Monday, February 25, 2008

Is a Bartender a Better Cocktail Blogger?

I have been a long time admirer, and “cyber friend” of Jeffrey Morgenthaler. I like the guy and have mentioned him many times on The Liquid Muse. That's why I was a little taken aback by the snide tone in this declaration in a Mixology Monday post (where, by the way, all are welcome):

“There are a few reasons why I’m more excited than ever for Mixology Monday this month. First of all, I’m beside myself because our host is Jimmy Patrick, who is a fellow bartender and a good friend. Bartenders are a surprisingly rare breed in this little cocktail blogger community of ours, so he and I are often awash in a sea of pundits.”

I would like to interject, at this point, the definition of “pundit:”

"A pundit is someone who offers mass-media opinion, analysis or commentary on a particular subject area on which they are presumed to be knowledgeable…the term has been increasingly applied to popular media personalities lacking special expertise … it can be used in a derogative manner."

Now, I realize that Jeffrey was not singling me out – cuz I'm neither an "active" bartender nor a pundit, last time I checked - so I’m not going to get all “girly” on you here. However, the sentiment that as bartenders Jimmy and Jeffrey are "awash in a sea of pundits" raised my eyebrows…

Is one to believe that only a bartender holds the esteemed credentials to be a valid cocktail blogger? And, who exactly differentiates a “pundit” from an “expert?” And, to go one step further… let’s talk about the definition of a blog. Is it a “web log” more of a forum of the writ
ten word, or one of proving who can slam out '29 cosmos for the bachelorette party on table 10' in five minutes flat?

And, really, does it matter? Isn’t this quibbling over petty crap anyway?

One thing I appreciate about “our little cocktail blogger community” is that every single cocktail blogger brings something to the table. Some report on tiki drinks, or others are passionate about bringing astrology into the mix. Some collect cocktail shakers and others analyze whiskey from one country or another. And, most don’t work behind a bar. This ain’t the Bartenders Guild chat forum, after all.

While some people among us, like Jeffrey and Jimmy, are talented at both mixing drinks behind the bar and writing about them in front of the computer screen, a good many bartenders I know --- skilled, wonderful bartenders I’ve written about on my cocktail blog, in fact --- are not necessarily good writers. Grammar, spelling and good, old fashioned sentence structure is not their forte, and could be a reason they are better at working with their hands than with the turn of a phrase. But, shouldn’t they be welcomed to pull up a stool in the cocktail blogosphere anyway?

And, let’s not forget that a good many cocktail bloggers are indeed not bartenders but freelance journalists with a passion for Mixology who give bartenders, their establishments and the liquor they pour a helluva lot of free publicity! Some bartenders owe their escalating “Rockstar Status” to the people who make less in a week than a bartender does in a weekend, but continue to sit on their asses all day singing the praises of a drink they had at some hole in the wall.

Speaking for myself, I haven’t worked in a bar for a good, long while but I have to say that I love trying out recipes at home and get all lathered up over my little vintage cocktail books. I also love getting paid to create cocktail recipes for events and liquor companies. And, I particularly love writing about a great bartender. Because frankly, there aren’t so many of them out there. And, if one of them sits his or her butt down long enough to write blog post, I say, “bravo!” even if he doesn’t have a degree in Literature or Journalism or has even written his or her own high school term paper.

Isn’t a shared passion for the cocktail what "our little cocktail blogging community" ultimately has in common?


keith waldbauer said...

I didn't think Jeffrey was being snide.... he knows as well as I do that non-bartenders have advanced our art form as much as practicing bartenders. I'm thinking he was merely pointing out how few of us bartenders actually write about our craft.

camper said...

There are nicer ways to say that bartenders who blog are a rare and good thing. But I suppose if I were an artist I might not always have great things to say about art critics, even though they perform an invaluable service.

Anonymous said...

i also like that loveable libra jeffrey... how can one not? he's your typical charmingly irresistible libra... i doubt he intended that comment to come off in the manner that it did...

i have to say that as a non-bartender, who has had my creations published in newspapers and on cocktail times, i appreciate the open-armed reception that most of the cocktail bloggers have given me-including jeffrey.

that said, i have also found that many bartenders are quite defensive about their craft, and have made it quite clear that they consider me and my little hobby well beneath their years of experience.

i don't think jeffrey falls in that negative category, but i do think he should give greater consideration to the weight of his words.

Anonymous said...

Shucks, Natalie, you know I feel that non-bartenders have done well more to elevate the craft than just about 99.9% of the career bartenders out there, right?

And you do know that I'm much harder on said "professional" barkeeps than any of my Internet Drink Dorks, right?

It's just that Jimmy, Keith and I have a special bond that can only come from spending 12 hours a night standing in a shallow pool of water over the course of 10+ years.

But if any of you ever want to share *that* bond with me, I'll welcome you with open arms.

Love you! said...

Hey all,

Thanks for the comments, and especially thanks to Jeffrey for weighing in on the matter.

I do grapple with the idea of getting a part time gig behind a bar, myself, so I can put my money where my mouth is on a regular basis - and work alongside people from whom can I surely stand to learn a thing or two.

But, my job as "The Liquid Muse" keeps me always just a little too inondated with projects (and I'm not complaining)... so I get to live vicariously through you folks who get to sling drinks on a regular basis, spreading joy and enjoying immediate gratification when someone likes your concoctions!

Open discussions are always beneficial and eductational, and this topic has made me look at cocktail blogging from different perspectives.

So, thank you all for sharing your thoughts here.

Hugs all around,

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jimmyp said...

I don't know if it matters, but I think Jeffrey is one of the best writers anywhere, even if he is a "working bartender." What do I know, I'm only a lowly Unix Systems Admin. said...

Hey Jimmy,

No one is disputing Jeffrey's fabulous writing skills. I enjoy checking in on his blog often.

The point of this post was whether its fair to refer to non-bartending cocktail bloggers as "pundits."

jimmyp said...

Interesting. I always thought a pundit was a "learned expert or teacher. I just thought that was the way Jeffrey used the word. Who knew he was a grumpy jerk just out to take pot shots at the rest of the cocktail bloggers. I'm going to avoid him from now on.

(Just in case it's not clear, I am joking here.)

jimmyp said...

Oh, yeah, I also thought Jeffrey was just trying to say how much he loved me, so that he could be at the top of the wrap-up. Notice I put him LAST. said...

Must suck to be one of the duo 'awash in a sea of pundits' and not know what pundit means. ;-)

(the wink means I'm kidding)

Besides, nothing is sexier than a smart ass drink slinger. And, you two are definitely in a world of your own there...

DC Jeff said...

Our Dear Liquid Muse,

Since they day we encountered you in that restaurant in D.C. we have loved you! As a reader and ultra selective drinker, I would like to weigh in.

The Liquid Muse is the first blog I have subscribed to and the only cocktail blog I read. Therefore, this is not about anyone else's skills, only Natalie's.

I have always found this blog entertaining and educational. Last October,we had the pleasure of drinking with Natalie and having her prepare an array of fabulous drinks I had never tried or heard of before. Therefore, I think your skills as a mixologist are credible and could challenge many of the "professional" bartenders of the world. I have never had drinks prepared the way you prepared them.

We are looking forward to your next visit to Washington, D.C.

Jeff and Ray