I recently walked into a bar with a woman who you'd describe as the salt of the earth. She's seen it all, been through it all, and is one of the kindest, most nonjudgemental people I have ever met. And when we went into one of those craft-cocktaily trendy spots where the bartenders all wear butcher's aprons and scowls and pour $13.00, 3 ounce cocktails, I expected, at the very least, a good experience. But many of the newer bars are going through a customer-service meltdown similar to what retailers experienced in the 90s. Fifteen years ago, the valued customer was no longer "always" right. If you called a 1-800 number to complain about your new vacuum cleaner blowing up you were treated as if it was your fault for not only breaking the appliance but for being alive. Being polite to the customer became optional and short-temperedness the norm. Yes, bartenders have long been known to have a little gruffness and it's usually forgiven. After all, it's not easy dealing with a heavy drinking clientele every single night. But there's a difference between having an edge and having a major attitude problem. The public adulation bartenders are experiencing will be short lived if the haughtiness continues.
Here's a recap of the conversation between my friend and the bartender. And by recap, I mean this is the actual conversation.
FRIEND: May I please have a blended Margarita? APRON DUDE: We don't even have a blender. Wow. Awesome response. Another way to respond would have been, I'm sorry I can't make that drink for you. I would, but unfortunately we don't have a blender. FRIEND: OK- what do you have that might taste similar? APRON DUDE: Here's our cocktail menu. Gosh. Thank you. Because the menu will definitely be able to answer the question she just asked you, the professional, the expert, the mixologist. FRIEND: Thank you. ME: I know what you'd like. (to Apron Dude) Do you have pomegranate liqueur? APRON DUDE: (pissed at me for even asking) Yes. ME: (to friend) You know what you'd like? Some tequila with sweet and sour, and a splash of pomegranate liqueur. (to Apron Dude) Can you make that? APRON DUDE: We don't have sweet and sour. ME: You…you don't have sweet and sour? APRON DUDE: We don't have sweet and sour. What we have is a homemade batch of lime juice mixed with lemon juice, water, and a little bit of organic sugar.
An ineffable moment in a bar. Or perhaps I should say an effing ridiculous moment in a bar. So like, they don't serve drinks in glasses but in hollowed calcium magnesium carbonate molds? They don't use ice but sculpted artisan H²O cubes? They don't make burgers but pressed organic spheres of grass-fed animal flesh?
He made the cocktail with the not-sweet-and-sour-sweet-and-sour and served it to her without a word or eye contact. And then when she started to sip it he asked her to move away from the cocktail caddy because she was blocking it from the servers. I mean, seriously. It'd be more fun ordering a drink at the DMV.
The good news is that we went to our table and ordered wine from a wonderful server who couldn't have been more personable, agreeable, and knowledgable. The night ended on a great note, untarnished by mister grumpy apron pants. But this isn't the first time I've witnessed this sort of exchange. I'm hoping these encounters will be few and far between, and aren't representative of an impending decade of cocktails served with a splash of arrogance. It just doesn't taste good.