Bar Talk: On the other side of the bar |

Bar Talk: On the other side of the bar

The bar at Mawa's Kitchen.
Alexis Ahrling/Courtesy photo

I crossed the line this week. I went from being a bar patron to a bartender … for a night at least.

Here’s the situation, we were short-staffed at work due to the latest round of illness sweeping through the valley and previous commitments that couldn’t be ditched, leaving the evening staff in need of a bartender on Monday night at Mawa’s Kitchen.

I know bar basics, have mixed up drinks at events before, understand flavor profiles, have taken a TIPS class, and can follow house recipes, so I was up for guest bartender of the night.

It was a steady at the restaurant. Not an overwhelming rush all at once — just a good, somewhat consistent flow of multiple drink tables.

I was nervous at first. Going over classic cocktail recipes in my head, familiarizing myself with the organization behind the bar and where specific liquor was on the shelves, making sure all the prep was complete, etc. But I was excited to get going and hopefully make good drinks that would help the servers get some good tips.

Funny enough, I ended up missing out on making the first drinks of the night as I had to run downstairs to get some ingredients, and while I was gone, a table ordered three mixed drinks. When I came back upstairs, I found Zak, the operations-manager-turned-server-for-the night (and actually a great bartender) with one drink down and in the middle of making the next two. So much for a me starting off strong, but thanks to Zak for stepping in and getting those customers their drinks in a timely manner, which we all know is the name of the game in the service industry.

Once I was securely back behind the bar with no intention of abandoning my post again, I started to get into the flow as drink orders begin to come through.

Orders started out easy: one Maker’s Mark, neat, one IPA, a glass of rose, a glass of pinot noir. Nothing that involved shaking, stirring, muddling, or mixing.

From my easy entry, orders did start to get more complicated: a Garden Margarita, a Not The Classic Negroni — I even got to torch a cinnamon stick for the proverbial “cherry on top” of the Spiced Fashion.

As every drink went out, I watched for a reaction of the customer after their first sip. I never saw anyone wince or shake their head, put the drink down never to reach for it again; so with that fear of making an undrinkable drink not fulfilled, I was able to get into a groove for the evening, and by the end of the night, I even had some of the house cocktail recipes memorized.

I’ll even take it as a compliment that there were some customers who ordered the same drink multiple times, which means I must have been doing something right.

While I am by no means coming for anyone’s job, I had a lot of fun and enjoyed flexing some drink-mixing muscle behind the bar (both my brain and my biceps).

Until my next guest bartending stint rolls around, I’ll be back on the other side as a patron or manning the bar at home.

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