Twelve Days of Christmas

It is thirteen days out from Christmas and the holiday season is in full swing at Keys On Main. The stocking have been hung on the pianos with care with hope that St. Nick won’t request Journey for the umpteenth time. I am not able to enjoy the holiday spirit in song because I am still without voice. Laryngitis has killed not only my ability to talk but has absolutely put me into a tail spin in dealing with customers. Not being able to raise my voice in a seasonal carol has been a nightmare behind the bar as I try to pour drinks using a complex system of hand signals and lip reading. I sound like a fire hose hooked up to a French horn. Nonetheless, people are going over the hills and through the woods to share some holiday cheer at Keys On Main and the chubby elf making all of the eggnog dreams come true is working the East Bar.

It was a wild week. We hosted two private parties at the club and both parties had a cash bar. For the uninitiated, these means the company that you work for the entire year hosts a Christmas party where you have to pay for your own drinks. I have never been looked straight in the eye so many times and been told that this is “horse shit.” To add insult to injury, one of the parties was catered by Barbacoa. I know you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth but Barbacoa? They might as well have ordered 30 Hot-n-Ready from Little Caesar’s.

Christmas brings out the best and worse in people. Holiday parties are a perfect storm of people not accustomed to going out to nice places meets the executive secretary who books the party at her favorite bar. The average Joe wants a $100 Visa gift card not a night of dueling pianos with people he openly despises at the workplace. Still, they come out in droves and make the most of the night with various levels of success. I thought it would be fun to review the last week in song. So, all together:

On the Twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve Sober Mormons. I am ready to put down the pen and stop the Mormon bashing. It’s tiring, bullish and incredibly easy. After living in Utah for a decade, I earned have a black belt in LDS bashing and I am thinking it might be time to pick up another sport. The problem is that you (I am talking to every last one of you with a temple recommend card) come into the bar and expect it be like a Chuck E. Cheese. How am I supposed to hang up the judogi when you act like you’ve never been in a bar before? We are not the kind of bar that sweeps up the teeth at the end of the night, however, we are still an adult establishment. Like every other bar in the state, we don’t sell Dr. Pepper, milkshakes, blended lemon aid, smoothies or give away soda pop for free. You won’t go on a mission to Guatemala without learning the culture—do the same when you come into a bar. If I don’t light up a Pall Mall in one of your ward houses you can’t give me attitude that I don’t carry caffeine free Diet Coke. And for the love of God, don’t act like a badass when ordering a Red Bull and freak out they cost $4. If you can afford your magic pajamas you can afford to pay $4 for an energy drink.

Eleven Different Shots. The holidays are the busiest time of the year at the club and we want to take care of as many guests as possible. Does this mean you shouldn’t experiment or try new drinks in the club? Absolutely not. It means that you should try and be a good sport when ordering. Case in point: I had seven people fight their way to the bar and wanted some shots. I asked what can I get for them and this was the order: a lemon drop, grape popsicle, red-headed slut, cinnamon-rimmed tequila shot, a white gummy bear, copper camel and surfer on acid. Can I make all of these drinks? Yep. Can I make them in under five minutes? Nope. These are all detailed shots with different liquors and techniques. The customer clearly know we are busy because they had to wait to order but instead of getting seven of the same, they stand their eye-hating me as I am trying to knock them out as fast as possible. Whatever happened to community shots? A round of tequilas is a seasonless drink order. Invariably while I am making this round, I am getting yelled at to pour beers and shake martinis. When they graft six more arms on me in some sort of Human Centipede experiment, I would be more than happy to shake every fifth drink in Mr. Boston’s Bartender Guide. In the meantime, be a sport and order the same shot.

Ten Affliction T-shirts. There is no holiday from douchebags. There is no worse look for a man than something bedazzled. Fluer-de-lis embroidered on your jean’s butt cheek is both silly and effeminizing. How is it that you can spend so much time in the gym producing swollen muscles and then think it’s a hot idea to shave your chest and wear spray-on tan? Something happens when guys wear their Affliction blouses. They all act like their ecstasy is just kicking in. Fueled with Red Bull drinks, busty blonde women and a sense of self-righteous that knows no limit, these fist-pumping dildos scaring off all of the good business. Affliction is the clothing equivalent of a scarecrow for a corn field. With all of their tribal tattoos, gorilla snot hair and lifeless eyes, these customers take all of the fun out of pouring holiday drinks because as far as they’re concerned, it is still summer time in South Beach. I would humbly ask for the month of December that all D-bags try wearing a sweater and cut their Red Bull intake in half.

Nine Stringing Orders. People are never more generous at the bar than during the holiday season. They want to pick up tabs and tip bigger than usual. The problem with the guy who wants to pick up a round or two for his friends is he has absolutely no idea how to take a drink order. Instead of ordering all seven at the same time, he plays cocktail waitress and orders each one individually. String ordering is stringing along the order until my time is completely monopolized. Because we are busy, it is hard to tell other guests to be patient while some guy is trying to take care of his friends. The problem with this is that I don’t want to yell at Mr. Life-Of-The-Party because I am trying to get a tip out of him at the end of the order. There is nothing more exhausting then the string order because all business in the bar stops when I am in the middle of individually pouring nine different drinks. Suggestion: know what you want before stepping up to the bar. If not, be a miser and tell your friends to buy their own drinks.

Eight Barfing Brides. Winter weddings are beautiful. If I ever get married I would want to do it in the winter months simply because people dress better in cold weather clothes. Besides, there are so many summer weddings I like the idea of doing something different. Winter weddings also mean winter bachelorette parties and this causes a whole new set of problems. Forget the number of Christmas parties in the room, bachelorette parties is the proverbial wrench in the machine because it is still Ashley’s special day. The squawking mess of girls dressed up to take their girlfriend out for one last hurrah logjams the night and makes for a long night of custodial work in the bathroom at the end of the evening. Yearlong bachelorette parties at Keys On Main is our bread and butter and my only suggestion is that the women dress up like naughty elves—it will make it easier to know who to put them into taxis at the end of the night.

Seven West Valley Cities. How to say this delicately? We are not the cheapest bar in Salt Lake City and we don’t carry a lot of the products you are might enjoy at the local chug-n-puke you frequent. We have a great selection of booze behind the bar but we don’t carry Canadian Mist, Black Velvet or any booze that is sold in plastic jugs. In addition, we don’t carry Coors Original and don’t have a cigarette machine in the bar. To add insult to injury, we don’t serve pretzels, sell PBR or have steins. So, to all of our first time guests, I am going to ask that you make do with what we have. I know you are out of your comfort zone (and you’ll be quick to tell me this in very angry and confused fashion) but please just enjoy the bar, the show and what booze we have. I won’t embarrass you if you don’t insult me.

Six Cash And Carries. The beauty of starting a tab at the bar is that you can order all night and only have one credit card transaction. It means I get to know you and be able to take care of your drink orders faster than if I have to stop after every drink and ring it up. Everyone who ever cash and carries with me says one of two things: One, they are only going to have one drink and two, they always forget their credit card. Per the first excuse, nobody has just one drink. In fact, those that claim to only have one drink tend to be the biggest drunks in the bar. Just like the guy who swears off tequila after a bad experience, people who insist on having only one drink are lying to themselves. I often think they are trying to get other people to buy their drinks and avoid buying a drink for somebody else. It’s the person who defends the cash and carry by always forgetting their credit card is the real toolbag. How drunk do you have to get to forget how you are paying for your cocktails? Time to grow up, Bozo. Start a tab, drink responsibly and pay at the end of the evening. Nothing slows down service behind the bar more than a cash and carry.

Five Rude Little Piggies. Don’t be a rude little piggy. Don’t think you are the only person in the bar. We are rocking over 650+ in the club and all of the bartenders are working as fast as possible to serve as many guests as possible. Tapping on the bar, whistling, grabbing my shirt, throwing things to get my attention or rattlesnaking your glass means I am less likely to get to you next. Having your drink order ready, payment out and a smile will get served a lot faster than the guy who screams “Benny” all night long. If I am dripping in sweat and moving with a purpose, remember that I am going to get to you as quickly as possible. Don’t be a rude little piggy.

Four Sloppy Drunks. This is not the only time of the year to get drunk. Unfortunately, it is just the best time. I am in the business of getting people loaded (and business is good) but I would rather have a bar of 500 guests with two drinks than 200 guests with five drinks in them. I know this will fall on deaf ears but try and take it easy. Get your swerve on and then get home in one piece. The only thing worse than getting cut off at a Christmas party is getting a DUI. My only advice on this point is don’t be that guy.

Three Point Two Beer. Let’s get this out of the way and never speak of it again: all draft beer in Utah is 3.2%. Anyone that tells you different is lying to you. Unless somebody made a run to Evanston Wyoming to pick up a keg, I am telling you that all beer off the tap in Utah is 3.2%. And stop calling it fake beer. Everything on tab is called beer, in fact, most of it is delicious. Utah makes tasty albeit weak beer. Get over it. If you don’t want a 3.2% beer than order one of our many DABC liquor store beers. Don’t want that? Hop on a Southwest plane and leave. There is absolutely nothing I can do about the strength of the beer in the state. Moreover, don’t ever bitch at me that we only serve one ounce. Does it suck? Yep. Welcome to Salt Lake. Just because Jack Frost is nipping at your nose doesn’t mean that I am going to triple up your drinks because you want a “real” drink. Utah has a culture of drinking different from every other state and if you can’t appreciate that then you need to write a letter to Governor Herbert. The friends and family that come to Utah for the holiday season need to understand this and stop acting like whiny kids every time they order a drink. Trust me: we are all in this one together.

Two “I don’t knows.” Remember that great trip you had to Hawaii where the bar served those purple drinks with coconut milk and whipped cream? Me neither. The snarkiest smile I ever crack at anyone is when they ask me to relive one of their favorite experiences at another bar in another state. I am pretty well travelled and know more drinks than I can count but I am not a mind reader. Even if I could crawl through your little pea brain and find out exactly what you had, I don’t think I would want to step foot in that cobwebbed nightmare. The theme of this column is that I work at a busy club and if I had a Xmas wish it would be for people to know what they want. I will work with you as best I can but this is battlefield surgery—I am only going to save those that I can. Hemming and hawing after fighting through the crowd doesn’t help your chances of getting served. Don’t ask what I have on tap when your head is two feet from the taps. It makes you look like an idiot. I am a big proponent of the “menu drink.” This is the drink that every bar in America carries and should always be your first order. For example, try a Jack and Coke or vodka cranberry. Don’t get complicated and don’t be wishy-washy. Come prepared and leave with libations in hand.

And A Bar Fight That Wasn’t Worth Breaking Up. Be nice. Don’t be naughty. I know this seems like such an elementary thing to thing to say during the holidays but I think it needs to be repeated. I broke up a bar fight last Saturday night that should never have started. Four idiots bumped into five ding-dongs and a shoving match ensued. Instead of nine people enjoying the pianos, they found themselves out in the cold. Christmas time is a stressful time of year and I know we all have some little demons rolling around inside of us. It should be spent with friends and family and not in the back of a paddy wagon. There is no slight so large that can’t be solved with buying a stranger a drink. Fighting during the silly season is a good way to find a lump of coal in your stocking and 86ed from the club.

I’ll be celebrating Christmas this year canoeing through a river of Jameson Irish Whiskey. There is nothing better than being at home with my family and friends spending time together and eating foods that my doctor disapproves of. The weeks leading up to Santa’s sleigh ride is some of the best times in the year and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas…even you douchebag Affliction t-shirt guys.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Thursday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. His Christmas list is exclusively composed of whiskey and fly fishing gear.

5 thoughts on “Twelve Days of Christmas

  1. I got a good laugh out of the Barbacoa and the 30 Hot-n-Ready Little Caesars. I anticipate your blog every week Benny, and enjoy it.

    See you on the weekends!

  2. At first I thought you were joking when you said they had their party catered by Barbacoa…until I walked in to the club. I have to agree with you on that, couldn’t that company have done something a little nicer?

    Also, loved your version of the 12 Days of Christmas.

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