Who's a dickhead? Barman Sean Kenyon's response to Jenn Wohletz's cocktail grievances
On Friday, Jenn Wohletz served up "Five cocktails only a dickhead would order." Shaken, not stirred, Cafe Society contributor Sean Kenyon offers this response:
Dear Jenn Wohletz:
You don't know us
You are not one of us
You do not speak for us
I woke up Friday morning and, as is my routine, I checked e-mails, looked at my calendar, ate breakfast and checked on the Cafe Society blog. The first headline read, "Five cocktails only a dickhead would order." Before I clicked the link and went any further, I pondered for a minute. What could they be? A Mat Dillon (a lovely mix of all that is spilled into a barmat throughout the night)? A cement mixer (curdles in your mouth and is intended to make the imbiber ill)? No self-respecting bartender would serve anyone either of those. My curiosity was piqued. So I clicked. I did a double take, a triple take. That can't say "Old-Fashioned." No way. I checked the header to be sure I wasn't reading my own 2010 post on the Old Fashioned.
Nope. There it was, right in front of me: The Old-Fashioned, arguably the most iconic classic cocktail, listed as number five on a list of cocktails only a dickhead would order. Wow. I've never met Jenn, but in her mind, I'm a dickhead one thousand times over. I've had at least that many Old-Fashioned cocktails over the past 28 years. She may have been right the first 200 times or so, but not because of what I drink. And she called many of my friends and fellow bartenders dickheads (actually, some of them are). She accused our guests at Williams & Graham, where we sell hundreds of Old-Fashioneds a week, dickheads.
Like watching NASCAR for the crashes, I read on. Not only was this list offensive to the drinking public, it was an insult to bartenders everywhere. I had to respond. Starting with her list:
5. The Old-Fashioned
Jenn writes "(The Old-Fashioned is) a pain in the ass to prepare" because "there is a sugar cube and muddling involved." Any bartender who cares or is worth a shit would be prepared and happy to make an Old-Fashioned or any other drink the guest wanted, without judgment. As well, they should be able to bang one out in no time. If they can't, they shouldn't be behind a bar.
-"Mixologists at faddish hipster joints will give a three-sweep eye roll when someone asks for one "made the right way." Again, if a bartender is rolling their eyes at guests, they don't belong behind the bar. Our craft is based on hospitality; if you don't love serving people, find a job where you don't have to...
-"Old-timey drinks like a Ramos gin fizz (needs a raw egg white and flower water), a Brandy Alexander (gets fresh cream and fresh-ground nutmeg) or an Old-Fashioned are begrudged -- and usually made incorrectly." Wrong. Just plain wrong. Any bartender should be happy to make any drink at any time.
- "bartenders aren't nineteenth-century vampires with eternal memories." No, we are not. But if a bartender cares about what they do, they learn the basics, which includes the knowledge of about 25 drinks that every bartender should know. The Old-Fashioned is high on that list.
-"When old people order them, and when anyone under the age of 65 orders one, they're only doing it to look cool and impress people." An Old-Fashioned, made properly, is actually delicious. Many order them for that reason.
4. The strawberry daiquiri
Bars that have blenders have signed up for making drinks like piña coladas and fruity daiquiris. Again, it's part of the job, and the drink should be made without judgment. Bars without blenders can make a simple unfrozen version by making a classic daiquiri (rum, lime, sugar) with muddled strawberry.