Who's a dickhead? Barman Sean Kenyon's response to Jenn Wohletz's cocktail grievances
"Dry vermouth was used back in the Prohibition era to take the edge off when homemade vodka was distilled in bathtubs and could strip the paint off fire engines." There is so much wrong with this statement. Dry vermouth was used way before Prohibition, and the original recipe for a martini was half gin and half vermouth (with a touch of orange bitters). Social preference over the past hundred years has reduced the amount of vermouth that most people desire in a martini. But a properly made martini is divine. There is only one right way to make a martini or any drink, for that matter: the way the guest wants it.
Umm, and Jenn: Vodka was never distilled in bathtubs. It's impossible to distill in a bathtub. Bathtub gin was made during Prohibition and was the result of mixing poorly distilled alcohol or industrial alcohol with juniper oils. It actually killed some people.
2. Lime-flavored beer of any kind
Not a cocktail. I don't like lime beers or carry them, although I am happy to put lime in a beer if my guest desires it. This is just an example of what a judgmental, crusty barstool hack you are. How does someone ordering a beer affect your experience or the bartender's night?
1. Virgin frozen drinks of any kind
"One of the most dickheaded things you can do is order a slow drink in a fast-paced bar." There are no slow drinks, there are just slow bartenders. A great bartender is dynamic and can handle a crowd, make a blender drink and work it into his/her routine. While that drink is blending, three of four more drinks can be made.
"....ask for a cocktail that requires a blender and you aren't even ordering alcohol in it, you are wasting the bartender's time" Again, not a cocktail. But if the blender is there... use it. Any bartender who feels as if a guest is wasting their time should find different work. We are on the guest's time, not the other way around. Virgin drinks are important, because we are responsible for the safety and happiness of our guests. These drinks allow the non-drinker/pregnant woman/designated driver to be part of the action without consuming alcohol.
Before Prohibition, bartending was a respectable career. Bartenders cared about their craft. Bartenders were held in high esteem, along with doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Since the Noble Experiment of Temperance, it has taken years to regain that respectability. The stereotypical cocky "I don't care about you" bartender from the '80s and '90s (like the ones you describe) has gone the way of the dodo bird. In one article that enraged a lot of people in our community of hospitality professionals, you've attempted to take us backwards. But we won't allow it.
The point I really want to make is that bartending is all about hospitality, and all else (cocktails knowledge, etc.) is secondary. Hospitality is the foundation of all that we, as bartenders, do. There is nobility in service. The great thing about hospitality is that it can happen in any bar. You don't need the right equipment, or the right ice or the finest selection of spirits to achieve it. It can happen at the most ritzy hotel bar, the diviest of the dives and everything in between. All you need is the right people. People who take pride and people who care.
Jenn, I'd love for you to come down to Williams & Graham or the Squeaky Bean and meet our bartenders. We can go on a bar crawl, and I can introduce you to some of Denver's most hospitable bartenders, bartenders who will happily serve whatever the guest desires and do it with a smile. They'll make you whatever you want without judgment. The offer is open and good anytime.