Do you remember how we thought the pandemic would last a few weeks? Maybe even a month, or 2?…
The last words my manager spoke to me the night of the shutdown were something like this: “If we ever open back again, you definitely have your job”. And that was it. Rue de Jean never reopened in Savannah. The advertising posters of Rue de Jean remained inside the elevators of the Embassy Suites for months, even years! Heck, they might still be up there, I don’t know, I haven’t been back. Nothing new has opened in that spot. The empty space only echoes with dreams of decadent French cuisine and champagne. Covered in too much dust for anything to glitter. A melancholic feeling lingers…
Ok enough drama, but it does break my heart. This was my first bartending job. And you never forget your first love.
The manager who hired me was a kind and hardworking man. He gave me a chance to become a bartender, not caring that I didn’t even know how to make an old fashioned. And for the ones who don’t know, an old fashioned is a very simple cocktail to make. Honestly, people act like it’s this complex and exquisite craft to make an old fashioned. It is not. If you meet a bartender who can’t make an old fashioned, he really knows nothing about bartending. This cocktail has whiskey, simple syrup, and bitters. That’s it. A classic for a reason, with a million and one variations, but at the end of the day, 3 simple ingredients. Just like a Negroni, or a Manhattan, or even a daiquiri. 3 simple ingredients are in all these cocktails. Classics for a reason. Remember friends, less is more. Speaking of bartenders who know nothing, yep that was me.
How did I get here? It was all an accident, quite literally. I was working as a server and The Olde Pink House, and the week before Christmas on a fateful Thursday morning in 2018, the Pink house had a fire. The grand ballroom went up in flames, there was smoke damage throughout the whole mansion, and suddenly 350 people didn’t have a job. I remember seeing the fire on the news at 11am. I remember dressing up in slacks and a pressed shirt, and printing 17 copies of my resume. I left my house at noon and By the end of the day I had a shiny new job.
Working at the Olde Pink House in Savannah is the best thing you can have in your resume, as far as service industry jobs. Everyone knows that place is extremely demanding and the people are difficult to work for. From the volume of guests they have, to the infinite stairs you need to conquer with daunting trays of martinis, to the strict pressing of uniforms and army-like managers. We were sold every day on the idea that we were the best in the city, and that there was no better life after the Pink house. We heard this speech. Every. Day. So much, that we started to believe it.
I lived that pink house life for 5 years. Made some amazing friends and connections, learned a lot about wine and fine dining service, and suddenly I was ready for a change without even knowing it. Sometimes tragedy strikes and new opportunities are born within. I knew I was disciplined, but I was definitively not happy.
My first day flying solo as a bartender was… let’s say interesting, to avoid saying terrifying. People would casually come to me and say “A Manhattan please”. Or even more… “I’ll take an aviation cocktail”. I remember I was wearing red lipstick and a short black dress (we had to look French at this restaurant), and I had a good friend that day sitting at the bar. I didn’t even know how to properly shake a cocktail. I looked up the recipe, and in a frenzy I poured the ingredients and shook my first aviation cocktail, with another 5 cocktails to make next. It looked gorgeous and violet bluish. So so proud I sent it off, and then I poured my friend a taste of the cocktail in a shot glass and smiling said “look, my first aviation!”. He make a disgusted face saying, “something is not right, did you put any lemon juice in this?”. I went from smiling to pale in a second. The cocktail had already hit a table, the man was already taking a sip. Oh god, you should have seen me rushing to make a new one. Gin, creme de violet, luxando maraschino liquor, LEMON JUICE. Shake shake shake damnit. Opened the tub so fast some of the cocktail shot at my dress and face. Poured and rushed to the gentleman, who was looking obviously displeased and about to complain, and I grabbed his hand softly and provocatively. “Sir my apologies, there has been a mistake, take a sip of this one instead and let me know if you are displeased.” With a smile and a wink I walked away slowly taking with me the horrid aviation cocktail. The man didn’t even know what to reply. He drank his drink and all was well. Somehow after this I became fearless, I lost the fear to take control of every situation that was thrown at me. I became something else.
When I lost my job here with the shutdown, I was again summoned to the Pink House and couldn’t do it. A bit like going back to an old lover, no matter the good times and memories, sometimes going back feels like there is no space for your new dreams.
These days, I spend my evening’s occasionally bartending at the exquisite Alligator Soul restaurant, and it is the best place I have ever worked. This is a good things, and a bad thing. The staff is small and lovely, the food is amazing world, the bar program and mixology is the best I’ve experienced. There is always encouragement to be creative. And yet… I’m more excited to experience the bar on the guest side, rather than to be mixing drinks. My passion has shifted, and I’m looking into new ways to be excited. After all, you need to feel creative in order to really do something exceptional. This may be because I feel like I have peaked.
Creativity and inspiration are not stationary, and as much as most people hate change, change is mandatory to keep growing and discovering and creating. This blog started as a bar recipe blog, and the occasional bar stories to entertain. But now I want this blog to shift to lifestyle and travel tips, as well as discovering hidden jewels in other places. We will keep the stories and the occasional recipes, but I want to keep writing and sharing this blog. And it has been 2 years of silence.
Time to get excited again.