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Have it Your Way: A bartender's modern lament 

A look inside today's modern bartender

It's probably fair to say that no child has ever answered the what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up question with, "Either a fireman, the president or a bartender." And fair is fair, most children aren't acquainted with the bartender - nor should they be. Barmen are typically swarthy with acid tongues that can reel off obscenities to a beat. Bartenders are jaded, and our youth, with their chubby cheeks and open minds, are best served if they steer clear of such a population.

But more than a few of America's children will find themselves one day behind a bar, almost all of them without an ounce of any sort of official credentials. It really is one of the last professions learned entirely as an apprentice. Most bartending schools are a joke. They're a scheme to get desperate people to hand over their hard-earned cash just to memorize flashcard recipes of cocktails that no one's ordered in 20 years. Even so, most of their graduates can't tell you the difference between vodka and gin.

It is an embarrassing dichotomy right now - craft bartenders who love and cherish every bottle on the bar versus all the peeps who call themselves bartenders, but can't tell you the six basic spirits. The craft bartenders painstakingly create each of their syrups from raw sugar, honey and agave nectar. Joe the bartender doesn't pour any drinks that need syrups; all of his drinks have Coke or tonic as a mixer. The craft bartenders measure every pour and feel a little biff to the heart when a drop of something precious ends up on the mat instead of in the drink. Joe the bartender spills stuff everywhere; he doesn't give a damn if he's working in a cesspool of stickiness. The craft bartender spends his free time reading about today's topics and cocktail history. Joe the bartender doesn't read and is fine just talking about the weather - all day, every day.

Might there be a bright future in the bartending profession where bartending schools actually turn out real professionals? Me, I'm holding out hope for a time when saying that you're a bartender means you're a true professional.


As the story goes, it was 1934 when the owner of a restaurant named Los Dos Republicas in Matamoros, Mexico, created the concoction that launched a million happy hours. You can make it Joe's way, which is just cheap tequila and sweet and sour mixer, or you can make it the true barman's way.

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