An interview by RVMS Marketing Committee Co-Chair, Jocelyn Hutt
Having recently been voted one of Roslindale Village’s favorite bartenders, we wanted to get to know Stephanie a bit – so she agreed to put down her shaker, and answer a few questions about what it’s REALLY like to be a bartender.
How long have you been a bartender?
I have been an officially employed bartender since 1990! I have been at the Birch Street Bistro for 8+ years, and I think I landed in the best spot ever, Roslindale (I live here too) has the best customers across the board, I feel blessed to be working with the Bistro owners Mark and Patti, Chef Marcelo de Olivera, it’s a great and interesting staff! Location, location, location!
I would like to shout out to Kelly Cope my sister bartender that works four of the 7 shifts per week at the Bistro. She is awesome, and we rarely work together on the bar but we make a great pair; communicating about our customers and many ways to make it all work, we share the pride of the Bistro bar!
What has changed from when you began – is it very different today?
The mechanics of bartending are the same; the mixologist side of bartending goes through cycles as most things and often the drinks we “create” have already been enjoyed for years with different names!
The martini glass has grown in size, and it defies sensible serving suggestions!
The list of recorded drink combinations has grown exponentially! The average person is savvier about spirits, wine and beer!
Yelp and social media have been positive for marketing and sharing, however it has also captured mistakes that humans (it IS a service industry) may make with a myriad of moving parts and those opinions, insults and criticism lasts forever, which is a bit unfair.
Do people come in and ask for seasonal drinks, or do they really just ask for whatever ‘their’ usual is?
Both — people usually have a drink or two that they “go to” when they are indecisive or seeking comfort. Other times those same people want to experiment with new concoctions. They may be craving sweet or herbal, celebrating something and want to drink something special and are intrigued by our seasonal lists. At least 50% of the drinking population at the Birch Street Bistro always drink their “regular” drink. I benefit from that because I can have it ready and get to the best part of the job, connecting with them and their lives and what matters to them!
What do you wish people knew and understood about being a bartender?
It is not a job for everyone; many people desire to do this job as it seems sexy in some way. It is a “real” job with many facets of physical, mental and emotional parts. It is one of the best jobs in the world for some of us. Every bartender must possess an awareness of the rest of the service being offered in the establishment they work in. They must have people skills that engage the customer, including knowing when to give space. They must be able to remember more than one thing about each person that appears more than once at their bar. A good bartender remembers something they like to eat or drink, a way they want something prepared and or a detail about their work, family or neighborhood. Lastly, they must actually enjoy working in direct contact with fellow human beings, be empathetic and genuine and all that while doing a fairly strenuous job in a team atmosphere! Bartenders also must understand when and how to gracefully shut a person off when they have had enough!
Tips are truly appreciated; I enjoy tips as feedback and pay for a job well done. I also appreciate tipping because you are actually choosing to share your hard earned money with me even when times are tough, I find people very generous and I never get mad about a tip size because everyone does what they can do and I know that!
For me, bartending was never a stepping-stone, I have had this job longer then my other profession and I have always been a bartender, no breaks, through college, two children, and 22 years of working in: wait for it….. Substance Use Prevention and Mental Health!
And what’s YOUR drink?
My go to is Captain Morgan and soda water, a dash of coke and 2 limes. I love big red wines and I enjoy Mai Tais and Sidecars when I am visiting bartender friends throughout!
Stephanie – thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights – it’s no wonder you are so well-liked. We encourage people to stop in and say hello to Stephanie at Birch Street Bistro.