Bar gun. A Wonder Bar is a liquor despensing device which carries our high volume products: Jameson, Jack Daniels, Patron Silver, et al. This bottom-feeder asked what I gave him. I told him it was Patron. He started some long winded diatribe about when somebody orders something then they should expect to receive what they ordered. I explained to him how the Wonder Bar worked and he accussed me of trying to pass off another tequila on him. I had enough. I looked him square in the eye and told him we’ll all be dead in 50 years and drink the God damn tequila.
What profit or edification can I hope to obtain by pouring the wrong drink for a guest? Better yet, why are you questioning me? If I waited five minutes to fight my way to the front of the bar and I finally get the bartender’s attention, I am not going to call him out for pouring the wrong drink. In fact, before I start shooting my mouth off to the bartender, I might taste the drink. The problem with guests like this guy is that he thinks he is the only guy in the club. I try to personalize all of my service but when we are packed to capacity, pouring drinks into plastic cups and have six inches of trash piling up behind the bar, save the attitude. It’s just as easy to kick you out as it is to get you a beer.
For good and for bad, Salt Lake is just like any other city on the 17th of March. Even with all of our conservative liquor laws in Utah, I didn’t feel as if there was anybody deprived of a St. Patrick’s Day experience at Keys On Main with the exception of us not putting green dye in the beer. It was a drunken mess throughout the city and I am happy to get through it in one piece. I poured as fast as I could for five hours and people still were wanting more at last call. The guests were amateur drinkers but what they lacked in knowledge, they made up for in volume.
I think the reason why I am a good bartender is because I work with good people. St. Patrick’s Day was a murder’s row of talent both on the floor and behind the bar. I was very lucky to have Megan and April taking care of the tables and I very grateful that I had Becky and Bradley with me slinging drinks. In addition, I am fortunate to work under a manager who was able to jump in at a moment’s notice and wash dishes for two hours. The more I process on what it takes to be successful both behind the bar and in life, the more I come to the conclusion that partnership is the key for all of life’s success. It’s a simple equation: surround yourself with talented, competent and energetic people and try not to get in the way.
It’s a cliché to say that bartender’s hate St. Patrick’s Day because of the volume of inexperienced drinkers that come out the club on this evening but the reality is that it is one of the funniest nights of the year to be behind the bar. Without the cavalcade of drunken idiots coming through the door, the rent wouldn’t get paid and this blog would be a series of stories about martini drinkers comparing the difference between Vermouths. Time pouring Guinness and Jameson on St. Patrick’s Day is time well spent. Regardless if the customers appreciate what I do for them, I take a great measure of pride in my work and craft. However, unlike other tradesmen, I measure the success of my work with the amount of broken bottles, black eyes and puke in the sinks. By this standard, this was a very successful shift. And in the end, at least St. Paddy’s isn’t for another 364 days.