Bartenders spend much of their time, well, behind bars. They make drinks, make jokes and make you feel welcome, even when you’ve had too much. The good ones do, anyway. In the Behind Bars series, we give barkeeps a chance to speak their mind. This week, we catch up with Society Hill Hotel's Bob Bannon, who tells us why bartending is the best job for musicians, the importance of making concise decisions and the real reason why bartenders enter the trade.
Name: Bob Bannon
Where he is serving: Society Hill Hotel
Time served there: Six years.
Where else have you served time?
It’s more like where haven’t I served. Copa, Sugar Moms, Tattooed Moms, Independence Brew Pub, Khyber, Pontiac Grill and Tangier. Those are just a few of places I’ve worked. I also guest bartend at the Ugly American every third Saturday.
How long have you been behind bars?
What do you do on your time off?
I play drums in Black Landlord.
One unexpected fact about Bob:
I played drums in A Flock of Seagulls for a hot minute.
What’s your favorite beer?
I’ve never met a beer I didn’t like. I’m a pale ale kind of guy. Sierra Nevada usually does the trick.
Bartender or Mixologist?
How did you get into bartending?
I guess it’s being into music that’s responsible for me being in this business. I can’t think of any other career that would give me the flexibility to go tour Europe with Mudhoney, and then a couple weeks let me come back to work.
What’s your favorite cocktail?
If I go that way it’s probably going to be something with vodka. I try to stay away from whiskey these days. A vodka Arnold Palmer is nice in the summer.
Is there a drink that you consider your specialty?
People used to like my margaritas a lot, but we don’t get many orders for them here. Ask me for something too foo foo, and I’m going to give you a bottle of Budweiser and a shot of Jack Daniels.
Describe your ideal customer:
People who know what they want. Sometimes I feel like people want me to make so many decisions for them that I should order what I want and drink it for them.
Describe your worst customer:
Most bartenders have a good joke, do you?
I don’t. I can never remember the punch lines.
Have you ever had to break up a fight?
A couple times at Tangier I had to jump over the bar and threaten to kill the parties fighting.
Do you think its okay for bartenders to hook up with customers?
Absolutely! That’s one of the reasons why we get into this business.
What’s the best tip you’ve gotten?
Back in the ‘90s when the cash was still flowing, there was a group of us - five bartenders - that each kicked in $100 and we would go around to each other's bars and keep passing along the same $500 tip. We would show up, tip the bartender $500 and then the next night that bartender would tip the next guy, and so on.
What’s the best part of being a bartender?
Not being stuck in a cubicle, and getting to interact with people.
What’s the worst part?
Working in a bar. That and it seems like every bar I’ve worked in has had things break all the time, so I’m always fixing shit. I don’t know if it’s like that for every bartender, but I tend to wear many hats.
If you weren’t a bartender what would you be doing?
I’d like to be on stage getting paid to play drums full time.
How do you deal with unruly drunks?
Stop serving them.
Where can we find you on the other side of the bar?
O’Neals, New Wave Cafe, and Ugly American are all near my house, so those are the places where I usually go.
Why should I come get a drink from you as opposed to the guy at the next bar?
Because this is Old City and there aren’t many cool bars to hang out in here. The rest of the places in this neighborhood are for fabulous people.
What’s the secret to being a good bartender?
Patience! It has nothing to do with making drinks. That’s what’s so funny about bartending schools. They don’t teach anything practical about bartending, they just show you how to mix colored liquids.
Know someone who’s spent time Behind Bars? Tips gladly accepted here.