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What grates on your bar customers

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In this issue, we’re showcasing the winners of RH’s Best Cocktails in America Contest. We created this contest because we editors love us a good cocktail now and again. We’re also thrilled that there has never been a period in U.S. history where the country has had more and better bartenders than it does now.

With that said (here’s where I start to bitch again), there are two things happening at bars all over the country that grate on your customers and me. The first is a lack of acknowledgement when one approaches a bar. I know bartenders are busy, particularly the folks who are crafting high-end cocktails. Lots of ingredients and precision. Nevertheless, that is no excuse for a bartender to pretend you are invisible.

In my opinion, if a bartender doesn’t at least acknowledge a customer’s presence within a minute of him or her standing at the bar, they are either not paying attention or are rude. A simple, “Hey, thanks for coming. I’ll be with you in a minute,” is satisfactory. Once a bartender does that, we (customers) relax. “Okay, he knows I’m here. He’ll get to me when he can,” we say to ourselves. But too often, the bartender does not acknowledge you for several minutes, and it’s remarkably frustrating.

I’ve always thought of bartenders, more than anyone else in a restaurant, as masters of their domain. Maybe it’s because of the fort-like structure where they hold court. The bar is their home, and it’s their responsibility to invite you into their home and make you feel comfortable, not frustrated.

I know many of you have a rule that requires servers to approach a newly seated table within a minute or two. A lot more customers are coming and going at a bar, and I know it’s a more difficult environment to manage, but it seems there’s a lack of etiquette at too many bars. Do you have the same rule for your bartenders as you do for your servers?

The second thing that bothers me about higher end restaurant/bars is bartenders who don’t measure when making cocktails. The very best mixologists use jiggers and measuring cups because they want their cocktails to be right every time. Never mind that precision also means cost control.

During the summer I favor a Negroni cocktail, which is simple to make—one part gin, one part Campari, one part sweet vermouth.  It’s a perfect balancing act. But too many bartenders free pour the three parts and, inevitably, the drink is out of balance. I don’t even have to look at a bartender anymore to know if he or she measured. If the best bartenders with years of experience measure, why aren’t your bartenders measuring when a cocktail demands it? It’s the difference between a bar that’s truly professional and one that is not. Is it slower to measure? Yes. Are the results worth the wait? Yes, because cocktails taste as they should and bartenders who measure are usually the ones who greet you when you approach their bars. Those are the places I and others most appreciate and frequent. As always, please email with your thoughts.

Michael Sanson, Editor-in-Chief
e-mail: [email protected]
Twitter: @MikeSansonRH

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