A guy walks into a bar

By Posted on Jan 24 2016 | By

Part mixologist part psychiatrist bartenders pour from the heart

It may not be the oldest profession in the world but it runs a close second. Shortly after adult beverages were created some 9,000 years ago, variations of “Can I get you a drink?” have echoed down through the ages.

drinksToday, bartending has evolved into a noble—and demanding—profession. Top guns can pull down as much as $100,000 a year in wages and tips. But big money demands big talent, a prodigious memory and highly calibrated social skills.

Have trouble remembering recipes, names or dealing with irritating people? Then stick to the day job. And the big money? Only for the anointed few.

Nonetheless, almost 600,000 “bar tenders” nationwide play a valued role within the restaurant industry, often being the image of the restaurant or bar where they ply their trade.

Yes, a man walks into a bar but he is often drawn there by the genial and knowledgeable person manning it.

Bartenders can tie on the apron after graduating from an in-depth course costing around $500; or engage in on-the-job training as a bar-back, or assistant, as is more often case.

Schooling enables a student to learn how to make dozens of different cocktails and evaluate quality beer and wine. It also teaches the aspirant how to deal with the drinking public; a difficult and ultimately learned, not taught, skill.

So let’s recap the requirements: a quick mind, long hours on the feet, an assertive yet friendly personality and a multi-tasker with a sharp memory.

Bear all this in mind when it comes to the tip.

Fauquier County

Unlike big city nightlife, Fauquier supports a host of eating and drinking establishments that are spread across a relatively wide area. Traditional bar hopping in the Piedmont would require a sturdy pair of hiking boots.

The automobile—not walking—is the favored mode of transportation when planning to step up to the rail. It also typically means fewer drinks and less time face-to-face with your bartender. All the more reason to select a barkeep that you can connect with.

With the holidays upon us, let’s chat with a couple of Fauquier’s finest to get their take on the profession.

Connal Finn
McMahon’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
Finn, 30, is a native Irishman with a hospitality management background and the perfect brogue to work in an Irish pub. Arriving here is 2011 from the old sod, he was recruited by an agency looking for Irish talent to quench American thirsts.

Most popular drink? “The Fireball shooter (cinnamon-flavored whiskey) and Guinness draft.”

Fan club? “I’ve got my regulars but wouldn’t call it a fan club. My customers are laid back and come in for a few drinks and some conversation and are on their way. The fireplace in the winter is a draw too.

“And yes, some customers do cry on your shoulder so you become part of the conversation whether you intend to or not.”

Busiest time? “From November through St. Patrick’s Day; lots of parties around Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

The job? “As along as you’ve got your head on your shoulders and decent social skills it’s a good job. I enjoy it.”

Ivan Melson
The New Bridge
Melson, 38, is the General Manger with a bartending background of seven years at the restaurant. He’s been behind bars for a total of 16 years (no, not that kind) and has some sage observations on the profession.

Most popular drink? “Martinis; Dirty, Vodka and 007s. Scotch is a favorite too, especially our scotch and cigar tastings.”

Fan club? “Not a fan club but people do come in and ask advice or seek consolation, absolutely. I’ve said I’m an underpaid psychiatrist. People will say they shouldn’t be sharing with me but I tell them I’m paid to keep secrets.”

Busiest time? “November through March. The day before Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve are the busiest.”

Toughest customer? “Somebody who knows exactly what they want. A good friend of mine wants a Martini with just one drop of Vermouth and two olives not three.

“Also someone who has had too much to drink. Unlike most service jobs, in this business the customer is not always right. You need to tell them when they’ve had enough. I’m responsible for them and won’t continue to serve just because they’ve had a bad day. Often they will come back the next day and thank me.”

The job? “It’s not for everybody. You have to love what you’re doing and be a people person. There are challenges every day. But I’m a social creature and I like a little chaos in my life.”

Unleash your inner bartender
BarThe pros know dozens of cocktail recipes by heart. But who has the time or inclination to follow suit? Simply pick a few of your favorites and commit them to memory. Here’s a starter kit of three faves.

Dirty Martini
2 ounces of vodka or gin
1 dash dry vermouth
3 stuffed green olives
1 ounce brine from olive jar
In a tumbler combine the vodka, vermouth, brine and olives. Pour ingredients over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Fireball Tart
1 ounce Fireball Whiskey
½ ounce pomegranate liqueur
Squeeze of lemon juice
Pour each ingredient into a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir well and serve.

1.5 ounces of spiced rum
10 pieces of mint
1 tsp. sugar
½ lime juice
2 oz. soda water
Place majority of mint leaves in bottom of glass. Add crushed ice, rum, sugar and lime juice and gently stir. Add soda water and garnish with remaining mint leaves.

Published in the Winter 2015 edition of inFauquier magazine.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES