Alcoholics Synonymous: when tasting drinks goes too far

Nick Reed

A recent conversation with a difficult customer has been playing on my mind. The main point of contention with the woman in question was the fact that my head bartender was not straw tasting every one of his drinks as he sent them over the bar. She asked me whether he thought of himself as some sort of cocktail god. For the sake of conflict resolution I obviously did not justify this comment with an answer however what I really wanted to say went something like this. “No, I believe he’s just an accomplished bartender who can execute the same simple recipe over and over without tasting the drink every single time.” Oh if only.

Now I believe that it is important to check the quality of your cocktails, especially those which are notoriously hard to balance, but tasting every drink you make throughout the night is unnecessary and also related to a wider health issue which is endemic within our industry, alcoholism.

Before I go on let me just point out that I am no puritan looking to throw stones, I simply feel this is a discussion that needs to be raised by someone from within.

In a standard working week most bartenders will do five shifts. If during these shifts they make 60 cocktails and taste five ml from each one this will on average lead them to consume two standard drinks each shift. Add in a knock-off drink or two after work this leads to an approximate minimum of 15 standard drinks throughout their ‘working week’. Then we have the bartender’s weekend. After a tough week of serving punters it is of course natural to want to let your hair down and enjoy some R&R, unfortunately this most often stands for Rye whiskey and Red Wine rather than rest and relaxation. A conservative estimate for these nights of booze-fuelled banter would be about 15 standard drinks. Let’s then throw in the obligatory two drinks the next day to quell the hangover and we have a grand total of 30 drinks per average week.



When one considers that the experts recommend no more than 10 drinks a week with at least two Alcohol Free Days the stats aren’t good. Even if we double the quacks’ recommended total (because let’s face it, that’s what they expect us to do) the average bartender is still way over the odds. If we throw in the culture of fast food and caffeine consumption, smoking not to mention other illicit substances it isn’t hard to see why this is certainly a young man’s caper.

So, as managers, owners or those with experience is it not partly our responsibility to make sure we try to educate the budding younger generation and ensure that they don’t see excessive drinking as an integral part of the hospitality culture?

It will surely make them better employees and in turn provide them with more promising future prospects, above all they will be healthier people. Furthermore the industry as a whole must stop brushing the issue under the carpet and begin preaching moderation as the key message. If not we will continue to see our beloved alcohol further demonised and out way of life threatened. If a shortened life span doesn’t bother you, unemployment just might.

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