When I left Miami a few months ago, I spat good riddance to its holier-than-thou doormen, ear-splitting house music, and "models only" nightlife mentality — but not to its burgeoning cocktail culture. Atlanta's own foray into the libation world impressed and intrigued me. Then I noticed a familiarity that crosses the state line.
There ain't no love for cocktail servers here, either.
The recent CL Food Issue interviews the best bartenders and waiters, and even has an article dedicated solely to sous chefs — yet has no mention of an integral part of the industry it's claiming to be inside. I contend that the underappreciated cocktail servers of Atlanta have enough style, talent, and personality to be recognized. Yes, right along with the celebrity mixologists of the city.
A cocktail server is like a waiter-bartender hybrid. But what she can't display in dining etiquette, she must make up for as a conversationalist, entertainer, and, in ways, a seductress. Of course, cocktail servers are always women and usually attractive, which might explain why they aren't taken more seriously.
For example, Wikipedia describes cocktail waitresses as "often wearing revealing clothes to get more tips." It's more accurate to say the manager-mandated uniform often accentuates cleavage to appeal to a sex-driven clientele. She uses her charm, wit, and skill to get more tips.
As you've likely guessed, I am one of the tray-toting, black-dress-wearing women you may have bypassed on your way to the bar. I've worked the lounges of Miami Beach's hottest hotels — Fontainebleau, W South Beach, Sagamore — and am now at W Atlanta Midtown.
I've been belittled by condescending customers many times; that's just part of the job. (Someone recently "praised" me for getting his water-with-no-ice-and-a-lime order correct after I didn't pour a Guinness to his liking.)
Just like a bartender's edge is a culmination of former work experience, so is a waitress's. Those tourist-attentive lounges in Miami have trained me not to do certain things, like set a tray heavy with drinks on a table or regularly sit with my guests.
Here, originality is embraced. My counterparts all have a signature style — whether it be the one with piercing blue eyes who sits on tables to take orders, or the sailor-talking beauty who has "Trouble" tattooed on her finger and makes businessmen blush.
Sure, there are many who make the airhead stereotype seem accurate. A bad server doesn't care to know the menu, can't recommend customer-specific cocktails, and makes guests feel as if they are inconveniencing her.
But a good one can be noticed even from afar. She effortlessly glides through crowds with a tray of martinis balanced on her fingertips. She connects with guests while intuitively noticing what needs to be done on the return trip, all without ever appearing frazzled. The women who have mastered the art of cocktail serving have impressive followings, much like bartenders.
Patrons, imagine if your martini was served without olives, your margarita delivered lime-less, your Fancily Named Specialty Cocktail presented without an exotic piece of fruit. A cocktail sever is like a garnish: not necessary for consumption, but enhances the presentation and experience noticeably.
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