Bartender's Plea: Lay Off the Garnish

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Photo by sparklebliss/Flickr CC


We suffer so many little indignities at the hands of our fellow citizens that it just becomes the fabric of daily life; the bands of thoughtless meanderers three-wide on a sidewalk as you contort your body to paper-like thinness and try to pass; the chorus of cell-phone chirping twits who crowd lines at coffee shops when texting has been a noiseless alternative to talking into another person's ear for over a decade. Rude or not, we get used to it.

So it's no surprise that bartenders suffer similar infractions of social etiquette from besotted bar patrons and learn to deal with it too. But there is one action I can no longer tolerate: stealing garnishes.

Working an upscale party, I was amused as ladies and gentlemen grabbed handfuls of brandied cherries and whole nutmeg and then popped them in their mouth like mints.

I despise the crop of people who would stick their fingers in the lemons, limes, and cherries making a snack bar of a condiment tray. But it happens so often. There must be some compulsive habit that people have--perhaps an evolutionary instinct from gathering nuts and berries.

It doesn't matter how affluent or cultured the crowd either. Working an upscale party, I was amused as ladies and gentlemen grabbed handfuls of brandied cherries and whole nutmeg and then popped them in their mouth like mints. Whole nutmeg, really? Then I watched as their respective faces twisted and jaws clenched. That was punishment enough for me. But most insidious habit of garnish grazers is to snatch olives.

I admit olives are probably best stored in the fridge but this practice isn't observed at higher volume bars that crank out dirty martinis like liquid crack and wherever trays are exposed you'll be certain to find the olive-snatchers. Bartenders are required to wash their hands, and mandatory signage and hand sinks attest to this. Grazers, did you wash your hand before you contaminated the whole lot?

There are many other infractions that deserve mention but I hope the point is well made. Just order from the menu, please; and hands off the garnishes.

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Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.

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