The importance of a bartender

[Photos: Nicci Silva] via

In my experience no matter how long someone has been working behind the stick and care for this amazing profession there are brief moments after a grueling shift where you ask yourself “what am I still doing here?” and it’s in those moments that you stumble upon a mentor, a friend or an article that brings you back home. Michael Neff ( Ward III, Rum House) says “Is working in this industry a waste of time? This is the shortest answer I can give. Those of us who distill your spirits, squeeze grapes for your wine, craft your cocktails and pour your pints do what we do because we love the process, we love the craft, and we love the community. We do it for ourselves. We do it for you. And, in many ways, we do it because it must be done”. This is the reason we come back to visit a bar, to see someone passionate about their craft. And he’s not alone Doug Quinn, from P.J. Clarke’s says  when asked why do people come back to his bar “When they come here, they’re in my home,” “They’re in my church.” The iconic New Orleans bartender Chris McMillian says of what a bar should be “…a bar is first and foremost a community center, an idea that can be lost in bar-as-vitrine attitude, in which cocktails are put on display like jewels in a case.” “We forget that these drinks are just supposed to taste good and please average people,” he says. “Right now, cocktails are in, and we’re riding the crest. But that’s because it’s fun—and it has to stay fun. People are there for the entertainment. I’ve had people come in and say, ‘Oh, I went to this bar in New York, and they all had their giant mustaches, but they were very aloof.’ That’s not how it works.”

A few years ago (before Neff’s  raise to stardom with Ward III and Rum House) my bar staff and I would go to Grace Bar in Tribeca (where he would tend the bar) after our shift was done for a much needed nightcap  and it was a very special thing to see this man work by himself  a bar full of thirsty, tired, hungry and sometimes angry industry people. To read his full column click here

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