While researching the bartender’s role in American history for the Q&A that runs in today’s paper, I came across this poignant quote in David Wondrich’s “Imbibe!” The lyrical painting of a bartender’s skill that follows originally comes from “Household Words” printed in 1853, by George Augustus Sala. It was a bit too long to squeeze into print, so I thought I would share it with you here instead.
“The bar keeper is a scholar and a gentleman, as well as an accomplished artist, captain of a fire company, and I believe, a man of considerable property, and unapproachable skill in compounding and arranging these beverages, and making them not only exquisite to taste, but delightful to view.
His drinks are pictures.
The barkeeper and his assistants possess the agility of acrobats and the prostidigitative skill of magicians. They are all bottle conjurers. They toss the drinks about; they throw brimful glasses over their heads; they shake the saccharine, glacial and alcoholic ingredients in their long tin tubes; they scourge eggs and cream into froth; they send bumpers shooting down the bar from one end to the other without spilling a drop; they swear strange oaths, smoke, chew and expectorate with astonishing celerity and dexterity.
I should like to be a barkeeper, If I were clever enough.”
Check out the interview with Fino bartender Josh Loving in today’s print edition of the Austin American-Statesman. Or you can read it here online.