Who's a dickhead? Barman Sean Kenyon's response to Jenn Wohletz's cocktail grievances

SeanKenyonBioPhoto.jpg
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.

See also:
- Five cocktails only a dickhead would order
- Reader: Go ahead and slam daiquiris, but leave old-fashioneds alone
- Ask the bartender: What's the perfect 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:

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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.

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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.

Location Info

Squeaky Bean

1500 Wynkoop St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Williams & Graham

3160 Tejon St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

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76 comments
mattleising
mattleising

Spot on Sean! Jenn Wohletz clearly has no idea what it is to bartend nor does she know the basics. They should hire you for these kind of articles!

NeicyWagnerGeis
NeicyWagnerGeis

Amen, Sean!!! And SO well said. I read this article too and thought it was complete rubbish and an antiquated waste of space. Every bar I've ever tended, from the diviest of dives to the swankiest of steak houses, have had bitters within arms reach. And I have worked with some of those "too cool for school" bartenders she's referring to and they don't last long... and they don't rake in the tips either. You're exactly right, bartenders are in the SERVICE industry! Therefore, should be more than obliged to make you whatever drink is going to make you happy. This is why we love going to W&G, the service there cannot be touched. I can't imagine someone ever rolling their eyes at me there. I admire you for the atmosphere you've created and your dedication to the craft. Clearly Jenn has a very close-minded, ugly point of view and I agree with ebethcheese, Sean and other passionate tenders like him should write the blog, we should be moving people of Denver forward instead of back.

jenn_moleski
jenn_moleski

Jenn made a no-no!!!

(Not me jenn...I didn't write the article)

mtnmc1
mtnmc1

" 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." - This is integrity.  I do not drink anymore but all my friends still do. The bartenders at Williams & Graham have made for me amazing non-alcoholic mixed drinks. I can fully participate in the experience because I truly look forward to what those bartenders will create for me ,no alcohol needed. And please don't call it a 'Mocktail' there is no need to mock something, when you can create something new.

ebethcheese
ebethcheese

I think Sean Kenyon should write your cocktail/spirits blogs.  He clearly loves the profession and has an unique insight that we readers would love! 

Courtney Donaldson
Courtney Donaldson

I think Sean should offer to send her to bartending school so she can learn about the REALITIES of bartending.... Dumb@$$!!!! Please advise her that maybe family dining would be more her speed... Where does she tend bar so I can be certain neither me nor my friends patronize her establishment.....?????

Daren McMullin
Daren McMullin

This is not the first time that Jenn Wohletz has missed the mark. I refuse to read anything she writes.

Kenyon Anderson
Kenyon Anderson

Please do tell where Ms. Wohletz tends bar. I'd like to see if she is a decent bartendress that can properly make any one of these tasty drinks that she so despises. My guess is no. She should probably find a different career path. I hear Hooters is hiring.

Radtastic Elastic
Radtastic Elastic

I love an old fashioned. And I appreciate a real bartender who knows how to make one.

mkholody
mkholody

dickhead individuals make a bar patron feel like a dickhead... like the bartender at Ace who mocked my sister for asking if they had ginger beer "uh, we ARE an Asian restaurant." 

Mandrake
Mandrake

"There is only one right way to make a martini or any drink, for that matter: the way the guest wants it."

Can you find me someone that will make a General Jack D. Ripper?, because I haven't found one.

winegeek
winegeek

"This is just an example of what a judgmental, crusty barstool hack you are."  I am still crying real tears---I laughed at this line so hard I busted my gut, and this just after I learned from this ignoramus wannabe journalist about bathtub Vodka...!? 

I am obviously a dickhead, because I love making Old Fashioneds almost as much as I love drinking them!  ...and she is obviously a fine, educated, knowledgeable, fair and well-researched journalist.

Brilliant Sean, absolutely brilliant.  

John Dalby
John Dalby

I've been tending bar for 19 years now. I love to make drinks like Old Fashioneds, and I do it well. I take pride in it. And I work at a really nice bar. Il Fornaio in DTC. Want a great Old Fashioned? Please, come hit me up!!!

lnmccune
lnmccune

Very well put.  It is often forgotten that making a good cocktail is much like a chef crafting a menu; it is no longer the disingenuous college kid looking to make a quick buck, but an artist that is crafting not just a drink but an experience.  Though I will admit that I had my five minutes of complaining about muddling a mojito when I was the above mentioned college kid (obviously was in the wrong profession).  I find it sad that the time spent making a weak captain and diet coke is interpreted as a bartender these days.  Sean, I will gladly follow you and your team anywhere.

mindsquint
mindsquint

Sean, I am relieved to hear your thoughts on the Old Fashioned. While I think the Jenn Wohletz article was insulting to both your guests and your profession, I have to admit I understand where it may have come from--at least in part. I have long wanted to try an Old Fashioned but not wanting to feel like, well, like a dickhead, had forgone the experience as it seemed too laborious to expect someone to make. I certainly didn't want to impose.

Your thoughts really opened my eyes and I feel foolish in retrospect. When somebody asks me to produce a difficult art piece I don't see it as an imposition. I just lean all the harder on my training and skills. Doing so comes with a sense of elation and a feeling of connection to my mentors and heroes. Rather than begrudge the request, I find I respect the one who made it all the more. True craft comes from respect and love for what you do. Often, the more laborious the task, the sweeter the fruits.

I don't know why I would have assumed any less from any other profession, let alone one with such a rich history as bartending. Your thoughts reminded me of the sense of craft with which a good bartender approaches not just the object of the drink itself, but the act of serving it. It is not mere convenience that brings us masses out, time and time again, but the expertise and hospitality of the barkeeper. Your words are a sterling example of just that. I applaud you for taking the time to defend your craft, I thank you for revealing your care toward what you do, and I hope soon to visit you for my very first Old Fashioned!

Rex_Grant
Rex_Grant

Reading this article and the comments makes me crave an Old Fashioned almost unbearably. What time is it?

nyenex
nyenex

I just visited the Squeaky Bean and the drinks were top notch! While I was reading the article I kept thinking how this reminded me so much of that experience. Nice reply!


Dante Reesman
Dante Reesman

Excellent job Sean. To the people who say it depends on the class or style of a bar I have to disagree. I started at the most divey kind of punk rock bar back in Detroit, never served a martini without vermouth unless the guest wanted it that way, and made old fashioneds with a smile. In short it's all about all of you on the other side of the bar. It doesn't matter what kind of bar it is. Demand better service from your bars if you're not able to drink what you want. You deserve it.

AvgJoseph
AvgJoseph

Since when is an article about what a dickhead would order journalism? What editor allowed this story in the first place? The same goes for the douche bag story that ran last week. The Westword is such a joke.

Adam Aedro Drotar
Adam Aedro Drotar

Any bartender worth their weight would agree with Sean. Even without bitters or sugar cubes I've done my best to make an old fashioned if a guest wants it with a smile and general concern for the taste.

Eric Koder
Eric Koder

In defense of Jenn, you really are kind of a dickhead if you're ordering an Old Fashioned at a place such as Lodo's or the like. I think overall she was trying to write more in the frame of reference of fellow patron's who have to wait forever for their Bud Light at such a place, as opposed to universally trying to speak for the bartender themselves, who should as Sean rightfully put it, enjoy their job or quit it. But because you happen to enjoy an O.F., that alone doesn't make you a dickhead by any means, so she's indefensible in that regard as well as the presumptuous contentions about bartenders she made and other mistakes that Sean pointed out. I'm not about to ask Jenn gets fired for this, but let's just say she could do better the next time around... And I'll swing by Sean's 'watering hole' and patronize his business because I like my tender to care about me and it seems he genuinely does. Oh and Sean, can I go on that pub crawl with you?? That'd be awesome!

Will_
Will_

"This is just an example of what a judgmental, crusty barstool hack you are."

Not since "Jane, you ignorant slut." have I heard a better rebuttal ;)

Felicia Paradeis
Felicia Paradeis

Well said, Sean! Williams and Graham will be the next place I visit for a drink. I may even order an Old Fashioned. :)

Evan Mathis
Evan Mathis

@C.Faletta--the guest doesn't always have to be decent or tip. It's still our job to serve them with a smile on our face.

Doug Smith
Doug Smith

Jack....I've seen you order kahlua and tomato juice in the blender. See if they'll serve that one up to you.

Steve At Work
Steve At Work

A lot depends upon the "class" of a bar. If you're in a meat market, don't expect top notch service. If you're dining and drinking at some of Denver's high-end bars (some of which are private), you've a right to expect any damn thing you order and that it be made correctly. You get what you pay for.

Jack Gormley
Jack Gormley

Sean nails it. Tom Howell, you would appreciate this article. I've never been to Williams and Graham but it is now firmly on my list. Well done.

Zebra_One
Zebra_One

Well said Sean. Loved your responses. Would love to hear more of them. 

Jim Weatherill
Jim Weatherill

After reading this piece I think I know who the dickhead is, and who is the bartender.

Christopher David
Christopher David

I won't support what Jenn wrote--one definitely needs to have their facts straight. However, if one wanted to find a dickhead cocktail drinker, it wouldn't be hard to find one at Williams & Graham. They're both writing through a certain, skewed perspective and I don't trust either side.

Chris Falletta
Chris Falletta

If a customer is a decent person and tips, stfu and serve them. Who gives a rip...it's a drink.

amackiss
amackiss

Sean....I hope somebody writes another "ignorant" article next week....your responses are brilliant!!! :-)

Neil Larson
Neil Larson

@ Ashleigh, another sign you shouldn't be doing what you are doing, is if you are supposed to write an article based on at least one fact, and you just spew out your opinion on what people you don't like, drink... Jenn shouldn't be writing, apparently.

Ashleigh Weatherill
Ashleigh Weatherill

One of the first signs you shouldn't be doing what you're doing (ie, tending bar), is complaining about doing your job.

chill6759
chill6759

Thank you, Sean!  A great response to a dickhead article.

lmpietsch
lmpietsch

Very classy response.  When the Tequila Aficionado staff travel to Denver, Williams & Graham is first on our list of stops.  Well said and well done!

Lisa Pietsch, COO

Tequila Aficionado Media


chadmichaelgeorge
chadmichaelgeorge

Canadian whisky and butterscotch schnapps? Why in the world would anyone know that drink without goggle?

GFTW
GFTW

@Will_ "Jenn, you ignorant slut"

FIFY.

chadmichaelgeorge
chadmichaelgeorge

What is your definition of a dickhead? Mine has nothing to do with what kind of drink they order, though if it did, the drinks that come to mind aren't even on this list. I'm sure you can walk into any bar and find a few dickheads.

Sean's perspective isn't skewed....he simply stated its all about hospitality. Bottom line. In the SERVICE industry, hospitality is paramount.

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