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H o w M i d d l e C l a s s K i d s Wa n t w o r K i n g - C l a s s J o b s 5 The New York City Bar and Wine Show takes place every June at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, on the Far West Side of Manhattan. A trade event for bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, the Bar and Wine Show has exhibitors who promote products like lighting, sound, and security systems; absinthe fountains ; plastic trays with special holders for shots; and, of course, wine and liquor . Booze brands hire women models to wear skimpy clothing and pass out free samples (in plastic trays with special holders for shots) in front of their booths. A party bus company parks its product in the back; the pounding bass can be felt from a hundred feet away. Flair bartenders compete. Members of New York City’s cocktail community have been working at the event over the past few years. They lead seminars, make cocktails for brands, and, quite simply, promote themselves. The United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) has its own booth and small space for demonstrations. At the 2010 show, Maxwell, a young up-and-coming bartender at Jack the Horse Tavern and a consultant, stands behind a makeshift bar and prepares a drink, while Jonathan, the USBG’s president and the president of his own consulting group The Cocktail Guru, stands to the side and narrates the steps and ingredients. He makes sure to name the products of their sponsors (Tuthilltown’s Four Grain Bourbon, in this case). Convention visitors—industry folks and consumers alike—sit in rows of folding chairs. If they wait long enough, they can sample the cocktail Maxwell’s making. I stand in the back and watch. Through the stream of visitors to my right I see Hal walking toward me, wearing a shirt, tie, vest, and jeans, and carrying his brown leather bartender utility bag, designed by famed bartender ‹ 130 › C h a p t e r 5 Jim Meehan.1 Hal tells me he just finished taking the USBG’s Advanced Bartender exam, on classic and modern cocktails and spirits, as part of its Master Accreditation Program. He feels confident in his performance. Hal has come a long way since I first met him, the previous September, at a bartender competition sponsored by Barenjager Honey Liqueur. He has been progressing deeper and deeper into the craft cocktail world. Originally from Long Island, Hal started working for a finance company in their technology department after graduating from college. In 2005 Hal took a date to the Flatiron Lounge. “I don’t know who I met, but I fell in love with cocktails,” he says about the experience. “I grew up drinking Mudslides, Long Island Iced Teas, and shitty beer.” The drinks he had that night were unlike anything he had ever tasted before. Afterward, Hal started looking up other cocktail bars on the Internet and visiting them. He also gradually built a home bar, increased his cocktail knowledge, and honed his drink-making skills. He started to personally know bartenders around the city. After learning so much about bars, cocktails, and Figure 10. Jonathan and Maxwell giving a cocktail demonstration at the Bar and Wine Show, with Hal looking on. Photo by the author. M i d d l e - C l a s s K i d s , W o r K i n g - C l a s s J o b s ‹ 131 › the New York scene, Hal began regularly recommending places for his friends to check out and drinks they should try. They encouraged him to publicize his reviews. In early 2009 he started a blog about his visits and home experiments . All of a sudden, liquor companies began to contact him and send him their products to review. Then they started asking him to create new cocktails using their products. Going out, mingling and networking with bartenders and his fellow bloggers, and writing about his adventures became his passion, but his tech job paid the bills. “I’m working on a gin series,” Hal told me the December after I met him, at a holiday event. “A bunch of [gin brands] sent me their products so I could write about them. Right now I’m researching them at Greg Boehm’s and tasting them.2 I’ll write it all up soon. I’d like to...


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