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Bar Life, Salt Lake City, Utah

Mea Culpa

Something people don’t know about walk-in beer coolers: they smell like marijuana. I don’t know if it is the spilt beer that gets sprayed on the walls, the humidity coming off the compressors or the stench from the cardboard boxes that hold the cases of bottled beer but walk-ins smell like pot. I remember once a new cocktail waitress pulling me aside at the end of the night to report that the walk-in reeked like weed and started accusing the barbacks of smoking pot in there. I guarantee the barbacks were stoned but I knew that they probably did their business outside. The cooler just smelt like weed.

Shaking a cocktail with pineapple juice immediately makes it creamy and foamy. This is usually the difference between a rushed Mai Tai and a well-made one. Another trick is that a little bit of cream goes a long way in any shot. If you ever mix Blue Curacao with Coca-Cola the drink will immediately turn black.

If you want to taste the liquor with a Utah pour, you’ll want as much ice as possible. Stirring straws are not for sipping. There are more options for sweet drinks than other flavors. The best way to rim a tequila shot is to use lime juice and a lot of salt. Make sure to just rim half the glass. It makes it easier to pour the tequila.

Given good ice, fresh garnish and clean glasses, I could pour you a Windex and tonic and you’d tip 25%.

There is a lot of range in the quality of vodka when you mix it with Red Bull. I usually smirk at guests that order Ketel One with Red Bull simply because the taste difference is nil between high-end and low-end vodka.

All wine glasses need to be hand buffed. Because women traditionally order more wine than men, you have to wipe the rim of the glasses to get the kissing potion off of it. Draft beer is always the best deal in the bar. I would never and I mean never, eat a cherry, olive or orange wheel out of the fruit tray and you couldn’t pay me to do it at the end of the night.

The women’s bathroom is always dirtier than the men’s room at last call. However, the men’s room will always have more holes punched in the walls. If you ask, most bar owners will give you any swag on the wall or behind the bar. The average bartender has 23 liquor T-shirts at home (I just counted mine).

Being polite trumps being cute every time. The best tippers are those that don’t rub your nose in how large the gratuity is. Complaining about Utah’s liquor laws at 11:30 at night on a Saturday never starts any rational debate. Bouncers are better at getting cabs than bartenders. Paying for drinks in cash is always preferred over debit cards. If you’re using plastic, start a tab. Starting a fight in the bar is always a bad idea. Take it outside.

Above everything else, bartenders need to treat their guests like they’re old friends until they act otherwise.

This last one is a tough. I guess if I worked at a local watering hole I wouldn’t have to consciously think about being nice. Neighborhood bars use the regulars like cops policing new guests and vetting them. Large clubs, like Keys On Main, don’t have that luxury. We get who we get and try to accommodate as many people as possible. Obviously I can’t hand pick my guests. If I could, I would still own The Woodshed. It means we get a lot of different people ranging in age, gender, economic and education level and sexuality. It’s a large chopped salad with every sort of vegetable thrown in.

As the week progresses, we get exponentially busier. My problem is that I get increasingly more tired during every shift. By Saturday, I’m beat. Bartending is surprisingly physically taxing. Mentally it’s a grind simply because I find myself having the same conversation over and over again. So, when Saturday rolls by, I am tired, punchy and sore. Not the best conditions to throw down a wrecking ball.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Hey, what’s Benny driving at? Is it he’s an old man? Broken, busted and beat?” Or you might be thinking, “Wow! What a world class puss! Pours a couple of Cape Cods and needs to take an ice bath. His mama sure didn’t raise him right.” Or possibly, “Why am I reading this when pornhub.com is literally one click away?” All good points.

I bring this up because I think I might have gone overboard on my customers during the last blog. I buried the lede. I really think the vast majority of all of my guests are the salt of the Salt Lake Valley. It’s the 2% that take up 98% of my time. Most customers are good people who are going out for a good time. To label a first-time bar patron a douche-bag because they’re asking what does whipped-cream vodka mix well with is more of a reflection upon me than them.

I think I am done writing about that.

You can’t ask a d-bag to change their ways any more than asking a leopard to change its spots. I still and will always think Affliction and all of those other wildly over-decorated shirts are disgusting and stupid but I’ll keep it to myself. Those that wear Affliction or TapouT or any other type of MMA crap probably have their reasons. I can only imagine what they would say about me: “Why is he wearing a dress shirt with a baseball cap? Doesn’t he know how to do a sit-up? Why is his skin sickly pale? I’m sure he has a least one tattoo somewhere on him.”

I have had a lot of fun shooting fish in a barrel with the Uinta d-bag. I think we’re already to move on. I know I am. I would prefer to write about adventures in the club as oppose to what the local toolbags have done the weekend before. It’s hacky writing and often not really that funny. Worse of all, it’s cruel for the sake of being cruel. I’d rather get back to the business of writing about bar life and slinging hooch.

When people ask me what my favorite drink to pour is I always say it is a shot of Wild Turkey with a bottle of Bud. Over the last three days I forgot that pouring drinks is actually a lot of fun. They are asking me what is my favorite thing to pour but I am telling them what the easiest thing to pour is. The reality is that everything is easy to pour providing it doesn’t involve a blender, cream or butterscotch schnapps. I hate the smell of butterscotch. It reminds me of the smell of a hospital for whatever reason. Outside of these three things, come down to the bar and play stump the bartender.

Even if you have a tribal tattoo and spray-on tan.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out his podcast, SLC PubCast on iTunes. He knows he looks sporty in his San Diego Padres cap.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Mea Culpa

  1. I guess I am welcomed back. Need to hit the Affliction store though.

    Posted by Johnny | March 14, 2012, 1:33 pm

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  1. Pingback: Episode #11 – Ides of March | Salt Lake City PubCast - March 15, 2012

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