Foreword: The Bartender’s Burden
Yes, it’s a bit of a buzzkill, but any discussion about alcohol needs to start with a discussion about the responsibilities involved in its distribution and consumption. Bear with me, here – I promise we’ll get to the fun stuff soon.
I realize everyone’s tolerance is different, and I’m not going to lecture on what’s the “right” amount for a given person to consume under a given set of circumstances – there are so many factors involved that it’s often impossible to predict, anyway. It’s up to each of us, individually, to know our limits and to exercise that knowledge.
That said, there are certain rules a bartender should follow in any situation:
Don’t serve alcohol to anyone under legal drinking age. I’m no great fan of age restrictions, as in my mind they simply create a mystique and therefore a tendency to over-consumption once one reaches that age. But the fact is, illegal is illegal. A home bartender may be less likely than a professional to be charged and prosecuted for it, but it’s always best not to take the risk.
Don’t serve alcohol to anyone already intoxicated. Admittedly, this one’s more of a judgment call; even seasoned bartenders often can’t tell how drunk someone is based on normal interaction. But if someone’s looking a little worse for the wear, it’s okay – in fact, it’s the only responsible action – to cut them off. You can make a joke out of it: “Larry, if your face gets any redder I’m going to put you in the corner and use you as a space heater.” Most people will be perfectly understanding. (If they’re not, you should probably think twice before inviting them over again). Besides, when they’re trashed, they’re not going to appreciate the artistry of your drinks, anyway.
Use (and encourage the use of) a designated driver. One would hope this goes without saying. When you’re drinking, don’t drive – make arrangements to stay over or get a ride. When you’re hosting, do your best to ensure that the drinkers all have rides home; if they don’t, cut them off after one. If someone’s plans for transport fall through, find a sober person to take them home, or give them your couch for the night.
Be careful with broken glass. Cold glassware gets frosty, the frost melts, the glass gets slippery, and suddenly you have a pile of broken glass. Keep a broom and dustpan and a damp cloth handy to clean it up. If you have an open tub of ice nearby and there’s ANY chance some of the glass fell into it, dump the tub, rinse it out, and fill with fresh ice. Nothing kills a party mood faster than someone splitting their lip open on a piece of glass in their drink…or worse, swallowing it. (The Rebel Bartender thanks Stephen Kittredge Cunningham, the author of The Bartender’s Black Book, for this one.)
With the exception of the last, you can probably see the common theme running through these rules – specifically, that it is the bartender’s responsibility to avoid enabling destructive behavior. You can’t control your friends’ decisions, but you can use your own common sense and discretion. A little bit of foresight can go a long way towards ensuring that everyone has a good time – and you never know, your thoughtfulness might serve as a positive example to someone you know when they’re faced with such a choice in the future.
All right! Now that’s over with, we can get on to the fun stuff! Next week’s topic: Selecting Ingredients; or, How Not To Go Tharn When Faced With The Liquor Aisle. Meantime, stick around – there’s more to come over the week.