When I was offered the opportunity to be a cocktail crafter, a mixologist, an entertainer with libations, I was excited. I have worked in the service industry for many years and always admired the bartenders, the power they had, the control and confidence they portrayed. I was impressed by their skills, their craft, their knowledge.
The magical Lulu’s chocolate bar.
In Savannah, city of spirits, as in ghosts and rampant liquor on the streets. This is a city that invites all visitors and encourages indulging. There is even a bartender’s ball every year. The bartenders are highly responsible for making the Savannah experience what it is: rich history, beautiful sights, exquisite food, endless drinks.
The epic Lone Wolf Lounge.
Being on the production end filled me with pride. It’s one thing to be a server, even a fine dining server at a high-end restaurant, overly knowledgable on food and wine, I’m just serving, I’m not making anything to be consumed. Now, this is a different kind of beast: Crafting drinks with skill and art, perfecting my technique every day, learning variations and being artistic about garnishes and bitters. Glamorous and beautiful.
Behind the curtains bartending can be hard and intimidating. Unloading boxes and stocking a hundred bottles every day. Cutting and juicing hundreds of lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit. Every. Day.
If I don’t have cuts on me in a week, that’s a miracle. Cuts from broken glass, pairing knives, thick champagne foil. Open a bottle of champagne in 3 to 4 seconds. Otherwise, I’m falling behind. Have you ever seen someone terrified of opening a champagne bottle? That fear doesn’t exist to me. My only fear is of time running out with thirsty patrons waiting. Exploding bottles of beer and champagne? Gotta keep moving. Clothes wet with citrus and liquor and beer and blood. Gotta keep moving. Lime juice getting into my cuts, gotta still shake that drink. Shake it high and with a smile. If I look panicked or in pain, the whole bar loses confidence in me. If I look like I don’t know what I am doing, I lose all credibility. It’s a show for the patrons, a live show. Make it look effortless. Do it fast. Not fast enough, not good enough. A thousand dirty wine glasses, martini glasses, highballs, piling up behind me. I have to move faster. Wash, polish, repeat. Make everything sparkle, make everything beautiful, make it seems effortless. Keep the pain and blood from your cuts at bay. Once everyone goes home, the curtains go down. Success, the show is over. Now let’s clean the bar for an hour or two and repeat tomorrow.
I am yet to tame this beast and call the bar my comfort zone. But I’m getting better every day at putting on the show of effortless skill and cocktail beauty, of crafting drinks in front of patrons, of a shiny perfect bar. Each week there are fewer injuries and more knowledge. Each passing week I embrace all of it more. Pain and craft.
The beautiful bar at 39 Rue de Jean, Savannah. Here I make all the magic happen, come see me for a cocktail.