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The Barmaid Blog™: Life for a 30-something Manhattan Barmaid

The Barmaid Blog FAQ (v. 1.1)

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Corona Barmaid
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The Barmaid Blog FAQ (v. 1.1)

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Corona Barmaid
I've updated the Barmaid Blog FAQ! Most of the new material is at the end, though the very first question has an updated answer. Ladies and gentlemen, start your cut tags...

I get a lot of e-mails from readers, which is wonderful - I love that you want to be in touch with me, compliment me, learn from me, flirt with me, bitch me out, or insult my baseball or college hockey teams of choice. :-) I'm finding that a lot of people ask me similar questions, though, so I thought I'd throw this out there, if for no other reason than it'll give me a handy URL to point people to if they keep asking the same questions after I post this.

These are in no particular order.

How can I become a barmaid/bartender/barback? (Now updated with advice from someone who took a more traditional route!)

My own experience was a little unusual. As I explained in my second post ever, my friend Molly and I did one night of guest bartending at our favorite bar, and it went so well that I asked the manager if he would consider hiring me. When he said yes, I left a stable, salaried job and became a barmaid. I know I'm not the first or the last person ever to get a bartending job out of a guest bartending stint, but it's hardly a reliable way to go about trying to land one for yourself.

The sad truth is that I honestly don't know what to recommend as a traditional route. There are an awful lot of people looking to tend bar and not a lot of openings out there - and a lot of them are attractive women, so don't necessarily think that gives you an edge if you're one of them. Pound the pavement, visit bars and ask around, check the ads in the paper. Try to get guest bartending slots if you're a regular somewhere, and prove you're indispensible. Don't give up.

EDIT: Rob of BriliantDonkey very generously e-mailed me his own thoughts on the more traditional route that he followed, and has kindly agreed to let me share them with you here:

I would have to say the MOST traditional route as far as I am concerned is to start off as a barback, server, busser, hostess or whatever and let it be known that you would like to work your way up to the bar. Two things you have going against you are A) Very few places in my experience hire people right off the street to go right behind the bar, unless you know someone or they KNOW you have lots of experience. They don’t know if you will freak the first time you get in the weeds, or for that matter if they can trust you. B)For the most part EVERY server wants to be behind the bar. I am sure there are exceptions but not a whole lot. As a result even if you do start off serving, your request may very well go in one ear and out of the other. At the same time, if they are hurting for servers don't be surprised if in the interview they tell you 'yeah sure we can get you behind the bar in no time.' Whether they mean it or are just telling you what you want to hear you decide. Some tips to 'stand out' among the many servers that want to bartend are:

Buy yourself a drink recipe book($5-$8). Take it to your bartender(s) and have them highlight the ones your place sells regularly. Ask your manager for a recipe guide to the specialty drinks your establishment offers. When you (and they) are not busy and see them making something don’t be afraid to ask them "what they are making?" If you can respond to their answer of "white Russian" with "Kahlua, Vodka, and cream right?" all the better. If you have no idea what is in it, ask. If you get along good with them and won’t be in the way ask them if they can let you make a drink here and there. In short, show legitimate interest in learning the stuff instead of just talking about it. Do this for a while and when the day comes that Debra and Jocelyn are out on a double date with Jason Giambi and Mario your name will pop up to fill in.

Thanks, Rob. :-)

Do I need to take a bartending class or have a bartending certificate?

No. I took one, but it was more out of intellectual curiosity and panic over whether I was really prepared for the job I'd already been offered than anything else. As far as I've been able to see, most bars don't require that you take any class, just that you have the right knowledge and experience.

What qualities do I need to possess to bartend well?

Physical stamina, patience, decent math skills, forgiveness, a good smile, a good sense of humor, a decent memory, a working knowledge of beers, wines & spirits, and a commitment to safety.

How can I get a job in publishing?

I promised myself I wouldn't try to discourage people from doing this, but are you serious?!

Now that I've gotten that out of my system... Publishing is a fairly traditional field, one in which everybody is expected to pay exactly the same dues that have been paid by everyone who came before them. So if you want to end up at a certain point being a book editor at a publisher large enough to pay you well, your first two jobs will probably look something like this: A) At least one summer of unpaid internship, which will consist largely of gophering. B) At least two to three years as an editorial assistant, which will consist largely of gophering, glorified secretarying, and occasionally having time to do actual editorial work (in my case, that meant reading the "slush pile" - industry jargon for unsolicited and unrepresented manuscripts that have almost no hope of ever getting in front of an actual editor), while getting paid about the same as an adolescent driving a sewing machine in Bhopal. Then, chances are pretty good that you won't have a third job in the business, because there's too much competition for too few jobs.

There's a lot to be said for doing what you love to make a living. If you truly love the idea of working in publishing, go for it. But everything I know about it says that it's a painful ladder to climb, and the payoff isn't that fantastic to begin with.

Are you single?

As of this posting, yes, I'm single.

Are you hot?

As far as you know.

Where is The Bar and can I come have a drink there?

The Bar is on the island of Manhattan in New York City. Beyond that, for now, I am declining to identify its real name or location. You are welcome to have a drink there - in fact, you may already have done so without realizing it!

Do people at The Bar know about your blog? Are they okay with it?

My employers and my colleagues know about my blog. To date, nobody has expressed any reservations about it; I guess either they know me and feel they can trust me, or they don't care. None of them has the same name in real life as they do on the blog; "Tommy" the barback for instance, is not really named "Tommy," but "Tommy" always refers to the same individual, not some amalgam of barback personalities. So it's possible they don't care how I describe them because the only ones who actually know whose behavior is being described have already witnessed their behavior first-hand, but that's just my theory.

A few of the Bar's regular customers (very few) know about the blog, too. Any customer who knows about the blog and has given me permission to write about him or her has also been renamed for his or her protection, e.g., "Mario" is not really named "Mario."

May I add you as a Friend?


May I link to your blog from my blog/website/profile?

Absolutely. I may not always "trade" links - it's nothing personal, but I only add links to stuff that I'm compelled to read on a regular basis myself.

May I republish or reprint one of your blog entries?

I'd rather you give people a link to the blog entry you want to share with them rather than copying and pasting it into your own blog entry, website, magazine, etc. But if you really want to reproduce what I've done here for some reason, I'd ask that you ask for my permission. The basic gist is that I own the copyright to everything I post here. If you ask nicely and explain why, chances are good I'll let you republish. (If you're doing it for business purposes, though, I'll want a cut!)

Could you introduce me to {Jocelyn / Amy / Dara / Cassie / Jill / Jessica / Molly / Mario / Tommy / Bill / Todd / etc.}? {He/She} sounds cute!

No. I also won't forward your e-mails to them. Apart from being mildly creepy, it could become time consuming. Shout-outs are welcome in the comments section, but I can't promise that the people they're directed to will ever even read them.

Can I buy {Jocelyn / Amy / Dara / Cassie / Jill / Jessica / Molly / Mario / Tommy / Bill / Todd / etc.} a drink by sending you money? {He/She} deserves it for something cool {he/she} {did/said/wore/ate}.

Although I won't forbid you from sending me money via PayPal (I'm not even sure that's possible), I also won't encourage it. I would rather not be accused of using my blog as a shameless means of begging for money. Just as with shout-outs (see above), props are also welcome in the comments section, with the same caveat.

LiveJournal limits how many people you can Friend and how many people can Friend you (or at least how many of them are displayed on your profile). How did you get yours above the limit?

After the kind LiveJournal folks featured me in their lj_spotlight community, people started adding me like crazy to their Friends lists, and the limits kicked in pretty quickly. As a special favor, since it was kind of their "fault" to begin with, those same kind folks lifted the limits on my profile display.

You haven't answered my own burning question. Can I still e-mail you?

Sure. You can always e-mail me. I might even include your question in a future FAQ.

Has Peter called yet?

Where did you get the avatar you use of the barmaid?

It's called the Corona Barmaid, and I shamelessly stole it from someone else after doing a Google image search for "barmaid."

Do you have any plans/ambitions to author a book?

I started the Barmaid Blog because I do want to write a book, and I thought it would be a great way to force myself to write on a regular basis. I don't know what form the book would take, or whether anybody would want to publish it, but for now I'm treating the Blog as an ends, not a means.

Do you have a kitchen? Are you nice to your kitchen staff?

The Bar does have a kitchen, and we still have lunch specials. I very rarely work the midday shifts, though, so I don't know the midday kitchen staff very well. After mid-afternoon, we don't keep the kitchen staff on, and we don't encourage people to order food by putting menus out, so most people don't (and in fact we allow people to bring in or order in food from elsewhere). Anyway, I'm nice to everybody who works at the Bar unless they stop being nice to me. :-)

How many other people's blogs do you read?

Right now, it's fewer than a dozen. The list of "Links" in the left-hand sidebar of my blog should give you an idea of the ones I tend to follow, though I haven't been very good about keeping that list current.

Who's your favorite college hockey team?

I only follow the University of New Hampshire Wildcats men's hockey team - and occasionally UNH alumni who play in the pros.

Do you follow other sports?

Baseball (Yankees) and college hockey (UNH) are the only sports I follow with any real serious devotion. I've been known to watch other sports on TV or go to live games when tickets have found their way into my hands, but I don't get passionate about them the way I do about my Yankees and Wildcats.

Does ordering a specific drink ever make you assume something about the person who orders it? For example, if I ordered a rum and Coke, would you think I was an aggressive but passionate guy? Or if I ordered a Sam Adams, would you think that I was a mellow guy?

Not really, no. I learned a long time ago that you can't judge a book by its cover or a patron by his or her drink. Some regulars at the Bar have regular drinks that they stick to religiously, so I tend to associate those people with their drinks of choice - but not in terms of their personalities.

On the other hand, if Jason Giambi ever came into the Bar and ordered a pink squirrel, I might just put my head down and cry.

Besides LiveJournal, what other sites are you interested in? Like MySpace, YouTube, etc.?

I just created an account for myself on MySpace a few days ago, figuring that it might be a good way to spread the word about the Barmaid Blog through "viral marketing" - the same way some bands have become popular just by using MySpace. But I'm honestly not sure how to use it for that purpose, other than e-mailing thousands of people who've never heard of me, which I am reluctant to do. In the meantime, anybody wishing to add me as a friend on MySpace is welcome to - I use the same e-mail address over there, barmaid.blog at gmail dot com.

How tall are you?

I'm 5'4".

Are you ever going to give us a detailed description about these baseball player dreams you have?

If I ever stop blushing at the mere thought of sharing the details of my sex dreams with 2,200+ people I've never met, I might. :-)

Have you ever had/considered having a relationship with someone you have worked with at the Bar or one of the patrons?

In the three years I've worked at the Bar, I've given my phone number to (I think) four patrons, and none of those panned out past the first date. I might tend to be a little warier of patrons than I am of people I meet in other contexts, but otherwise I don't consider them any different. If someone does or says the right things, and I want to get to know them better, I'll make it my business to do so. :-)

But I have never been involved with any of my co-workers at the Bar, and I don't think it would be a very good idea. Patrons can just take their business elsewhere - it's not so easy for us wage'n'tip slaves.

Are you bisexual?

I'm a little surprised how often I get this question by e-mail, so I might as well just answer it. Yes. I think on some level, most women are at least a little bisexual, or at least a little bi-curious. I'm not an exception.

How much do you average in tips a night? What was your best tip?

I don't feel comfortable talking about how much I make on a nightly or weekly basis. But if I'm remembering right, the best individual tip I ever got was $50, from a professional basketball player whose name I couldn't come up with if you paid me.

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