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Listening Party

The best bartenders know almost all about you—because they listen

It is hardly a surprise that bartenders talk as much as they do, as it is almost certainly a part of the job description. A seasoned barkeep knows the frequency and magnitude with which it is necessary to help carry a customer’s conversation. Bartenders, of course, also talk about themselves quite a bit (a colleague of mine states every drinksmith she’s met is self-proclaimed to be the best bartender they know).Whatever the case—and to whatever degree of gregariousness a particular barkeep is capable—we are also able to play the opposite position. So listen and learn we do. 

The first and—by far—the most important lesson is the fact that all manner and molds of humanity pony up to the bar.We learn to field all varieties of temperaments and to temper our own in the process. In the upper echelons of hospitality, a guest is always a guest. From the single girls dawdling on their phones (gin, sparkling) to the Friday afternoon professional with loosened tie (whiskey, rocks) to the lightning bug, young gunners enthralled with funky cocktails (dealer’s choice, mezcal) to the grumpy dad at his son- in-law’s favorite bar (IPA), all of these folks are ours to serve, and their demeanors ours to experience. 

We learn about what you do to make money, how you spend your money, and which of these makes you happy.We learn if you’re at our bar to escape—or because you’re chasing something.We learn about who you’re with, who you’re looking for, or both. We see all forms of love and lust.We learn that the best humans to look at are rarely the best people to talk to, but that the best people to talk to can become the best humans to look for.We learn to know your tolerance: how many you like to have, how many you should have (and the math in between), and how many times you can tolerate the guy next to you crowding your space. 

Is it the social facade of the bar that provides insulation for the most random and ridiculously insightful conversations? Is a good drink the solvent that unglues the personality a person is displaying from who they really are? We know more than your mother about your views on modern religion. We know more about your ex-boyfriend’s endowment than he does. Is government surveillance constitutional? Was Private Ryan saved? We learn, with little soliciting, your views on food politics, your blood type, and why you really drank so much Mountain Dew in high school.We know how you feel, because we’ve been there, too. We love you, but strongly disagree when you say that LCD Soundsystem ruined modern music. And we always concur with you on one point: yes, you should have another drink. And we’ve learned what you like. 

Chuck Cerankosky is a cocktail enthusiast, co-owner of Rochester spots Good Luck and Cure, and director of the Rochester Cocktail Revival. 

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