Wednesday, 1 March, 2017
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
I applied for a bunch of jobs on the internet the day I arrived in Hobart, and I got an immediate reply asking me to come in for an interview the next morning – after picking tomatoes for £3.16, I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by.
At the very beginning of the interview, the manager told me that ‘personality’ is a big part of this job. So, I instantly amp my cocky side up to eleven. Therefore, when he explained that this role requires a thorough knowledge of the popular cocktails – I gave a confident nod, told him that I have previously worked in three cocktail bars and that I’m basically the king of cocktail making back home.
This was a slight exaggeration. I previously worked at Headingley Stadium for a few months ten years ago – a role that required me to pour Carlsbergs for a ten minute period when it was half-time in the rugby match. Still, how hard could it be?
So, I walk away from the interview certain I’ve got the job – after all, who wouldn’t hire a bloke that’s worked in three cocktail bars – sure it wasn’t strictly true, but I can pour a Carlsberg, and anyway he isn’t going to ask me to work right now, is he? I’ve at least got time to watch a few YouTube videos and get my bearings.
An hour after the interview I get a text, “We’ve had one of our guys call in sick, could you come in ASAP and fill in?”
I had no time to watch the YouTube videos after all. Oh well, if by some miracle I survive this shift I may have just shown the world how important it is to lie to get your foot in the door.
The manager showed me around the place – the kitchen area, the staff room, even the bathroom – everywhere except the cocktail area, that is. He just informed me that everything I’ll need is labelled, and most people will only be ordering the usual cocktails, so with my expertise, it’ll be a cakewalk.
You may be in for quite the rude awakening later, mate!
You can get absolutely anywhere by talking bull crap. I just really hope I get paid for this even when I do balls it up.
The first customer walked in – a lady, currently solo – she approached the bar and asked me for a ‘cosmopolitan’.
Thankfully, at that point I was the only person behind the bar, so I had a bit of time to let my brain work out how to combat the fact that I have no frigging clue what is in a cosmopolitan. What can I say? I’m a beer drinker.
Right, well I know that it’s red – so, let’s start there. But what the heck makes it red? Shall I just throw in all the red things I see? Here’s your cocktail – it’s a mix of tomatoes, ketchup, red peppers and radish; enjoy!
Anyway, I decided to ask how she likes her cosmopolitan – throw me a bone and give me a direction – “The usual.” She replied – well, bloody marvellous.
I was getting nowhere here, I needed to be more direct – I told her that I’m curious of how she exactly likes it, as in, the precise ingredients, because we make them a bit differently in England.
Thankfully, this didn’t blow my cover, and she told me – cranberry juice (ah, there’s your red), lime, vodka and Cointreau – right, well, I guess I’ll be shoving all that into this shakey-thing then. Although, I didn’t even know what Cointreau was – and I couldn’t ask her to repeat the word for a third time. Therefore, she would have to settle for some kind of cocktail mix without that – let’s call it the ‘work-it-out-as-we-go’.
I shook that puppy, stuck a lemon slice on the side and handed it over. She told me it tasted weird, but she kind of accepted my patter about it being a better, European version of the drink – so, all in all, I basically survived customer one.
Her boyfriend joined the party and ordered a ‘highball’ – what an arsehole. Not only did he choose a cocktail that I had never heard of, but he also picked it while the manager was standing next to me; I was done.
Until something wonderful happened, the boss said, “You run this one through the till and I’ll make the drink.”
That bought me time – but, I didn’t run it through the till, I just stared and watched my boss – if this git orders a, what is it called, crap, I’d forgotten what I’m supposed to be bashing into the till – well, anyway, if he orders the same drink, I at least want to know what colour it is.
I see it’s a kind of yellow – therefore, if I do take his next order; he’ll be getting a banana, lemon, and sweetcorn smoothie.
I picked a cocktail at random on the till, and charged him for that one – he didn’t complain – even if I had raised the price, it is not the kind of bar where you cry over losing two dollars. His fancy, designer clothes wearing girlfriend would not have gone for that. This being the same woman that’s had the luxury of trying my first ever cocktail.
Next to enter the bar was a casual group of sixteen – all female. What a ridiculous number of people, who the heck socialises in packs of sixteen? One thing was for sure – this was definitely going to result in my demise.
Guessing and putting together a single cocktail is one thing, but putting together sixteen? Yeah, it’s just not going to happen is it.
Three came to the bar with all the orders – the positive thing being that they weren’t actually there for cocktails after all, and instead were all wine drinkers. The negative, however, is that they were all drinking by the glass and only two of them chose the same flavour as a pal. I had to remember and find fourteen different bottles of wine.
Wine doesn’t give you much of a chance when you’re a bit hurried, it all gets a bit wordy – you know, I’m scurrying around looking for the Morellino di Scansano and the Chateau Maucaillou. Only I’ve got fourteen of these rascals to find in a fridge of about fifty wines.
You don’t get none of that fancy crap with beer – let’s just keep it simple shall we wine makers.
Well, anyway, it must have taken me about four hours to pour every glass, but we got there.
The boss then kicked off, and of all the things to go at me for, he’s banging on about the glasses. Apparently, it’s criminal to put red and white wine in the same kind of glass – I couldn’t get my head around that one.
I’ve just had to put together sixteen orders of fourteen varieties, after rummaging through a fridge of fifty wines with fancy names, I somehow pulled it out the bag – and this geezer wants to talk to me about bloody glasses, get out of town!
Anyway, my lack of wine glass knowledge really seemed to get to him – in fact, I got demoted to glass collecting duty for the rest of the night.
At the end of the shift, he told me that my skill was clearly in making cocktails – but, unfortunately my lack of wine knowledge would mean that he’d need to let me go.
He did give me $150 for my troubles though, so not too shabby – I was more chuffed that he was somehow still labelling me a skilled cocktail maker at the end of it all, than I was about the money though.