October 26, 2017

‘Occupational hazard’ is a phrase thrown around pretty frequently in manual labour, but it’s not often you’d think about it in relation to bartending, right? We love what we do – there’s no two ways about it – but sometimes it can be a pain in the behind… amongst other things. There are some casualties while on the job that bartending training school might not cover. 

Cluboid and Allbartenders feel your pain. That’s why we’ve joined forces to put together a comprehensive list of complaints, the seasoned bartender will know all too well. How many of these have you had?


1. Cocktail Whiplash

We know the mixologist uniform said ‘braces’ but we didn’t realise that meant of the back variety.

A lot of people don’t actually consider the physical toll of bar work – it actually keeps us in pretty good shape and means we can get away with indulging in some serious eats. Long hours zipping back and forth, changing barrels and carrying crates: it’s like our very own, off-road interval training.  

But the mother of all workouts comes from our old friend the cocktail shaker. That takes a kind of stamina that only military seals could empathise with. Do 20 or so of those in a shift and boy do you feel that in the morning. Do a particularly keen one though, and you feel like you’ve been in a minor traffic collision. Still – arms are looking good.
We actually heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t use barbells –  he uses Boston Shakers.

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2. Repetitive Strain

Oh cool, so you want another 6 jager bombs? Could you not have said that when I made the first 6?

There’s a lot of autonomy involved in bar work, and you can tell a skilled, experienced bartender by their ability to work in autopilot. This means that someone that knows what they’re doing can rustle up enough pina coladas to take down a hen party whilst simultaneously having a hilarious and charming conversation.

We’re master mixologists, sure, but first and foremost we’re people people. This autonomy comes from a tonne of practise – also known as repetition – and there’s no doubt we’re doing a lot of that. Especially when we’ve just whipped up an excellent Lemon Drop, put everything away and washed that pesky sugar off our hands only to be asked to make one for their friend. Busy nights can feel a little like the final of Supermarket Sweep.

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3. Skidded the Length of the Bar on a Lemon Wedge

Those zesty buggars.

Who knew something so small could make a grown man or woman fear for their life. See also: lime wedge, orange segment, icecube or cucumber slice during Pimms season. A wrongly positioned one of those will give you that same mini heart attack you experience when you miss a step on the stairs, instead this time you’re swirling around behind the bar like Torvill and Dean.

If you drop a slice of lemon, it should be part of your bartending contract that you stop, drop and blue-roll immediately. Clean as you go, people. We’re not looking to submit an audition tape for the Olympic toboggan team.

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4. The ‘I Was Trying to Look Casual While Cutting Strawberries’

‘Can you bear with me one moment, I just have to nip to the back…. Call an ambulance.’

Another aspect of tending bar is the element of showmanship. From keeping it together throughout the Saturday rush to the majestic shimmy involved in cocktail flair – it is all about professionalism. No matter if below the bar two members of the team are on all fours scrapping with a stowaway mouse, one is wrestling a leaky pipe that’s gone berserk and one is crying into their knees in the corner, you affix your most endearing smile and hold down that fort.

In the interest of looking like you’ve got everything under control, you can sometimes get a bit a bit hapless with your equipment. Fine with a spatula, but not so fine with a paring knife. Now there’s an off-menu addition to the Pimms and it looks an awful lot like a thumb.

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5. The ‘I Overestimated How Many Empty Glasses I Could Carry’ disaster

Honestly, I’m good. The bar’s only there – what could go wrong?

…Said every bartender ever …once. Every bartender remembers their first big breakage. That and the subsequent red face that hung around for the rest of the shift afterwards. Competing about how many glasses you can single handedly get back to the bar in one trip is the bartender equivalent of how much you can bench at the gym. We’re always looking to beat our PB.

In the interest of being time-efficient, obviously. Of course now we’ve perfected the stacked-glass-shoulder-lean, but that doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally have the odd slip up. Look down and who was the culprit? Mr lemon wedge.

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6. Steam Torture From the Dishwasher

Who needs retinas anyway, am I right?

Opening the dishwasher after a hot wash releases enough steam to reenact an entrance on Stars in Their Eyes. In a close proximity space – i.e. behind a bar – this usually means that you have to bite the bullet and open the door to a big whoosh of melted face.

Continual glass replenishment is essential though. You’ve got to keep those bad boys stocked – no one wants a Guinness in a wineglass. That means we’re likely getting a good 2-3 steam facials an hour. We like to look at it as a beauty treatment though. Who needs to pay for facial when you have an on-site steam room. That’s like money in your pocket.

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7. The ‘I’ll Literally Die Right Now if I Drop This’ Anxiety

This round cost more than my wage packet, get out of my way you imbeciles.

It takes a brave person to trust their faculties enough to walk out into a crowded room – with potentially slippy floors – and safely deliver a whole tray of drinks to a table. There’s a reason that most places don’t offer table service. We’re all about the professional facade though, so stand back because we’re coming through. We’re fine until we come up against the wally that tries to ‘help’ by taking glasses off the tray for us.

You’re throwing my balancing act right off, pal. I wasn’t going to spill anything before you got involved, but I sure am now. Fingers crossed it’s your one.

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And Finally, the Mother of all Travesties…

8. Broken Glass in the Ice Bucket

Can’t tell if it’s blood loss or the white wine, but I’m actually feeling pretty great right now.

There is little more heartbreaking than washing away a whole case of ice because someone managed to break a glass into it. No wait, there is: washing away a whole case of ice because someone managed to break a glass near it, because now it’s all gotta go regardless.

It’s probably better than rummaging around in there though. You’ve already lost one finger doing fruit prep.

Still, we’re holding it together. Hello Sir, what can I get for you today…?

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This blog was contributed by Cluboid

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