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Fun Day with the Family

I work nights as a bartender so my days must be carefully planned. There are but a few precious hours to do errands, tend to my house and yard, see friends, shop, and pamper myself at the salon. I can’t go to the gym at night like other people so it has to be early morning. It is hard to believe, but I fit in all in plus a bit of time to do online research for my job. I am looking for exotic drinks you can make with mescal and they are buried deep in the Web.

Given this horrendous schedule and the fact that I rush around through the day, I am bright eyed and bushytailed in the lounge at night. This week is full to the brim, but there is always the weekend. I look forward to a time of rest and relaxation. It will be broken by a fun day with the family but I don’t mind., We are having a potluck so I am thinking about something different to bring. A potluck to me means that people make the food with their favorite recipes. I am volunteering pork chorizo and I know I am the only one with the skill and the right meat grinder to make it. You buy sausage and add the spices that make it distinctive. You either love it or you don’t, but I find that when I bring it, there are always takers. It is tasty as it bites the tongue and frankly it beats unflavorful turkey sausage any day. You can add as much or little as you like of paprika, salt and pepper, coriander, and cumin. These ingredients give it the magic taste. Some people add garlic and red wine. You slip everything into readymade casings using a sausage stuffer. You can just heat them up or sauté the seasoned sausage in a pan and add peppers and onions for a full meal. It is a versatile and exciting approach to home dining, and perfect for my potluck.

The day of the potluck was glorious as we all brought out our culinary wares. Each specialty was carefully placed on a long, wooden table. After we were done it was a luxurious spread. You didn’t know where to start. Some people actually didn’t know about chorizo but were willing to taste it. What is your secret, they asked? I answered, the meat grinder with the cold coarse attachment, not wanting to give more away. I didn’t need competitors in the family for my cherished specialty. At the end of the day, some food was left, but none of the sausage. It was so unique that everyone wanted a taste. This is to be savored, said more than one person. I was ecstatic that my contribution had been a success. I don’t see why I can’t make it each and every time we all get together. The idea of a potluck is to try new things.


Trying a New Menu

Yup, it’s that time of year again, folks! When the managers and other head of house come sniffing around the bar, sizing the cocktail list up, and asking, “What’s on here that’s seasonal?” Christmas is still more than two months away and already Jamie is like, “We should put something on here called Smoking Rudolph or Santa’s Pipe!” She laughs and the other managers chortle and when she walks away I give Trisha and Antonio this look like, “What….”

We’re not going to do that. That’s stupid. That is a stupid name for a cocktail and it’s October. But,we brainstormed.

“We should put something a little more seasonal on there, though,” says Antonio unpacking bottles of beer from their box into the mini-fridge.

“Yeah…” Trish and I say, wistfully, with vacant stares and pause.

Summery items are on the menu, it’s true. We’ve a lot of citrusy drinks, Mezcal with grapefruit and lemon, cocktails made with lemonade and Cointreau. So I thought about it while at our horrendously boring and useless FOH (and for you non-service industry folk out there, that means – Front of House) meeting. I couldn’t get away from the fact that Mezcal paired so well with grapefruit and citrus by cutting its smokiness with sweet acidity, but then I thought of it!

A play on apple cider! Apple cider is sweet and acidic but definitely not summer. After the meeting, Antonio joined me behind the bar to try and play around with the idea. We borrowed apple cider from the dessert chef from the kitchen and she suggested adding an actual red apple to the rim of the glass for color and interest. It was perfect! At the end result, we added a few more ingredients, put it in a rocks glass with ice, and topped it off with a nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, and sugar rim. (We had to use a green apple slice because we had no red in-house). Before Jamie was out the door, I slid the concoction down the bar.

“What’s this?” She asked me from a few feet away, picking up the drink and sniffing it. “It smells pretty!”

Really. She said that. We told her about the drink and she tasted it and lit up like a light bulb. So, anyway, yeah, not to brag, but we’re trying out a new cocktail on the menu and I created it! So next time you come by Esperanza be sure tobe sure to ask about the Oaxacan Christmas.


Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean You’re Wrong

I work weird hours, long into the night. I sleep late in the morning which means I skip breakfast. I exist on a liquid diet a lot of the time as I am too busy to make a proper dinner or even to go out. I grab something quick at the lounge, but we have a limited menu. In short, I make do. Sometimes I resort to fattening snacks that people bring to work as a meal substitute. I am worried that I am gaining weight and am even getting a bit paranoid about it. I always prided myself on being a normal weight, if not borderline svelte. Bartending isn’t active exercise so it doesn’t tone you up. At best you are moving your arms as you shake a martini. I have to do more.

To quell my fears about packing on the pounds, I bought a body fat scale to find out. Sure enough, I had added to my physical being a few pounds. Experts say, don’t panic. It is easy to lose small amounts of extra weight. Get out the weights at home or go to the gym. Or diet for just one week. This means no more high caloric snacks, although they taste so good. I love salted almonds and cashews the best. I never was one to turn away crackers and a good cheese. Sweets can be the bane of anyone’s existence and fortunately I can do without chocolate most of the time. It was all so tempting when I was hungry, but I am now going to bring healthy things like raw vegetables and fruit juice to work.

The experts were right. I did lose the weight in one week and returned to normal. The fat fear was gone. I suppose it is a good thing–like an alarm system to keep you aware of your weight. It is so easy to binge eat and see the consequences in a short period of time. Now the only fattening thing I will eat is a small piece of birthday cake to be polite. You don’t want to insult the birthday person by turning it away. Meanwhile I do recommend a bathroom scale with a body fat analyzer attachment. Many of these connect with your laptop and give you daily data. You can monitor your progress easily and make adjustments to your routine.

It is interesting how dependent we are on certain appliances. There are many digital scales on the market at fair prices that will make your life much easier. If I had to choose between an upgraded scale or a new coffeemaker, it would surely be the former. I can always go to the local café. The scale I cannot do without. There isn’t a public one anywhere like there are blood pressure machines in drugstores. So take my word for it and save up.


Long Night Last Night

Something weird happened last night. I think it was a mishap in the kitchen at the lounge where I bartend, and the whole place lost power. I quickly ran into the street to see if other businesses were affected. They were not, and the street lights were on. This meant that the utility company would not be coming and we were on our own. The customers were being patient and didn’t want to leave. They were drinking and were all rather content. We made it clear that we would soon take care of the matter and our dim lighting would go back on.

People liked the spooky atmosphere and started to have conversations with others. Patrons who were normally quiet and morose became verbose. It was an interesting reaction to the power outage. It seems that they were all banding together to survive the dark night, at least until closing. It was hard for me to see to work. At best I could use candles and a big flashlight. But there was a better answer. The owner of the bar, appropriately titled Esperanza Mezcaleria, had a portable generator in the storage room in the back. As he brought it in to power the lounge’s lights and bar appliances, I almost hoped it didn’t work as it would spoil the mood that the darkness had created. But alas, it did work and we could work and drink again in light. It helped us at closing when we had our cleanup routines to execute. The owner was worried about food in the freezers and was not sure the generator would have enough power to keep them going. The workers and manager left for home, all of us with a bag of something to try to preserve. Since it wasn’t a widespread outage caused by a storm, no doubt our freezers would be functioning. Meanwhile, the owner waited for an emergency visit from the electrician.

The next night I found out that one of the workers in the back of the lounge had plugged something into a broken socket, thus causing the power to go out. It could happen to anyone. We just had to be more careful. Meanwhile we returned to normal and the power generator returned to its storage rack. These are great little motors and it would be great to have one at home. They come in large sizes so you can get back to normal after an electrical failure, even if you have a big house. People use the small ones for camping trips, their work area in the garage, and situations like ours at the lounge. I think this is a really useful purchase if you don’t have one. You can research on line to see the range of motor sizes, brands, and prices. Why not look for a sale or discount. As for me, a generator would be one of the most practical buys in my life.


Will Work for Tips

It really is the slow season. It’s been raining so much lately, no one has any interest in our patio, which means the front of the place never looks full, which means people walking by think we aren’t doing business. Most people don’t want to sit in a bar by themselves; they want action, they want people around them laughing and having a good time. Sometimes I swear I’ve thought about hiring people to just sit at our bar during the winter season to liven things up.

I wonder what a Craigslist ad like that would look like…. “Bored, broke bartender seeks actual customers. Sit at the bar. Drink for free. Make me look good. Entertain me.” I feel like people would respond. But I never post anything like that, because, well, it’s ridiculous. Esperanza is a great place to work, don’t get me wrong, it really is. I’ve been here over four years and there’s a reason for that. It’s not that I’m stuck. I choose to be here and stay here. But the winter season SUCKS!

We’re all getting desperate for shifts. Different bartenders take the slowness differently. You can always tell who is good at saving money or has a second job because those are the ones happy to go on vacation and take the days off. The ones who suck at saving money, have no other means of income, or are perpetually broke (that’s me, in case you didn’t guess) have to hustle. I like going up to the host stand and seeing which nights have the most reservations and then if I’m not working those nights, I ask other bartenders if we can switch shifts. I make some excuse, like, I have family in town that night or concert tickets or whatever, and then get on a Saturday that’s busy solely because the dining room and lounge are full.

I don’t feel bad about it. It’s survival of the fittest out here. And in case you forgot! I gotta pay undergraduate AND graduate student loans off. I need all the money I can get.


Tequila vs. Mezcal

Okay, okay, I get it. I work at a Mezcaleria and so you want to know the age-old question (something I get asked at work at least once a day) – What’s the difference between tequila and Mezcal? I promise I won’t get all sciencey on you, either, like a wine person would. The major difference that most anyone will tell you is that tequila is tequila and Mezcal tastes like smoke. They aren’t wrong when making that judgment, but it’s more observant than it is insightful.

So why is Mezcal smoky? And what are their differences? Are they similar? Are they both from Mexico? Okay, it’s simple. There are four simple facts everyone should and can know about Mezcal.

  • They’re both traditionally made in Mexico, although usually in different regions.
  • Due to laws upheld in Mexico, Tequila is only qualified as such if it is created with one type of agave – Blue Agave. Whereas Mezcal can be made with any agave, giving it more variety and flavor than Tequila.
  • The actual process of fermenting and producing Mezcal is more involved than with Tequila. Specifically, the agave that helps create Mezcal is prepared almost in the same fashion tradition barbacoa is cooked – in a dug out coal pit with lots of smoke. This is where the distinct flavor of the drink comes from.

So the next time you come visit Antonio and me, or Trisha, or Ashlee, or John – you’ll know what the key differences are. Hey, and I mean this, if you come and order a Mezcal flight and know all of those differences between Tequila and Mezcal, I will give you half off!

And tell your friends! Spread the word about Mezcal. Maybe one day I won’t have to answer that question at work if this P.S.A really takes off.