In last month’s Vanity Fair , Ralph Lauren was the featured Proust Questionnaire responder. (For those who just don’t have the time to read the featured society, gossip, crime, and lifestyle coverage that VF delivers, the questionnaire is a monthly must read. It is the magazine’s last page of editorial and often the first one read. Plus, Graydon Carter the flamboyant Editor at the helm of VF couldn’t resist and had to join the masses of restaurant owners. He owns The Waverly Inn and The Monkey Bar. He’s got it bad.) To the question: When and Where were you happiest? , he responded “Eating a burnt-bacon cheeseburger and pecan pie at J.G. Melon.” Throw in a martini and that is considered Manhattan Mecca.
I can relate. Having spent the majority of the 80’s perched on a stool at the hook of the famed
Melon’s was, and still is, one of the original Society Burger Saloons so plentiful in NYC. Before the swath of Starbucks acquired corner bar spaces, Melon’s, Churchill’s, Martell’s and Elaine’s where the places to go and be seen, have a burger, a Martini, and spend a few minutes, an hour, or in some cases, the evening or day, or both.
I read the Lauren’s response to my wife, Kranston, who I was introduced to there one rain struck evening, just before Thanksgiving in 1987. Lauren’s statement vindicated me for the hours spent on the customer’s side of the bar watching, learning, drinking and feeling the restaurant business. Simply, it was one of the places I acquired the skills, first hand, of how to operate a restaurant.
Those were the high-times in
Rocco was the mainstay of the day bar business at Melon’s. If he knew and liked you, you were rapidly invited on the hook, introduced to the movers, shakers, stars, celebrities and regulars. If he didn’t know you – and you paid little attention to him because he was just “a bartender”, you were in serious hospitality hell.
However, if he greeted you with “Sweetheart” as you walked through the door, it was your pass to the frequent bar buy back and consistent over-pours– always with the words “Kiniblitz wanted me to buy you a drink.” Code for “this one’s on me”.
In a world where mixologists pride themselves in a perfectly poured standing Stoli – not a drop more or less than rim kissing, Rocco would intentionally over count the wrist action and leave the shaker glass, glistening with ice, Stoli and a hint of Noli Prat until the first sip of serenity’s enemy was lifted and savored. He would then empty the shaker, sure to overflow the rim, to alleviate evidence that inventory was going to be high.
Yes, those were the days of the over pour and bar buy-back. Especially in
However, in an economy that is less frivolous than the c-note times of
Hence, the wine glass filled with rice, sugar, colored water or simply left empty with a crooked black line, signifying the amount of wine, whether white or red, to be profitably poured. It may sound foolish. I am sure bartenders look in awe when the pour police present the vessels. Yet, a slight heavy handed pour, throughout the course of an evening, a busy weekend, or a rush of regulars and friends, and the Cabernet evaporation factor can set in faster than you can say, “Bob, where’s all that Talbot we bought?”
I am noticing it more frequently. And, the owners who have initiated the line-marked or visible-substance filled glasses are on the right control track. A bartender claiming to accurately pour on a two-count, three-count or four-count is a rare commodity in hospitality today. And unless you are Monk, the possibilities of consistency are nil.
But there is a down side to the example glass. Training a bartender, or waiter – if they are allowed to pour- is imperative. I have watched as professional bartenders simply use the glass as a guide, a reference point, to get to the point and consistently reach the level line every time. They inconspicuously gaze and compare wine to line. That’s the way it should be done.
However, there are those who crouch to glass level, eyeing the line and the pour as though dispensing prescription medication where the directions signify too much or too little will induce instant death.
If the pour police have visited your inventory lately, and you are initiating the wine-line -glasses explain and show the staff how to use them so your customers are not aware of the measurement assistant. It is completely reasonable to use the glasses, but don’t forget to train the staff on how to use them inconspicuously.
And when in