Listen, Bill. We both know there is no such thing as bartending school. I mean, there are people who will take your money and teach you how to pour food-coloring-tainted room temp water into a glass. There are also people who will “teach” your corporate outing how to get each other drunk. But the actual craft of bartending is something you have or you don’t.
For that reason at my bar in Belize, it’s sink or swim. You wanna work? Great. Your job interview is getting behind the stick and figuring it out. Anything else is a waste of time. If you suck, I have to get back there and I’ll pay you for your time. But I won’t have you back. If you can tread water I’ll keep you around. Now, if you can swim there’s only one way to tell. And that’s whether people stick around so you can put money in the drawer.
Now what I saw out there this weekend, Bill, I’ll just tell you honest: It was gold.
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No one cares if you know how to make a Liquid Cocaine or that dumb weed shot. In fact, I’d rather you didn’t. The bartender sets the tone of the room. If you’re rushed, you make people rushed. If you have fun, everybody has fun.
I’ve got a stack of resumés on olde timey paper a furlong deep in my drawer. They’re all guys—always guys—with handlebar mustaches who can’t be taught. They can’t control their pours and they insist that they can feel how to make a drink. But you? Day one and I didn’t even have to ask you to use the jigger. I really value that, Bill.
Making everyone feel like you were glad to see them again (even though it was opening night). Making it look like the bar had been there for centuries (even though we ran out of ice). Making everyone feel right at home. That’s what matters.
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Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd, Bill.
Look. I know you don’t know everything here. Hell. You didn’t even clock in. I had Tony Bourdain behind the bar one time and didn’t have to tell him a thing. It was astonishing. I seriously think he didn’t know a thing about cocktails. But he knew how to play the part. “Skills can be taught,” he wrote in Kitchen Confidential. “Character you either have or you don’t have.” I think you really have that character, Bill.
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Putting together a good bar team is like putting together a great cocktail. It’s chemistry, yes, but really it’s instinct. And I’m happy to say that you and the other bar people work well together. You have this unspoken language. A semaphore that helps you communicate over the noisy rush. I respect that, Bill.
I betcha any of the servers would love to come back there. To walk that rubber path without bumping into anyone else. To be in charge of something. To be valued and give value to our product. But the way you looked back there, Bill, if you don’t mind me saying: It betrayed a respect for the profession. The art. The work itself.
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You are where you are in life because you have something to learn there. So I want to say thank you for coming to be a part of our night on such short notice.
We had a lot of eyes on you that Saturday. And all of them thought you were on their side. That’s what hospitality is all about. Us management types as well. So I’d like to offer you a position at my bar.
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Listen. One thing. In the future: I’d appreciate if you didn’t take the good parking spot right out front.