The perfect pourer as seen from the other side of the bar

HE HAS the agility of a basketball player, the flair of a sideshow magician, the willing ear of a marriage counselor, the skilled eye of a chemist, the mystique of a surgeon.

He’s the classic bartender – as seen from the other side of the bar.

In the name of service he stands during slack minutes and listens to the dull, dove-hunting details of the weekend past, as told by a regular customer. Nobody else would give the man two minutes, and he gets kindly chuckles and hums from his bartender for 10. The bartender serves a social function.

He often works for the minimun wage, but in some successful bars he is paid well and gets $200 in tips on a typical Friday night. He may have been at his trade for 20 years, or he may still be going to the card file on every order.

Some are better than others. But what makes a bartender the best?

To answer this question, we went to the pros: Dallas bartenders. What, we asked them, do they look for when they visit another bar and watch others at work?

HERE’S HOW bartenders tell the good from the average:

Joe Miller, Joe Miller’s: “The drink is number two; people can go anywhere to drink. The most important thing is getting along with people. He should have the personality and the ability in conversation to make people feel at home. But he should be sincere in his conversation; no bull. It’s good if he can remember names and preferences, too.”

Mick Kazola, Cafe Pacific: “The most important thing is to have a good rapport with the customer, but he should also have the coordination behind the bar to be able to maintain cleanliness and have responsibility to keep a high level of accuracy on the cash register and accuracy on his drinks and have responsibility to keep himself well-groomed.”

Jamal Afkhami, Harper’s Corner: “Care. Some bartenders don’t care if the drink they serve is good or bad. If he’s a professional, he cares. I get people who say that my gin and tonic, for example, is the best they have had and ask what the gin is. It’s Gordon’s, which is a common brand, and the tonic can’t make that much difference. The difference is that I care about every drink I serve.”

Jim Barnes, original Old Church, now at Piafs: “He should, of course, service customer needs, but he should also be consistent; some people are sloppy, so that no two drinks of theirs are ever the same. And ideally his style should entertain; he should have flair in his movements and put on a show. And he should be fast; it doesn’t matter how good his drink is if it takes a half hour to get there.”

Ed Murph, Café Cancun owner and former bartender: “He should have a nice appearance that puts the customer at ease. He should be attentive, knowing when to talk and when to be quiet. He should be honest; he shouldn’t fake it if he doesn’t know the drink. He should be fast – no, prompt is a better word.”


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