Bartenders and the craft of bartending have been experiencing a modern day renaissance in the last few years. Unfortunately, many people plying their trade “behind the stick,” as bartenders refer to their work behind the bar, forget that the most important part of the bar is the guest experience. In trying to proclaim themselves as mixologists, some bartenders have forgotten that they work in the service industry, and that first and foremost their job is to make cocktails for the enjoyment of their guests. Thankfully, great bartenders who can both take care of the guest and make incredible cocktails do exist; you just have to look for them.
On a recent trip to San Francisco with friends, we wandered into a famous cocktail bar in the Tenderloin section of the city. One of the house rules here is, “Don’t even think of ordering a Cosmo.” While I don’t particularly like Cosmopolitans, as the guest, why shouldn’t I be allowed to order a Cosmo if I so choose? It’s my money and my experience, and perhaps I don’t feel like drinking a recreation of an 18th century nobleman’s tipple. The experience of reading that on a cocktail menu was off-putting, and my friends and I had our obligatory one drink and then moved on to friendlier bars.
Luckily, we found that the true craft of bartending—servicing the guest with passion and enthusiasm—was alive and well at Jasper’s Corner Tap at the Hotel Serrano and at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. When we walked into Jasper’s, the head barman Kevin Diedrich introduced himself to us and then proceeded to whip up amazing versions of any cocktail we chose. It was apparent from the beginning that the focus at Jasper’s was in making us comfortable and providing high-end, creative, and unique cocktails. They succeeded in spades.
Harry Denton’s Starlight Room was equally impressive, with head bartender Joel Teitelbaum greeting us with a smile and a handshake before creating bespoke cocktails to meet our whim. The creativity and service from the bar staff was truly impressive and more importantly, I could tell that the bar staff were actually listening to their guests and doing their best to make their guests feel welcomed and at home.
While I didn’t order a Cosmo at either Jasper’s or the Starlight Room, I have no doubt that either place would have accommodated my request with a smile and offered up their version of the cocktail. And even if the nameless bar actually makes better drinks (it doesn’t), I’d rather take the friendliness and hospitality that Jasper’s and the Starlight Room showed any day. As unfortunate as it may be to run into the occasional pretentious bar or self-absorbed mixologist, discovering places like Jasper’s and Harry Denton’s Starlight Room is a refreshing experience. Great bartenders know that the most important thing in a bar is taking care of their guests’ needs.