PREGAMING

I was not familiar with this term until I met my boyfriend. If you’re not familiar, pregaming is drinking prior to going to an event regardless if there will be alcohol served at the event. Pregaming has become as important as the main event.

The Planning

The pregame planning begins with a series of group texts to determine the venue of said pregame. The venue is usually a spot where the group are “regulars” but can also be a bar near the venue where the main event is being held. A meet up time is then decided upon. If the main event involves food, the meet up time will generally be 1.5 hours prior to the start of the event. If the main event does not include food, additional time is allowed for eating. With or without food, it is important to allow enough time to drink a cocktail, catch up with friends and make it to the main event on time.

Pregame Etiquette

It is never acceptable to get shit-faced at the pregame. One should always arrive to the main event with all faculties in check. It is never acceptable to get so caught up in the pregame that you ditch the main event.

Origins of Pregaming

I’m going to go out on a limb here and hypothesize that the pregame is derived from the tailgate party. At some unknown moment in time, some boozer came up with the brilliant idea to tailgate before all events and renamed the non-sporting pre-party, the pregame.

The real genius of the pregame is that it gets everyone to the main event on time, already loosened up and ready to be social.

HOSPITALITY FIRST

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the bartenders in the Columbus area. I couldn’t be more proud or appreciative of their dedication to the craft and their ability to mix amazing cocktails. I respect our area bartenders so much that I (along with partner Blair) created the Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour and Behind The Stick (bartending/mixology competition show) to shine a light on talented local bartenders.  In all my tributes, however, I have failed to sing the praises of the dedication our bartenders have to the art of hospitality. It’s not that I haven’t noticed or that I don’t think it important, I do, very much, in fact, a rude or inattentive bartender is worse than a shaken Manhattan; I can order a new drink but I can’t change an attitude. I have many examples of exemplary hospitality that I’ve personally experienced in our town but in the interest of time and space, I’ll share a few of the most recent.

On our “Downtown” Craft Cocktail Tour we were at our second stop, Salt & Pine, enjoying a cocktail and snack specially prepared by the bar manager in collaboration with the chef. Being fairly new to cocktail tour hosting, we forgot to ask about food aversions. As it turned out, the carefully crafted cocktail was thoughtfully prepared with a delicious seafood dish that our pregnant guest could not and another guest would not eat. Upon learning this and without blinking an eye, the chef prepared a beautiful charcuterie board for our seafood adverse guests. As we enjoyed the venue, it began to rain. I brought three umbrellas but we had ten guests. The staff kindly raided the lost and found and loaned us two umbrellas. We set off to our final destination, Sidebar 122, which is only a few blocks away. In our short walk, the wind was blowing and we all got pretty soaked. As we walked through the door at Sidebar, the owner was standing at the bar where our seats awaited us with towels so that everyone could dry off.  She handed out the towels like a shower attendant at the spa. After amazing cocktails and food, the tour ended. Some of our guests stayed at Sidebar for dinner and the rest, a bachelorette party, followed us back to our first stop, Blind Lady Tavern. They enjoyed BLT so much that they wanted to end the night there. Our remaining guests were greeted by the owner who broke out the punch bowl and made a special cocktail just for them.

In speaking to the bar manager of Sidebar a few days later, I expressed my gratitude and pride in how our guests were treated. His reply summed up how I think most of the hard working folks in Columbus’ hospitality industry approach every customer “we want every guest to feel special and to feel like they got their money’s worth.” Mission accomplished. 

Cheers!

SECRETS REVEALED

We received an email from a guy, we’ll call him Murry, who had purchased two tickets to our Short North cocktail tour. He explained that he and his wife, we’ll call her Rebecca, would be participating in the tour but that Rebecca wouldn’t be drinking and could we provide virgin cocktail options. We responded that this was no problem for us as this wasn’t the first time we’ve been asked to accommodate a non-drinker. He then sent an apologetic email explaining that his two sisters would be purchasing tickets for the same tour and that Rebecca was pregnant (hence the no-drinking) but that the pregnancy had not yet been announced and needed to be kept secret. Sure, we can pull that off.

At first, we decided we’d explain that she was the designated driver but then worried that, since our tour is three hours long, the sisters might wonder why she wasn’t having a drink at our first venue, The Bar at Hyde Park. We decided to leave it up to the venues.

I sent an email to our participating bars that read “four guests for tonight’s tour; one of our guests is pregnant so please make her a virgin cocktail and no seafood...and by the way, we can’t let anyone know she’s pregnant so I will point her out to you. Remember, Mum’s the word”.

As is our common practice, we arrived at Hyde Park about a half hour early. The bartender, Todd, had formulated a plan. He planned to make a Paloma for our guests. He would make the virgin cocktail in advance and hide it behind the bar and do a little “switch-a-roo” when the guests were distracted. Brilliant plan!

When we greeted our guests, Murray told me immediately that the pregnancy had been announced to the family. The pressure was off. Secretly, I was a little bummed. We were anxious about how the night would play out but I was very interested to see how the venues would keep the secret. Todd obviously knew that is was no longer a secret and our final stop, Denmark on High, had been texting us so we went ahead and told them, but I decided to play a little trick on our second stop, Soul Bar.

I texted the Manager of Soul Bar, Ian, to let him know that the pregnant woman’s name was Rebecca and that she had short blonde hair and was wearing a scarf. I let our guests in on the charade.

We arrived at Soul Bar and Ian began his presentation. He was making a Sidecar for our guests and proceeded to explain the history of the cocktail, how it got its name, the ingredients and how to build the drink. He lined up four coupe glasses on the bar and began mixing the cocktail. He began filling the coupe glasses one by one. As he made his way to the fourth coupe glass, he tipped up the shaker and said, “oh shoot, I didn’t measure correctly, I didn’t make enough”. Ian then pretended to make another Sidecar. He even went as far as to pretend to be pouring the spirits into the shaker. He shook the shaker and poured the final cocktail and put it in front of our pregnant guest. Ian had taken the time to figure out how to make a concoction that would mimic the color of a sidecar. We were all amazed. After our toast, we let Ian in on the charade. He was a good sport.

I hope that our guests took away from this experience not only knowledge of cocktails and how they are made but, more importantly, an appreciation for the lengths that Columbus’ bars and restaurants will go to accommodate their guests. Bravo!

EXIT, STAGE LEFT

Vivian, Columbus, Ohio

 

One day while waiting tables, I walked back to the kitchen to check on food.  I noticed that a female guest had followed me into the kitchen.

Vivian: “Can I help you?”

Guest: “Do you have a back door?”

Vivian: “No, why do you ask?”

Guest: “I am on a terrible date and I need to ditch him”

Vivian: “Sorry, the best I can do is to offer you a shot of something to get you through the date”

The guest looks over and sees a door that leads to our sister restaurant.

Guest: “Where does that door lead to?”

Vivian: “Next door to our sister restaurant”

Guest: “I’ll take the shot, charge it to his bill and I’m going to leave through the restaurant next door”

She took the shot and left through the side door and I had the unenviable task of telling her date.

Good Things Come in Small Packages

Cyril, Columbus, OH

I’ve spent so many years in so many places and so many bars. The one experience that stands out to me is when I was working in L.A. at a makeshift bar situated under a staircase. The space was so tight it could barely fit one person and there were two of us bartending. We had to share an ice bin and only had one rail. We were constantly reaching and squeezing around one another. One wouldn’t think so but it turned out to be the best bartending experience I have ever had. We had to figure out how to reach around and anticipate each other’s move and work together. Before we knew it, we were working in sync. It was a valuable lesson.

 

Hell Hath No Fury....

Christina, Tampa, FL

One night while tending bar in Washington D.C., a married couple came in. They seemed happy enough and ordered drinks. As the husband was talking, I noticed that the wife’s face had turned dark. One of the waiters had overheard the husband admit to cheating on his wife. With the wife brooding and the husband cowering, I kept my distance at the other end of the bar. After a while, they called me over to place their order. Me: “what can I get you?” Wife: “I’ll have the filet and your most expensive bottle of champagne”. Me: “and for you, sir?” Wife interrupts: “oh, he’ll have the pork because he’s a f’ing pig!”

 

The Heisman Trophy, Riding Shotgun

From Todd, Columbus, Ohio

While working at a high-end restaurant several years ago, there was a party in one of our private dining areas for vendors and other folks. One of the really cool things about the party was that the Heisman Trophy awarded for the 1974–75 season to Archie Griffin was there and you could get your picture taken with it.

The next day when I reported to work, my boss gave me a piece of paper with an address on it and said, “I need you to make a delivery to this address”. I map-quested the address and went back to my boss and he said, “you’ll be delivering this package”. The package was a large suitcase with a plaque that said 1974–75 Archie Griffin. I couldn’t believe it, I was going to deliver the Heisman Trophy to two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin himself! I took the suitcase and buckled it in the front seat. I immediately called my brother and said, “you won’t believe what I have in my car right now”.

I arrived at the residence and rang the bell. The door opened and there, in front of me was Archie Griffin. I said, “Archie Griffin, I would like to present to you the 1974-75 Heisman Trophy… again.” Archie invited me in and we sat at his kitchen table and drank a cup of coffee.

I don’t think there are very many people who can say they’ve had the Heisman Trophy riding shot gun in their car.