Basics

“Sex on the beach” she said when I asked her: “What would you care for tonight?”

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I freely admit my ignorance, when I come across a cocktail or food item unknown to me.

 
BASIC Information for Waiters
Basically there is much I do not know. Yet if a customer asks, I gladly provide answers to any food and beverage related questions. I freely admit my ignorance, when I stumble over a cocktail order or a question about food items unknown to me. I don’t mind saying, “I don’t know, let me go and find out for you!”

Once in a blue moon a guest may ask for a cocktail by a name I have never heard before. I don’t mind telling the guest “I don’t know this one.”

Sure our bartender knows a lot more than I do. But before I check with the bartender I ask my guest “Would you please be so kind and tell me what is in it, so I shall know for the future?”
If the customer knows his drink he will tell me what is in it. If he has no idea of the liqueurs used, I still have the option to look into a bartender’s hand book. Nevertheless, most customers know their favorite drinks. They drink it so often that they know not only the liquors used. They eagerly tell me to be light on a certain ingredient, heavy on another, if favored mixed or blended, how much juice or mixer and whatever garnish they love or hate.
People who order an “off the wall drink” only too often want to be surprised, or surprise their date. These guest easily put a bartender’s talent to a test. There are some who ask for multi layered drinks. These are hard to make. Like the Pousse Caffee(1) . If after serving, the customer uses the straw and stirs the liquors together, or worse if he gulps such a layered drink down, he or she will most likely get an angry look from our bartender. And for sure this barbaric customer will never, ever get another one of these multilayered drinks ever again from the same bartender.

I do not sell many of these hard to make drinks. I admit I myself have made less than a dozen layered drinks in all these years for customers. Now you may ask “Do waiters make cocktails too?” The answer is yes in many houses the waiter has to be able to make his own drinks.
In the mid 90s I got quite a few orders of, the other kind, cocktails with shocking or wicked names. These were much in demand in the 1995-1996 seasons. Young people and dating couples ordered such. Some of these drinks would be greatly enjoyed on Jamaica vacations, or somewhere tropical! Here are a few off-the-wall drinks:

SEX ON THE BEACH; 1/4 ounce Peach Schnapps, 1 1/4 ounce Vodka, a dash of orange juice in a tall glass over ice, filled to the rim with cranberry juice.

SLIPPERY NIPPLES; Sambucca 1/4 ounce and Baileys 1/4 ounce, shaken and strained served in a martini glass.

BEAUTIFUL Grand Marnier and Courvoisier 3/4 ounce each served in a preheated snifter.

ORGASM; Baileys, Amaretto and Kaluah ounce each, shaken and strained served in a martini glass.

SILK PANTIES; Peach Schnapps ounce, Vodka 1 1/4 ounce, shaken strained and served in a martini glass.(2)

For a longer cocktail list by Big Al click here!

I don’t think a waiter has to know every imaginary cocktail. But if the guest wants liqueurs blended his way, I do it and charge him for what he consumes.

With the food it is the same. It is important to know the menu and wine list. One really should know all the items which the house offers to the guest.

A waiter also should be able to help the customer with the often difficult choice. I’m used to listen to special dietary questions and to any of my customers’ allergies, however before I promise to get the guest what he needs or wants, I usually say: “Let me check with the chef. I do think we can do it your way, but please don’t quote me until I’m back from the kitchen.”
If a customer is allergic to garlic or nuts, I always mark it on the check and the kitchen ticket to make sure there are no garlic or nuts in his food. I also do ask the chef if he can change his menu according to a certain guest’s wishes. Yet I do not automatically assume that we can do whatever he or she wants us to prepare.

Most chefs do whatever they can, to meet a guest’s needs. They will use olive oil instead of lard. Chefs will steam fish instead of frying it. They will leave walnut oil out of a dressing. Chefs will add garlic to a pasta dish. Chefs might (maybe) even make Caesar salad dressing without anchovy and without eggs. But from my own experience chefs will not follow a guest’s grand mother’s recipe to create a unique one of a kind dish. Chefs are in general proud of their very own recipes and their menus! To tell a cook I don’t care for your recipe, I have a better one, usually will lead nowhere in a flash.
If I need anything changed, I ask the Chef nicely. And only after I have gotten his okay to any menu change, I go back to the guest and confirm what the chef said with “Yes we can do as you request!”

A common oversight I have noticed is the pouring of regular coffee for the guest who asks for caffeine-free-coffee. I have heard waiters say: “If she can’t drink coffee she shouldn’t order it!” Still, if a guest has a heart condition, but wants the smell of coffee without his heartbeat going up, he certainly deserves his “decaf”. Other than the ones who for medical reason should not drink caffeine, are many older guests who have a problem sleeping after real coffee. What good is it, to serve the best available food to one’s guest, if there is a bad after effect?

I am not talking about gross neglect, like food poisoning. No! By no means! I am referring to a sleepless night, thanks to a waiter’s careless mix-up between regular and decaf coffee. The experience of a perfect meal will be overshadowed. The guest will be miserable instead of fresh and rested the day after the dinner. And most likely will he blame the place where he ate dinner for his unhappiness.

There are many things I don’t know. But I do know that if a guest asks a waiter for a certain item, a certain brand, it is the waiter’s job to get the customer exactly what he orders. If such is not available, the guest has to be informed. A good waiter knows what to substitute when, yet will always ask for the customer’s approval first.

1. Pousse Caffee or similar drinks are carefully layered by the experienced bartender. The bartender has to know the weight of each liquor used. The heaviest shall be at the bottom, onto it a lighter one, and onto this another liquor. I have seen layered drinks with nine layers. These concoctions are supposed to be artfully sipped with a straw layer by layer without mixing the ingredients up.

2. These cocktails were selected by Albert Terris, a long time bartender on the Monterey Peninsula, for print in The Waiter’s Digest.

by helmut schonwalder