In Ace’s food thread today he linked to a list of the fifteen best cookbooks of the year. Ace disparaged the list as being for the aggressively smug, and with titles such as Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking, he has been fairly restrained.
One of the books is called Regarding Cocktails, (I’m not linking to these piles of reverence to the gods of hipsters past), and in the little review there is a nod to an essay included in the book titled, How to be a good bar regular. I read this with some interest as I have been a barman, a bar manager, a bar owner, and of course a bar regular at various stages of my life and at various localities around the globe. My interest levels quickly turned to disdain, however, as it became clear that the writer of the piece is himself a clueless hipster douchebag.
But there exists the possibility that people, good people, might read this garbage and mistakenly follow the terrible advice in the hope of becoming a good bar regular, whereas in actual fact they would become the kind of person that everyone else in the bar hates with a frenzied intensity. To understand this we have to look at the advice that has been given.
To be a true regular is a noble thing, and it requires time and effort. To be one takes much more than coming in repeatedly, sitting at the bar, and spending money. It takes acceptance— acceptance from the bartenders and the other people who work in the bar, but also, and just as important, acceptance by the other regulars.
Being a regular is in no way noble. It means you are probably a drunk and more likely an alcoholic. It also means that your life is meaningless and your home life is a sham which is why you’re spending so much time hanging out in a bar to begin with. So any ideas of being the new Papa Hemingway ordering up rounds of daiquiris as you retell your story of fighting the big marlin for the fiftieth time, you need to get right out of your head.
To gain that acceptance, you have to make yourself useful to each group, and that takes some knowledge and some skill.
Listen up and listen good. There is only one skill that you require to be a good regular – don’t be a douchebag. Follow that and you are golden. Or you could follow the advice in the article I linked. Hint – one of these is wrong.
Don’t be a hog. If you spend a lot of time in a bar, you (hopefully) will get to know the bartenders. Bartenders in great bars are often great people, or at least fun to talk to. One of the pleasures of being a regular is talking to them. But when things are busy and you start telling Allie about this funny thing that happened to you, it puts her in a bit of a jam. On the one hand, you’re a good customer, she finds you amusing, and she doesn’t want to be rude and cut you off. On the other, there are twenty other people waiting for drinks. Save the story for when it’s slow.
Anybody who has to be told this is a fucking douchebag. Next.
Likewise, your quest to try different versions of the Sidecar until you find one that’s perfect?
Your “quest” is not going to get you 1000 experience points, a +1 magic sword, and a bag of holding. It will only gain you admittance to the club of douchebaggery.
Pitch in. I’m not saying you should try to do anyone else’s job. But if the joint is busy, and on the way to the bathroom you notice empty glasses piling up around the place, why not pick a few of them up on the way back and bring them to the bar?
The only people who ever did this were trying to get brownie points to sleep with the waitresses. We don’t want you to “pitch in”, ever. Not even one fucking time. Because the moment that the staff accepts that then you have crossed the line from customer to some limbo-point between customer and staff. Next thing we know you’ll be behind the bar trying to show us how to make a Sidecar. Fuck off already.
Or, if the place prides itself on its extensive vodka collection and you find yourself in, say, Kyrgyzstan, why not pick up a bottle of Kyrgyz vodka for the bar?
Oh great, what a riot this would be. It’s not your home bar, buddy. I have a very limited amount of shelf space that I must utilize to be profitable. And if I accept a bottle from you then everyone is going to try and get in on the act and then it will be all, “Oh, but you were happy to take a bottle from Dave but now you don’t want my undrinkable hooch that I found in a typhoid-ridden backyard operation in Haiti? What sort of an arsehole are you??”
Don’t pimp out your status as a regular.
Look, anyone who even considers for a moment that the bartender saying hi to you is worthy of some sort of status is just out of their fricking mind. You walk into a bar and three of the waitresses slap you in succession and then pounce on each other in a cat-fight whirlwind as they battle each other out as to who gets to suck you off in the bathroom?
That’s status and you can pimp that for all its worth.
Listen more than you speak. Any bar’s regulars are a community, and if you want to join it, you’d best learn its rules—which are, of course, unwritten and usually unspoken. Eventually you can start talking. But even though you know everyone there and see them all the time, they’re not your therapy group. Best to leave the deep personal problems at home.
This guy can’t make up his mind. I thought he was telling funny stories earlier and going on quests and stuff? Now he’s telling you to sit there like a retarded mute. I think he’s going on about this deep personal problem stuff because he’s speaking from vast experience. He’s the type of guy who you see squirming in his seat because he desperately wants to say something but he knows that if he opens his mouth then everyone is going to hate him but he can’t help himself, he has to say something, here it comes, wait for it …
You can also talk to strangers, of course—part of a regular’s job (or is it a calling?) is to minister to the new and confused. You don’t want to overdo it. But nice, well-behaved types who are a bit puzzled by the lack of Scotch in this bourbon bar or by why the bartender keeps calling them “Mike” (he calls everyone Mike)? You can clue them in. And if they prove civilized, you can even rope them into the general conversation—that’s how new regulars are made.
If I walked into a bar and this clown began instructing me on which way was up I’d probably hightail it out of there. But why do I get the feeling that his welcome will consist of him immediately informing you that the cute waitress called Dixie is his secret betrothed although she doesn’t know it yet so you better stay away from her or he’ll be upset? This presents a golden opportunity for you to pull the object of his unrequited affections right in front of him and watch the subsequent public meltdown.
To sum it up – don’t be a douchebag. You’d think that it’s not hard to do but I gave up being surprised long ago.