It takes 119.5 seconds to pour a perfect pint of Guinness.
That is almost two minutes. In an Irish pub that is the blink of an eye. In a dueling piano bar that is a millennium. The only time I ever lost my cool at Keys On Main was the very first night I worked there. I was in the service well trying to figure out how to pour a Britney Bitch or virgin Miami Vice or French Tickler when one of the cocktail waitresses ordered a Guinness. I went to the taps to start pouring the beer when the other bartender stopped me in my tracks and told me I was doing it wrong.
She told me that I needed to pour it to the top, let the bubbles settle and push the tap forward to finish the beer off. I had no idea how she was able to surmise in the microsecond she watched me pouring the beer to assess that I didn’t know what I was doing. It took everything that I had not to tell her that I’ve bought more kegs of Guinness than pints she has poured.
The problem with Guinness at the club is that we don’t have the tulip shaped pint glasses and we certainly don’t have two minutes to get one glass of beer out. So what do we do? We cheat. I lost my cool that first night because I had three dozen drinks to make and I didn’t have 119.5 seconds to pour the perfect pint into the wrong glass. Bartending on a busy night is a series of battles and all you care about is trying to be winning the war by last call.
There are two types of bartenders: slow plays and gunslingers. Slows plays are the stereotypical gin monkeys talking up the customers, carefully dispensing drinks, wiping down glasses and dispersing saloon-styled wisdom. They tend to work more neighborhood clubs where they know all of their customers and rarely have more than a guest per bar stool. Gunslingers are speed freaks that pump out as many drinks as possible with little concern for talking up the customer. Gunslingers are found in big clubs that need drinks poured as fast as humanly possible. I can do both. I prefer slow play because it is fun talking up the guests and being involved in their night. Unfortunately, on most nights, I have to cowboy up and push out as many drinks as possible. Chances are that if I am not gunslinging on Fridays and Saturdays you won’t be getting your drink.
I bring up Guinness because there are a lot of drinks we make that take time—none more than a dirty vodka martini. I hate vodka. I know it’s the most popular distilled liquor sold in the country but I can’t stop thinking about trailer trash sucking Popov out of a plastic jug catching a cheap buzz. I love how people become so brand conscious when drinking vodka when they mix it with Red Bull or sweetened cranberry juice. I would bet $100 that nobody could go three out of five times picking out Ketel One against Baron Rothschild in a vodka and pineapple juice.
I have never timed how long it takes to make a dirty martini but it is considerably longer than pouring a shot of Jim Beam. I need to chill the glass, pour culinary olive juice into an ice-filled shaker and add dry vermouth and vodka. The next step is to shake vigorously, spear three olives and pour into the glass. All in all, it takes a few moments and it is not cheap. The most affordable martini you can get is $6 and that is still only one ounce of alcohol. They’re tasty but they are still nothing more than a salty shot to the back of the throat.
In the movies, martinis are served in two fashions. The first is a cocktail party where the host mixes a pitcher of martinis and dispenses them into chilled glasses as his guests relax in front of the fire. The second in the travelling businessman ordering a martini in a grand old hotel bar. The message received is that martinis equate class, sophistication and wealth. Somehow that message escapes the majority of my guests when they order one at my bar. No one has ever ordered a martini as if they have a moment before attending the opera. They are barked at me like I am a fish monger at Pike’s Market.
As a consumer, I think I want the bartender to take his time making my drink. A bunch of slopped liquor in a glass that costs almost $8 doesn’t sound appealing. A well-crafted drink carefully made for $8 sounds heavenly.
119.5 seconds might not actually be that long.