We’ve made it to our first anniversary together as The Straw Hat Barmen. What started out as a hobby has turned into an enterprising little business with more success in the first year than we could have ever imagined. Three diverse personalities could not mesh any better together. Many have thought this endeavor may be a lark or just for fun but we have proved them wrong and right! Yes, it is fun. Loads of fun, actually, but also many hours of hard work and preparation go into each event we do.
George, Jimi and myself have learned so much as bartenders this past year. We’ve learned that preparation is key to a successful event. Whether it is a small private party, wedding or The Hukilau, you can never be too prepared! Go over your ingredient lists, then double-check the quantities to ensure they are accurate.
Speaking of lists, use them, create them, double-check them and then double-check them again. Do not think you can assemble ingredients for multiple drinks for any type of event without compiling lists. Creating lists for shopping, lists for prepping and lists for packing have helped keep us organized. You may have mint checked off your shopping list, but if you don’t check it off your packing list, it does no one any good sitting at home in the fridge, instead of being at the event garnishing someone’s drink!
We have learned prepping is essential for a successful event. Prepping takes more time than any of us ever imagined. Start prepping early – ice rings take a while to freeze. Other tasks, such as designing and printing menus and recipes, can take longer than you expect. Be prepared for printer jams, lost paper, uncooperative technology devices, etc.
We have done a wide variety of events: small private parties, loud raucous weddings, large for-profit events. When interacting with such a wide variety of customers and dealing with customer needs, we have learned that adapting is key to making the customers and their guests happy. No matter how well you prepare, things are going to go awry – the customer will buy the wrong ingredient; one ingredient will be missing; someone will bring a bottle of their favorite spirit and expect you to make a drink out of it; one drink will far outsell the other drinks on the menu (and it’s never the one you expect to be the favorite!).
Some events require more than just the three Straw Hat Barmen. Finding folks outside of our merry trio that can be relied upon to “deliver” is essential. Finding someone who will say “I got it” is worth that person’s weight in gold (or limes!). Some great examples are Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Joe Desmond and Frank Nosalek. These folks are fantastic, and all have pulled us out of at least one jam during the past year.
This blog post may seem more like a business manual. What some may find surprising is that besides being Straw Hat Barmen, all three of us have great business sense. But don’t think for a minute that it’s all business; we also know a bit about concocting a cocktail.
When creating handcrafted cocktails for large groups of people, we’ve learned some tricks to keep us sane and our customers happily inebriated. Always offer a punch. It’s easy to serve, can be pre-mixed and is ready to be doled out when thirsty wedding guests exit the dance floor after a bout of electric sliding.
Another crowd-pleasing activity has been the elaborate garnish. The ladies love a pretty drink, and the guys love anything that has been set on fire. And sometimes the opposite is true! Jimi’s favorite cocktail tool is his garnish tongs – although George and I are plotting to find out his secret to creating three-foot-long “horse’s necks” (citrus peel garnish).
We have also discovered that people really do want to drink better. We have served a large array of personalities, professions and attitudes this year. People have thanked us to opening them up to the joys of gin, the light flavor of a good tequila and the realization that rum will not make you sick. If you serve great drinks, people will recognize the difference. But they still may ask for a shot of Fireball after they drink your finely crafted 1934 Mai Tai made with homemade orgeat and garnished beautifully. You can’t judge, though; just smile and say “enjoy” as you present them with their drink.
Thanks to all who have helped us through this first year. We could not have accomplished it without the support of our family and friends. Chris Kridler has rocked it as a PR/Media/Graphic Artist maven. She has created fantastic flyers, menu cards and, most of all, our fabulous logo. Kathryn Gonzalez has endured hours of cocktail research with us, late nights without Jimi and has hosted the gathering of the Straw Hat Barmen repeatedly. Jimi and Kathryn’s son, Elijah, is in training to be our fourth member as soon as he can master creating the perfect Manhattan for George or can finally see over the bar top, whichever comes first. Bill Surfacabra has inspired me to create better cocktails and made sure I’ve been able to experience great tiki bars across the United States. I have lovely memories of The Bali Hai, House Without a Key, and The Mai Kai to name a few, thanks to him!
We look forward to a second year of fantastic events, parties and weddings. We are also available for cocktail menu planning, home bar consultation and home cocktail lessons. Let us teach you how to create the perfect drink to amaze your friends and family!
– Christina Jordan