I wouldn’t say I’m a light drinker. I’ve had some drinks during my time, and while I can’t hold a candle to the veterans in the industry, I feel like I’ve been to more bars in more countries than one might reasonably expect from a gentlemen of my age; New York, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore and most recently, Shanghai. Wherever you go, bartenders are pretty much cut from the same cloth. That’s not to say we all come across as the same.
You’ve got the cocktail geeks that look to the past, researching obscure classic recipes, and you’ve got the futurists, who take pride in the fact they managed to get a hold of that new 100% organic small batch winter wheat gin distilled with extra juniper and a handful of roses from Count What-his-name’s summer estate. You’ve got the rock stars that know how to goad a crowd into a bacchanal frenzy, and the traditionalist, who commands a patron’s complete attention as he moves measured and deliberate, stirring a drink an exact magical number of times without speaking a single word. You have the guys who wouldn’t dream of doing anything else besides preside over a 2 by 12 foot plank of wood, and those who, for one reason or other, can do nothing else.
Despite that colorful spectrum of personalities, we do, through some unspoken agreement, some cosmic resonance, somehow follow the same rules. Closed up shop a touch early? We head over to a joint our friends work and wait on them while sipping a beer or whatever they’ve got the energy to make. A complete stranger from the industry walks in? Gab on for hours about what local joints s/he’s hit already and where to go next. That hottie that’s been lingering over her drink while shooting smoldering glances at you near last call? Your buddy will cover for you while you escort the lady home. Maybe. You’ll owe him a kebab.
The hours we work, demand that we stay out of step with the rest of the world. We wake while the white collar workers are at the peak of their day, we clock out and head home hours after the last customer falls asleep. We share the same gripes, benefits, and occupational hazards wherever we work. Hell, we don’t even drink the same as the rest of the world. Find me a demographic that quaffs Fernet, mezcal, and Jameson the way we do.
The point is, and I’m by no means the first person to say this, there is something of a brotherhood among bartenders you don’t get in most other industries. Sure a banker could be good friends with his coworkers, but would he treat someone he didn’t know from another bank the same way? What we have transcends companies, transcends countries. Really the only other group of people that connect the way we do are firefighters, police, and soldiers. While we may not be bound together by mortal danger and the requirement of trust like those in the armed forces, we find common ground in our job and our strange breed of isolation, different in every country, yet the same.