Bartending is darned hard work. I may have a talent for mixology- ingredients come easily for me- the combinations of flavors I can visualize in my head. When I create the drinks that I'm thinking of the flavors always seem to work.
I cannot say the same for bartending. It's only my second true day at the Ryland Inn and I'm finding out that this is really hard work. At 51, my body doesn't work as quickly, nor as resiliently as it did at 25.
That's not a bad thing, only the facts.
There is something to be said about talented and FAST bartenders like my friend Chris James at the (new) Ryland Inn located in Whitehouse Station, NJ. Chris is constantly challenging himself to be creative in a ultra-high end environment of fine dining.
The Ryland Inn is one part laboratory, one part specialty shop and one part service standard for their vision.
Anthony Bucco as the Executive Chef is driven to a higher level. The same holds true for the level of quality achieved by Chris James at the bar. He is driven towards the perfect experience by each of his customers. He knows his stuff and it shows, not as a stoic against all comers, but as someone who genuinely likes his work.
I have a LOT to learn. Last night the General Manager Yasir Chaudry noticed that I was bringing out glasses filled with water out to a table in the bar. He was suddenly THERE... Right next to me. "Use a tray" he said in a crisp order. I turned to get one, but as quickly as he noticed my blunder, he whispered- next time. Later last night I thanked him, as it is my honor to be taught by someone so knowledgeable. After digging a bit deeper into his background- I truly realized that I know absolutely nothing. Such is the life of someone with my place in the universe.
Years ago I worked in the restaurant business. I was a chef in a white table cloth, fine dining restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. I did a couple stints behind the bar, but my passion was not to be in front of people at that time. Now, twenty five years later I'm realizing that taking care of people is in my blood.
The first thing I have to learn how to do is figure out how to be effective and confident.
That takes time. To work in fine dining you must be in control of the room.
As I watch Chris James create and mix drinks for the appreciative clientele at the Ryland Inn, I pause to smile, glancing up at my German Drinking Gnome, Klaus looking down upon me from up on the shelf. This little guy travels everywhere with me. A couple weeks ago he accompanied me to Paris, then Burgundy.
I brought him with me for strength. Sure he has an impish smile and a kind demeanor. But more importantly he represents to me that one can reinvent themselves at any age.
I lost my job as a private banking executive assistant in 2006. I worked in a large insurance company for three years after that. It was no place for me either, I have a much more creative mind, rather than a corporate geared one.
Coincidentally I drive home past that very company who off-shored my executive assistant job in 2009.
It brings both a tear and a smile to my face. The former because I will never in my power work at any job that I hate so much and the latter because if you knew me in 2009, you 'd be proud knowing that I've accomplished amazing things in three years of being a food, wine and cocktail writer.
Who would imagine that I'd be in the restaurant business again?
Mindful bartending is what my friend Gary Regan calls it. I'm positive that I can remain conscious AND mindful.
Recently I asked Gary what he does with the Italian Digestivo named Cynar. It got my mind moving around in strange ways.
I thought that to understand bartending, you must understand flavor and passion for taste.
At the end of the night, when I'm cleaning up after a long shift, I can smile inside knowing that I'm doing what I love.
Writing is a hard job- but I feel I will become a better writer because of my struggle to become a better bartender. Bartending is just another thing that I've done. And hopefully well.
The Ryland Inn is worthy of your hard earned dollar. If you come to the bar, please introduce yourself to us.
And if you see Klaus up on the bar, please say hello to him too. And please follow him on Facebook.
It means much to me.
Bitter End Curry Bitters
Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Cardamom and Clove
Wash the inside of a short cocktail glass with Tenneyson Absinthe
Add one large ice cube
Add 1/2 oz. Cynar
Add 1.5 oz. Zaya Rum
Squeeze an orange zest into the glass
Add 2 Tablespoons of the Royal Rose Syrup over the top
Add enough Q-Kola to fill
Drip 2-3 drops of the Bitter End Curry Bitters over the top
Stir and sip
Warren Bobrow is the Food and Drink Editor of the 501c3 non profit Wild Table on Wild River Review located in Princeton, New Jersey.
He is one of 12 journalists world-wide, and the only one from the USA to participate in the Fête de la Gastronomie- the weekend of September 22nd. 2012 in Burgundy.
He attends Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, the Manhattan Cocktail Classic and the Boston Cocktail Summit
Warren presented freestyle mixology at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon. (2012)
Warren judged the Iron Mixology competition at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival (2012)
Warren has published over three hundred articles on everything from cocktail mixology to restaurant reviews to travel articles.
You may also find him on the web at: http://www.cocktailwhisperer.com
Warren is a published food writer and former cook/dishwasher and former executive assistant.