26. Drink Like A Bartender

by karen orlowski

NPR did an interesting article on bartenders and the hidden meaning of last calls. NPR says that for people that go to bars, last call means it’s your last chance to re-up on “citrusy, sugary drinks that can all taste alike” before belting out a classic rock ballad. But for bartenders, it means not long before they make a drink for themselves.

A Bartender’s Antidote… written by Bill Chappell, explores the world of alcohol in a new way, and divulges on what bartenders drink themselves.

For bartenders, the words “last call” have a hidden meaning: It won’t be long before they’re enjoying a drink of their own. And after hours of making tonics, flips and fizzes, what does a bartender drink? Often, the answer is short and simple: Fernet.

In a world of citrusy, sugary drinks that can all taste alike, Fernet Branca stands alone. Depending on how your palate responds, the Italian digestif can be called everything from refreshingly bold to an acquired taste to cough syrup that’s gone bad.

“People in the industry tend to drink bitter spirits a lot,” says Alexandra Bookless, bartender in the Washington D.C. area. She claims she does not know why, but puts forth that it may be due to the fact that maybe the late-night bitter drinks “works for their palate” after tasting drinks or bites of food during the day. According to The Atlantic, San Francisco has “been on the Fernet bandwagon for years” and “has long had the greatest demand in the U.S., accounting for about a 25 percent of sales” (NPR). Fernet is like a secret handshake in the world of bar tending. Interesting read if you are interested in this topic. I have always wondered what bartenders drink/their take on drinks.

Bookless, at The Passenger Bar in Washington, D.C.
photo source: NPR.