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  • Writer's pictureKhalid Williams


Updated: Sep 2, 2021

This feels real.

There is something in the air. We are masked. We are vaccinated. We are near and dear to each other for the first time in so long. Being a bartender is like being a deadhead- you end up with friends from all over the country who you only see on the road. You don’t speak daily. You dont get caught up in each others’ daily lives. You simply position yourself to attend the best events of the year and develop a nomadic tribe of brothers and sisters that become family for about two weeks of every year. It’s like the Army Reserve of Bartender peeps.

But what about when a global pandemic shuts the entire (sensible) world down? What happens when that huge expo that you're used to traversing becomes a round robin of brand ambassadors and a cold, inanimate screen with a face on it? The stress that separation puts on these unique and transient bonds is pretty intense. In this global pandemic era (you can’t call it a year anymore. It’s about to creep past 18 months, which is what i have taken to calling our life in the time of COVID. This might end up being a generation.) we have so much taking up mental and emotional space, who the hell has time for friends that you don't even talk to much during the year, save for a few snarky jokes back and forth about daiquiri riffs and vintage bitters bottles?

We do.

I have witnessed a rebirth of kinship and a rekindling of old bonds. What we do is so unique, so taxing and so rewarding that when you have that AHA moment (you taste an amazing cocktail, made with an amazing spirit, sold by amazing humans and balanced in the most amazing way) you just have to share it with somebody else who understands. Somebody who ”gets it”. That is where these kinshps start. Nerding out over mashbills. Playing Fernet Detective with those 27 herbs that go into the famous bartender’s handshake of a shot. Learning about the people who farm the magueys that make that incredibly smoky, funky mescal that just blew your mind, again. There is something about looking at the person next to you and seeing that they have the same ”WTFTSA (what the fuck!?! thats so awesome) face as you do; it makes bonds that can’t be broken by any amount of time.

As bartenders, we know booze pays the bills, but it also fills our souls. Few endeavors offer so many opportunities to ”find the zeitgeist”-which ironically is defined as the spirit of things. We get to find the spirit in the spirits. We have earned the privileges, through tireless study and dealing with vodka-soda-sprite-lemon-two limes modifications without pushing that Pauly D looking mofo right between the eyes with the business end of our muddler (sorry… i got triggered for a moment.) to conjure from distilled liquid as was done centuries ago-mystical properties and an alchemy that isn't quantifiable by anything but a phrase like ”holy shit” when something is just perfect.

I'm getting a bit romantic now, so lets bring this back home. I have witnessed countless moments where friends who mean the world to each other for about 2 hours every 3-4 months come back together and pick right back up where they left off-loving the craft, discovering excitement, and cheering each other on.

We are bartenders. We are family-a big, dysfunctional family-the kind with a couch, a spitoon and a four post bed on the front porch and a firing range made of empty truly cans in the backyard. We have been robbed of this camaraderie that sustained us through arduous shifts and joint pain and shitty owners and servers who WONT LEARN THE GOD DAMN NEW COCKTAIL MENU!!!!!!!!! (again.. triggered) for almost two years.

We also are souls lucky enough to have events like Bar Convent to let us pick right back up where we left off.

i’m in the media room… and im close to tears. But i have to go back out there and keep tasting, keep learning, keep loving.

I love what i do, and who i do it with.

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