Yes, they do do that!
Bartending is a big profession on our little islands. They make the world a better, brighter place come the end of the day, or maybe even the beginning? Bartenders know our favorite drinks, songs, anecdotes and a few secrets here and there. But bartenders are people too and they have there own anecdotes and secrets. In order to get them, we offered one Key West bartender complete anonymity in exchange for the goods. This bartender has worked in the business for 39 years and has been a part of six different establishments here in Key West. When asked why he bartends, he said, “Money, health plan, to meet people — but mostly, to keep me out of trouble.” Well, not all trouble…
What question do you hate to be asked? ‘What’s your favorite drink to make?’ Seriously, I will make whatever you want; just tell me.
Least favorite drink to ever make? Key Lime Martini, it’s delicious but a pain to make, lots of steps. Caramelizing a martini rim takes too long.
Favorite? Vodka on the rocks!
Do you see people in a certain type of clothing or look and dread serving them? Yes. Let’s see, nouveau riche, big designer purses, wearing too much gold, over the top jewelry, name brand clothes and obvious designer shirts, basically the guido look from Hialeah.
Biggest lie you ever told a customer? ‘I can’t make that.’ That’s a lie, I can make anything. And I tell fake Key West stories, like we move the island during a hurricane and we can swim under it but only locals know how. They always believe me.
What’s the stupidest question you have ever been asked? ‘Can I call the U.S. from here?’ This one is usually from cruise ship passengers, both American and European, who have no idea where they are. Also, they ask if I live here, so I say no, I live in New York and commute.
Ever kicked someone out of your bar? Yes, rude drunk, shirtless truck driver who was insulting customers.
What’s the best tip you have ever gotten? “I was the server at a private party by myself and got $400.”
What’s your most popular drink? Pineapple-flavored Cosmo and Gin and Juice.
Best conversation you ever overheard? Always gossip, but I’ve heard it all: people openly talking about drug deals, prostitutes and swingers. The best line was, ‘We’re married but just not to each other.’
Stereotype your favorite customer: Funny, good sense of humor and can carry a conversation. Knows what they want to drink and can hold their liquor!
What do customers want to talk to you about? They always ask about my personal life, like why I came here? I say sex, drugs and alcohol, which is true. But it was actually the Copa and I was pissed it burned down. Then they always ask me when the bar closes, like they have to race back from the 400 other bars in Key West to have their last drink with me. No idea why.
Give people a piece of advice to get a bartender’s attention. Money always works; no kidding.
Do you ever avoid customers? If I have to, I just start putting candles on all the tables and avoid the bar.
Ever watered down drinks? Only three times, because they needed it. But I admit, I have mixed red wines to fill a glass; no one ever notices. But I never skimp on ingredients in cocktails.
Ever change prices of drinks? Sure, ALL bartenders do it. I’ve up-charged for cheap brands, and down charged too. It pays to be nice and be my friend.
Advice to customers? Don’t start a conversation about politics, religion or sports at a bar. No, no, no. And don’t say, ‘ I know how to drink.’ Usually that’s the first clue you don’t.