This issue of thebarkeeper.com contains Chapter B of the forthcoming book B.A.S.T.A.R.D.S., with material about bar/tavern origin, amphoras, ancient wine compositions (scary), world’s worst old fashioned, liquor down the drain, VIP, real Bloody Mary, Bottom’s Up (book) lethal cocktails, Bottle Line-Up System, barkeep, “B” weird cocktails, and more.
Volume III, Issue VIII
Readers of this site should be of legal drinking age (LDA)
Any and all information published on this website are the opinions of the
Members of the eating and drinking establishment trade are expected to
Serve in moderation-Drink in moderation!
Chapter “B” is for Bar
Well I guess we should start the “B’s with “Bar”, and the simple definition of same (from various sources) is; “a counter in a restaurant, etc., across which alcohol is served, and customers may sit and drink”, or “an establishment selling alcoholic drinks to be consumed on premise”.
The word is supposedly from the middle English “barrere”, in turn from the French “barriere”, or what we refer to as barrier, which was construed as any material that that acts to obstruct or prevent passage.
I would imagine this barrier concept evolved many eons ago when the unwashed bar-barian masses began to frequent drinking establishments, and it was prudent to have some form of separation between the server and the drinking public. Over my many years in the business, and in some wild joints, I was grateful for having that barrier between myself and some of the weirdo’s I served.
This barrier we are familiar with as a bar has been in use for some 2,500 years, going back to Roman times. They may have had this type of structure back in the Greek and Egyptian periods of history, but no records seem to support that theory.
Roman records and buildings indicate bars in some form were evident in tabernaes, popinaes, cauponas, thermopoliums, etc., for the serving of food and/or drink. And practically all of them had front and back bars, and tiered shelves, as the photos below indicate.
The establishments where most adult beverages were consumed were Tabernaes, which could be a respectable facility, or a dive. Some of these Tabernaes were more of a full service establishment, offering ladies in addition to food and beverages. The most common foods served were barley, wheat, cheese, honey, eggs, porridge, beans, onions, celery, carrots, turnips, sauces, soups and stews, olives, and occasional meat. If any of these facilities were located near a coliseum, there were many occasions where the carcasses from the gladiator games would be made available, such as tigers, lions, camels, giraffes, hyenas, elephants, etc., as part of the food menu.
The interesting aspect here is how little has changed in 2,000 years. Then as now, we had a bar, a back bar, shelves, server, beverages, containers, tables and seats, a transaction device, taxes, license, possibly entertainment, food, DUI’s (chariot drivers), intoxicated customers, etc. The only modern additions have been television, air conditioning, and ice machines.
The more respectable establishments also provided customers with a restroom facility. though I imagine in the winter, one did not linger there for any period of time.
Beer and wines were the primary adult beverages served, and the quality was based on the type of establishment. Beer was made from barley and wheat, flavored with figs, eggshells, fruit, crab claws, wormwood, honey, oyster shells, salt, roots, onions, etc.
Wines were flavored with pepper, raisins, roots, saffron, cypress, wormwood, honey, pears, seeds, cassia, bitter almonds, floral essences, etc. To prevent spoilage, they added resin, lead, charcoal, tar, ashes, iron filings, etc., with the most popular additive being seawater. Fine wines such as Falernium, Chian, Lesbian, Setinum, Caecuban, and Rhaetic were served in the better, more respectable establishments. In the lower class places the wine served was Mulsum, Lora, Posca, Mustum, Vinum Praeliganeum, etc.
It would seem plausible to imagine that consuming this rather exotic blend of ingredients, hangovers could be somewhat serious, and actually painful. Hangover cures popular during this period in time were two raw owl eggs in wine, necklace of parsley, wine and sea water, garlic and warm olive oil, vomitoriums, fried canaries, hot water and animal droppings, stewed eels, and flagellation. I am not sure which is worse, the hangover or the cure.
Most beverages were shipped in large amphoras (25.8 liters/27 ¼ quarts), then delivered to the shops, where they would be poured into smaller containers, or bowls set into the bar tops (note the openings in same), and this obviously required some serious upper body strength. Most customers brought their own containers to drink from, but establishments did have various sized small amphoras/pitchers for service, with the size of the serving determining the price charged.
One of the interesting aspects of the word bar, is how so many other modern industries are using the word in an attempt to increase sales. They seem to want to associate their products with the cocktail bar setting of a sociable, fun, be with friends environment, so now we have coffee bar, juice bar, salad bar, sushi bar, milk bar, lingerie bar, clam bar, soup bar, snack bar, oyster bar, wine bar, dessert bar, etc., and on and on. I am ready for the padded bar.
“B” is for Basic Bar Structure
A basic bar consists of four parts. A front bar, back bar, superstructure, and underbar. This illustration shows the basic elements of a bar.
The superstructure is the part on top of the back bar. Many of the much older or more primitive bars may just have had a plain wall, with a mirror or crude painting. The lower back bars consisted of shelving, storage cabinets, drawers, refrigeration, etc.
The fourth part of a bar is the underbar, also known as the workboard, where glasses, ice, juices and sodas, glass wash sinks, bar utensils, etc. are stored, and where there are occasionally draft beer heads.
These illustrations are from a 1900 Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. Saloon Fixture Catalog. The company was the dominant, quality manufacturer of bars, Billiard and Pool Tables, and Bowling Alleys.
Above is a Brunswick Bar from the about 1907/1908, and one of the few where the company’s nameplate was on the front bar. Usually the company had a medallion, or a smaller round metal plate attached to the side of the back bar reading Brunswick-Balke-Collander Company. There were some instances of the company’s name plate being attached to the front underbar, or on a side of one of the back bars lower display shelves.
This is a great photo with the bartender, a barback porter, hanging electrical lamps, and what looks like a 1911 Model 522-EL-20 National Cash Register. The surprising element here is that there are no liquor bottles in sight. There are hanging lamps that seem to be advertising something, and a beer mirror reflection, but no liquor. And the bartender appears to wearing an old Bartender’s Union Button. All in all, a very nice period display.
“B” is for Brian’s Old Fashioned
A small piece of ancient history about my first bartender's position (not a pretty picture) in late 1947. This was at an establishment in downtown Manhattan, in the vicinity of the courts and the jail known as "The Tombs". Our clientle was a mixture of lawyers, clerks, various civil service employees, and a large group of laborors working on a subway expansion project. Thus we had a mixture of old classic cocktail drinkers, and the beer and the shot group.
I was not paid the first two weeks on the job, as I was in training, and also due to my abnormal breakage of glassware. The floor behind the bar seemed to have wall to wall glass shards. I could not believe how many glasses I dropped , until I realized the primary reason was that they were still wet from washing (duh).
About the fourth week on the job, the owner, who was always behind the bar when I worked, said "Brian, I have to go to the bank to get change. You take care of the bar, and try not to make any mistakes while I am gone" So here I am, the very first day on my own. I felt like the Captain of the Ship, strolling up & down the bar, waiting for my very first customer. Lo & behold this fortunate individual entered. I approached the gentleman and said, "May I serve you a cocktail, sir?" The gentleman said ,"Yes, I would like to have an Old Fashioned."
So here it is, my very first cocktail ! I went to the mixing station and commenced to prepare the cocktail. I placed an old fashioned glass on the bar, and put a half of teaspoon of sugar in the bottom. Then I picked up the Angostura Bitters bottle, and attempted to pour bitters into the 1 & 1/2 oz. shot glass we used for measuring. I realized that the bitters just dripped out, so I removed the restrictive cap, and filled the 1 ½ ounce shot glass with bitters, poured it into the old fashioned glass and stirred same. I then added ice, 1 ½ ounces of blended whiskey, a dash of soda, together with a cherry, orange slice, lemon peel, and proceeded to serve the customer.
The customer was obviously in a rush to catch the subway, so he practically consumed the drink in one swallow. I awaited his response, hoping that I would receive a compliment, or maybe a tip. The gentleman did not bring his head down for about 15 or 20 seconds. He just stood there, sort of working his neck muscles. His eyes looked like they had rolled back quite a bit. He finally lowered his head, stared at me, did not say a word, left quite quickly, and.....he never even tipped me ! It appears that one and a half ounces of bitters, and one and a half ounces of whiskey in a drink does not automatically result in a tip.
A customer at the end of the bar motioned for me to approach him. He explained that he was in the restaurant business, and knew a little something about drink preparation. That gentleman proceeded to instruct me in the proper procedure for making an Old Fashioned, as well as inform me as to the potency of Angostura Bitters, in both flavor and alcohol content (90 proof). About seven years later, I was fortunate enough to be employed at the restaurant where he was one of the owners, a nice little place located at 21 West 52nd Street, New York, known as............... the "21 “ Club.
“B” is for Brandy Alexander,
A popular creamer cocktail during the 1920’s. ‘30’s, and 40’s. that consisted of ¾ oz. brandy, ¾ oz. crème de cacao, 1 ½ oz. cream, shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. The original cocktail recipe was a Gin Alexander (where gin replaced the brandy), which evolved in the 1920’s during Prohibition, when attempts were made to mask the taste of both bathtub and off the boat gin, by adding sweetening and/or cream elements. If you ordered an Alexander back then, it was always made with gin, crème de cacao, and cream. In reality gin and crème de cacao are not that compatible, so in a very short time, brandy replaced the gin, and the cocktail was called a Brandy Alexander. And it is a quite good cocktail, especially for the tastes of consumers of those years, and as an introduction for young ladies to the world of adult beverages, and ……….
A neat spin off of the Alexander’s was the Grasshopper (where green crème de menthe replaced the brandy), and the Pink Squirrel (where crème de noyeau replaced the brandy). These two concoctions are somewhat on the sweet side, so by adding an ounce of brandy to the recipe, you will have a more balanced and enjoyable cocktail. A couple of M & M’s would be a nice garnish.
“BDS" –a bar drinking story
Back in the 1960’s, I was managing a few eating and drinking establishments quite well, or so I thought. The owner came to me and said we have some liquor cost problems. It seems one of our bars suddenly had a 3 ½% increase in it’s monthly liquor cost, so it was my responsibility to eliminate the problem.
I discussed with the unit managers the problem, and asked them to keep a more focused eye on the bar/lounge operation. A month later the costs were still up high, so I met with the managers again, and they said they had really kept an eye on the bar and bartenders, but did not see any indication of anything causing the problem.
The third month arrived with the same high cost variance, so the owner stated that he was going to have a shopping service audit the operation. A shopping service as most of you know, visits eating and drinking establishments to observe employee behavior and service elements, and to determine if all sales are being recorded properly
The service conducted nine visits during the month, and reported no violations of company service and cashiering standards. This most certainly created a problem with my employer, and consequently I had to determine the cause of the problem.
The next month I made quiet a few visits to the unit to observe it’s operation, and could not sense, or notice anything that I thought was creating the problem. But…on one nights closing shift, one of the bus boys asked if he could speak to me. I said sure, so he asked me why does Charley, the closing bartender, pour a bottle of liquor down the drain when closing, and wouldn’t it be cheaper to use Draino.
The next day I had a meeting with Charley, and asked him if it was true that he was pouring a bottle of liquor down the drain at the end of his shift whenever he worked. Obviously he was quite upset about the subject matter, but I knew he was an honest and dependable bartender, and asked him to explain the reason for his behavior. And his explanation was a new one on me.
A few months back one of the night managers had reprimanded him (wrongly) while on shift, and in front of numerous customers at the bar, and in the lounge. Charley was extremely upset, especially because he was not at fault. Sooooo……Charley decided to get even by screwing up the liquor costs. Every night at the end of his shift he would pour a bottle of liquor down the drain. And being an equal opportunity bartender, he would vary the selection of spirits. One night Crown Royal, next night Chivas, then Jack Daniels, Beefeater, maybe a VS Cognac, etc.
Unfortunately I had no choice but to terminate his employment, but I secretly thanked him for providing me with another look at causes and effect.
“B” is for Bar Cartoon
And for the Bar Art of Virgil Partch (VIP), Cartoonist/Absurdist
Virgil Partch was born in 1916, in Alaska, which could explain some of his unique cartoons. Supposedly he studied art at the University of Arizona (at least it’s warmer there), and the Chouinard Art Institute in California (still warm). He also worked at Disney Studios for four years. In 1941 he started submitting cartoons to the major magazines of that period, and in 1942 sold his first cartoon to Collier’s, and the wicked, silly, great cartoonist was on his way.
He created a series of meaningful funny, clever books with titles such as Bottle Fatigue, Here We Go Again, The Wild, Wild, Women, Man and Beast, The Dead Game Sportsman, Authentic and Hilarious Bar Guide, New Faces on the Barroom Floor, etc., etc. I was able to enjoy his off the wall cartoons in the old 1950’s True Magazine, (which may explain my state of mind), but most certainly enjoyed his sardonic, and quite apropos humor, no less a sharp rapier pen.
And a couple VIP’s special recipes:
Virgil Franklin Partch died in an automobile accident in 1984.
“B” is for Bloody Mary
When I started working behind the bar in the late 1940’s, Bloody Marys (made with Gin), were just beginning to become popular, and in those days most of them were shaken during their preparation, and then poured into a pre-chilled tall glass. The basic garnish was a celery stalk, and maybe a couple of olives. Today’s method of building a Bloody Mary evolved because many bartenders were to lazy to shake them, and that way they didn’t have to wash the mixing utensils. It still tastes better shaken!
Obviously over the years the Bloody Mary has undergone a somewhat dramatic change, with Vodka becoming the dominant spirit, and with numerous entities attempting to outdo the other in both preparation, content, and garnish techniques. In addition, a bevy of company’s produce innumerous versions of prepared Bloody Mary mix, further diluting the basic plain and easy way to make the concoction.
Ages ago we had a formula that seemed to pleasure our customers, and I herewith submit same, and it can be prepared be either the build or shake method, but will just list the build method to make your task easier.
In a tall 12 or 14 ounce glass ¾ filled with ice cubes, pour;
As many of you are aware, the garnish application has become quite an extensive cornucopia of vegetables, with peppers, radishes, onions, carrots, scallions, dilly beans, okra, baby corn, potatoes, lettuce leaves, beets, cucumbers, etc., etc. making appearances, as well as clams, shrimp, salmon, crayfish, etc. Hell, why don’t we mix them all together and have a Bouillabaisse?
Then we have the spice applications with cayenne, ginger, peppercorns, oregano, cumin, celery salt, fennel, caraway, dill, wasabe, soy, coriander, anise, curry, and numerous others, resulting in a distinctly non traditional Bloody Mary. I believe the original Bloody Mary recipe as listed above (sans Aquavit and lager), was quite tasty, refreshing, and well suited for the morning breakfast, especially after an evening of serious socializing. They certainly seemed to alleviate the fatigue?
P.S. Don’t salt the rim. It is unhealthy and diminishes the drinks flavors.
“B” is for Bar Utensils?
In an attempt to provide a public service to the bar and drink trade, am listing this particular Bar Tool Utensil as an option in establishments that have a somewhat high energy format.
As the ad blurb states: Bouncer’s Guide To Barroom Brawling, Dealing with the Sucker Puncher, Streetfighter, and Ambusher by Peyton Quinn. As a bouncer in a biker bar and a participant in dozens of fights, Peyton Quinn knows the difference between fighting fact and fancy. The result is a unique guide to self-defense that can save your ass in places where brawling is quick, dirty and very violent. 5½ x 8½, photos, illus., 264pp.
“B” is for Barkeep
An excerpt from an article written by George Augustus Sala in 1853:
“The Barkeep and his assistants possess the agility of acrobats and the prestidigitative skill of magicians. They are all bottle-conjurors. They toss the drinks about; they throw brimful glasses over their heads; they shake the saccharine, glacial, and alcoholic ingredients in long tin tubes; they scourge eggs and cream into a froth; they send bumpers shooting from one end of the bar to the other without spilling a drop; they give change, talk politics, tell quaint anecdotes, swear strange oaths, smoke, chew, and expectorate with astonishing celerity and dexterity. I should like to be a bar-keeper, if I were clever enough.”
Well, I sure would like to have been a Barkeep in the above time period. Magical drink service, smoking and spitting, cursing, bullshitting, and probably drinking too. COOL! I do not remember where I obtained this article, but obviously we had flair bartending, and tin shakers, which I thought had not evolved until a much later period. And…..I guess the readers have a word or two to look up.
In 1883, Mr. Sala wrote in the Daily Telegraph about the American Bar at the Fisheries Exhibition in London, to wit:
“The American Bar at the fisheries Exhibition has become a very note-worthy feature among the attractions of that eminently popular show; and if the ‘drinks’ themselves cannot be properly described as ‘exhibits’, they certainly enjoy an extensive amount of patronage from the daily thousands who flock to see the Exhibition. The catalogue of drinks is in itself a curiosity. A list of one hundred and eighty is given, among which are to be found seven varieties of ‘cocktails’, ranging from “Chinese’ to the “Bombay”.
There are four spirituous mixtures known as ‘skins’, three ‘crustas’, three preparations of rum, brandy, and peach brandy respectively, in which honey is mingled, and a number of ‘drinks’ wuth ‘fancy’ names such as ‘fisherman’s prayer’, ‘prairie oyster’, ‘eye opener’, ‘nerver’, ‘thunder’, ‘straights’, ‘leave-it-to-me’, ‘settler’, ‘bosom caresser’, ‘swizzle’, ‘Boston flip’, and ‘pick-me-up’. All these are ‘short’ drinks-that is to say drams. In the list of ‘long’ drinks which may be imbibed with deliberation and through the medium of a couple of straws may be mentioned ‘Spanish Delight’, ‘gin-sling’, ‘stone fence’, ‘soda cocktail’, ‘mother’s milk’, ‘John Collins’, ‘egg nog’, ‘milk punch’, Sangaree’, ‘sherry cobbler’, ‘mint julep’, ‘Stonewall Jackson’, etc., etc., etc.
I envy Mr. Sala, a famous British writer, for the numerous times he wrote about drink and drinking establishments, and obviously enjoying the task. Huzzah!
“B” is for Beverage Advertising-Unique
This quite creative beverage advertising piece is featured on trucks that advertise Bionade, an organic fermented and carbonated beverage produced in Germany.
It is a non-alcoholic beverage, that is available in four different flavors, Elderberry (Holunder), Lychee (Litschi), Herbs (Krauter), and Ginger-Orange (Ingwer-Orange). Quite impressive advertising.
“B” is for Bottom’s Up, a 1928 recipe guide
A unique book in the shape of a cocktail shaker, with a biplane doing a back dive (tailspin) as cover artwork, and the subtitle reading 52 Cock-tail Spins & High Flyers, from the recipes of many celebrities. Compiled by Two Knights & a Maid, printed by The Buzza Co., a quite famous publishing firm of yesteryear.
Three of the book’s recipes deserve some attention either for their satirical bent, or liquor content.
American Tragedy compiled by Theodore Dreiser, famous writer
Maybe a better recipe title would be “You light up my life”
Innocents Aloft created by Henry Justin Smith, famous writer & newspaper editor
Singapore Sling recipe by Frank Buck, very famous hunter, wildlife collector, writer, filmmaker, etc.
After consuming one or two of these, there will be no Bring ‘em Back Alive issue.
“B” is for Bartender
Here is a 1963 Canadian Club ad from Playboy Magazine that was obviously oriented to what the consumer’s concept of a professional bartender’s attributes consisted of in the period of the 1960’s. As a bartender of that period (before and after), I can vouch for this simpler and more fulfilling period of the bar/drink trade. Those were good days!
“B” is for Bottle Line Set-Up
From the late 1960’s through 1976 I was employed at a company called Host International, Inc., which operated Food and Beverage Operations in most major airports, four hotels and two restaurant chains. My position was Director of Beverage Services, with corporate staff responsibility for about 200 bar/lounges, both operations and administrative.
Attempting to provide efficient support for multiple operations required some standards of operations, and I was fortunate enough to be able to develop some that were quite helpful in achieving those standards. One of the operational systems that was quite effective was the Bottle Line Set-Up, which was good for the limited amount of brands we operated with back in those days. The basic purpose of the program was:
- to organize back bar storage
I was always observing bar/beverage operations throughout the system, attempting to find ways of improving sales, service, and profit goals. One of the elements of operations that bugged me the most was the disorganized, chaotic storage of liquor brands behind the bar. Watching bartenders “hunting for a brand” while the customer was waiting for a drink really aggravated me. I have always believed that the faster you served the customer, the faster they bought the second or third drink, which were the profit drinks. The schematic below is one of the back bar three tiered lower display shelves, but the sequence applies to all storage areas.
All brands were stored (if possible) in both categorical (blend/bourbon/ Canadian/ Scotch/Single Malts, etc., then Vodka/Gin/Rum/Tequila, then Brandy/Cognac/Cordials, etc., and alphabetical sequence, including the liquor storage rooms. And all requisition and inventory forms also were listed in the same sequence, to facilitate simpler ordering techniques and inventory, and control issues. All bottles on the back bar (top and lower shelves) had a small label or Dyno tape under the bottle to indicate what bottle belonged in that position, and the Bar Bottle Par Forms were also sequenced.
Speed racks were sequenced by the popularity of brands in that cities location, with the six to eight dominant brands being stored in a right to left sequence, and they were also labeled. This system requires some work and effort to initiate, (as bartenders quite often resist change) but surely results in an organized system, a more attractive bar, and most certainly expedites customer service and satisfaction, and negates bartenders looking for bottles, or constantly changing their location to their preferences.
The first installation worked quite well within four or five days, so the I installed same in the other six bar/lounges in this airport, so a bartender could work any location practically blindfolded, as it takes bartenders about four or five days to get the system in their head, and then they go back to grabbing bottles almost without looking. Within six months the system was nation wide , and a bartender in Los Angeles could go to work in Seattle, Honolulu, New York, Detroit, etc., and feel right at home when he got behind the bar, making for minimal adjustment to begin serving drinks.
Obviously with today’s deluge of liquor brands, a simple Bottle Line Set-Up might not seem applicable for most operations, but the key is that it works. Think I will discuss Liquor Brand Limitation, it’s time! in Chapter L, which should upset most distillers and importers, but……….it needs to be done!
Weirdo “B” recipes
“B” is for Bloody Awful
1 ½ ounces Metaxa Brandy
“B” is for Blow My Skull Off
Pour into a 8 ounce highball glass
….and last, but not least
“B” is for Boilerfaker
Straight shot of whiskey (your choice), with a non-alcoholic beer