The customer’s order was simple: “I’d like a fuzzy navel, please.”
Simple for anyone with even a passing familiarity of a home bar kit. Simple, in other words, for anyone but the guy behind the bar: me.
“Uh, what’s in that again? Vermouth?” I asked.
I was sitting in on a course at the Maryland Bartending Academy, where, as part of the first day’s lecture, students make drinks for their classmates.
No notes or recipe books — just novices and lots of booze. My customer was Katie Vachon, a 22-year-old from Anne Arundel County, who was also on her first day.
When she ordered, I had a bar behind me stacked with dozens of bottles, lined up like a boys choir in a United Colors of Benetton ad. I didn’t know what a fuzzy navel was (A highball? manhattan? Chick’s drink? What’s a highball, anyway?), what was in it or where to find the ingredients if I did manage to figure them out. I might be a prodigious consumer of drinks. But I’m a shoddy bartender. Why try, when there are Brendan Dorrs out there whose concoctions are alcoholic Sistine Chapels?
But I am alone in this. When I sat in on the academy’s two-week course, the 11 students there were of all ages — as young as 18 and as old as 57 — and backgrounds. There was a go-go singer, a suburban mom, a couple of 20-year-old guys, several young women in ponytails and a grandmother recuperating from a March heart surgery.
They’re taking the class for as many different reasons as there are whiskeys — bucket lists, first and second careers, fun. But they were all there with hopes of landing a job.
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