…Continuing our Real Talk – The Bartender Series with part 6.
THD: How much responsibility does an establishment, maybe not–and this is thinking outside again from the craft industry–does an establishment have in training its staff on, drinks and liquors?
CHRISTIAN: A lot.
ADRIANNE : A hundred percent.
YANI: A hundred percent.
THD: Because you guys are trained in what you do but that’s because you’re in the craft industry. As an average server–
YANI: Even though I’ve been doing this for–since I was 21–since I was allowed to I should say–I always wanted to–and since I was allowed to I’ve been doing it, and I started at a place that was similar to Chili’s. Very–it was a privately owned place and very shop beer, poor Appletini / Long Island place and I took the–I made my own decision that I wanted to expand my knowledge on what–there was more out there than what my profession was doing. And I think that in any situation that if you want to have a reputation of being a nice place, whether you serve pizzas and awesome craft cocktails or you just do craft cocktails, you know, it’s a matter of what that establishment is. If you go to a dive bar, you know you’re not going to order, you know, the Martini from the back wall, you’re probably going to have a beer or a shot of whiskey or whatever. But, you know–
THD: So we have the two different standards. It’s okay to have it?
YANI: Absolutely, yeah, for sure.
CHRISTIAN: Well, I think ultimately it comes down to–I mean, for me, or, you know, as servers, it’s–we’re paid with tips. The more we know, the more money we get.
ADRIANNE : Yeah.
YANI: Absolutely, yes.
CHRISTIAN: And that’s how it came with me, I wanted to make more money so I learned it more.
YANI: You’re making yourself more valuable.
CHRISTIAN: You know what I mean? If you don’t have any knowledge, you can’t have any expectations of that when people call you on your bullshit of not knowing stuff, you know, and it’s–
SHANE: Yeah, totally. And that’s something where I have thought time and again, like, if I were to move–try to move on from where I’m at… if I were to,-say pick up a second job, like, pick up on my slow days, go work at a dive bar, whenever, do I actually know how to make a Dirty Girl Scout. I’m like, I can’t say that I do, like, you know, because I’ve put so much thought into this other style that I kind of lost my way.
SHANE: And it would almost be like retraining, you know.
YANI: But you would definitely–you would have the mental capacity to learn because you’re that caliber of an employee and there’s certain people that have that standard, that self-standard, I guess.
SHANE: It’s important to know every item on your menu–
ADRIANNE : Yeah.
SHANE: –exactly what it is.
ADRIANNE : I make every server try every cocktail that leaves my window.
ADRIANNE : Every time. I make them try it every time. And I–it’s actually kind of fun watching them, like, suffer happily.
YANI: And also give the customers what their expectations are which is great. It helps–it’s training them without actually training them.
CHRISTIAN: And again, it’s not coincidence that the best servers I work with are the ones that ask the most questions and once–you know what I mean? It’s–ultimately, again, we are–if we were getting by on our hourly alone we would–I wouldn’t have been able to afford to drive out here, you know what I’m saying.
SHANE: I see that all the time too. I think it’s important for, not only customers, but staff at the place, even if you work at a chain restaurant, you know, that doesn’t really give us all–if you can go up to the bartender and say, “Hey, I see we have a drink menu.” I’ve argued–as a server I’ve familiarized myself with all the food items, and I’m going to familiarize myself with this menu also.
YANI: It’s the same standard, absolutely.
SHANE: And I think it’s more of a personal thing. Should it be that the owner requires that or the manager requires that? Absolutely. Is it the standard? No. Should it be a personal standard in yourself to do your job to the best of your ability? Absolutely.
ADRIANNE : Yes.
THD: How much responsibility do we have in the industry to educate the consumer about, you know, the difference between craft and non-craft or the different brands and types of beer?
YANI: You know you can give–if a certain bar wanted to push a product or a company or, you know, whatever, it’s so easy to be able to say, “Hey, we made this drink with this spirit, you would really like this.” And people would absolutely sell that, I think that the–and correct me if I’m wrong, the spirit industry as well as the whole liquor industry and alcohol company are starting to take heed to, “Oh, hey,” you know, “we know what we’re doing in making the product, maybe we should look to these other people who are actually using it to”–
ADRIANNE : Yeah.
THD: Educating them.
YANI: –educate us or educate the people into what–there’s a million–there’s so much out there.
SHANE: Well, I mean, like look at a bottle of Bombay. A bottle of Bombay has all of the botanicals listed on the left and the right side telling you exactly what they put into their gin, you know.
SHANE: I think that’s an interesting concept.
YANI: And herbs and spices.
SHANE: Yeah. This is like what goes into it. Now, you can say when you drink it on its own, you can go, “Oh, I did taste that,” you know.
SHANE: I think you can make those own assumptions on your own. But, I mean, educating has become a huge part of the liquor industry in every aspect. They are seminars, there’s–I mean, not so much bartending schools because bartending schools tend to be more–
SHANE: –of a joke.
ADRIANNE : Yeah.
SHANE: Scam. But there’s most definitely–
YANI: They’re starting to come up, though.
SHANE: –there’s a place that you can go and learn and–
CHRISTIAN: People are starting to, and that’s what’s fun. And I think that’s where we come into it, you know what I mean? Like, I don’t expect any customer to–I hope they don’t know as much as me otherwise they’ve got too much free time. You know what I mean? And again, and it’s come in with an open mind and that’s sort of where I think we can both have fun. Again, it’s ultimately the customer that comes in spending money. It’s their experience, not ours–
ADRIANNE : I think it’s like a history in it’s style that’s kind of lost. And reintroducing it, especially here… it’s thrilling. It’s really fun.
YANI: There’s a new standard.
THD: Portlandia made fun of it. They had bartenders making mixed tapes and dreaming of the 1890s where people were chipping their own ice.
ADRIANNE : Yeah. You’re like, “Shit, I do that.”
CHRISTIAN: And I think it’s hard to evolve falling into self-parody I’m sure. Where’s that YouTube clip of stuff bartenders say, or whatever.
ADRIANNE : It’s the best.
YANI: I brought my own ice.
CHRISTIAN: They’re doing a few–
SHANE: That’ll be $18.50.
The interviews in this series were conducted by VATO. The panelists include Yani M. Frye, of The Sugar House, Detroit, MI, Adrianne Martin, Beverage Director of Bigalora Royal Oak, MI and Southfield, MI, Shane Bang, of The Oakland Art Novelty Company in Ferndale, MI, and Christian Hetter, of The Berkshire Room in Chicago, IL.
In 2014, Shane was named as one of the “America’s 25 Best Bartenders” by The Daily Meal. In 2013, he was selected by Eater Detroit as the Bartender of the Year. Also, in 2013, Shane won the regional competition for the GQ Magazine / Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender contest in Las Vegas, NV. For this event, GQ Magazine featured Shane in Season 1 of their America’s Bartender series. Shane is currently the President of the Greater Detroit chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG).
In 2013, Yani was the top winner of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge, and went on to represent the United States in the Global Cocktail contest in Trinidad.
Christian Hetter, was formerly from The Ravens Club in Ann Arbor, MI (at the time of the interview) and Balena in Chicago, IL.
Keep joining The Hungry Dudes for Real Talk – The Bartender Series with the final installment next Tuesday. Also, check out our Real Talk – The Chef Series, on Mondays and Thursdays. We hope you enjoy these Series, and appreciate your feedback. As always, please don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.