A night on the town

Christina Stavale

For bartenders, every night unfolds a different story

Every night after work, Katlin Rossi, a bartender at Brewhouse Pub, has a new story to tell.

From the usual – listening to the entire bar join in a chorus of a Journey song – to the extreme – having a customer try to kiss her – it’s safe to say she’s always on her toes.

Rossi, a Spring 2009 graduate of Kent State, started learning to bartend before she was 21.

She says it took her about two months to become comfortable with the process, and during that time, she studied as if she was studying for a test, making and memorizing note cards.

And after two years, she’s still learning.

“There’s always new shots to learn,” she says, adding that she probably knows how to make 50 or more shots. “They’ll come and go, and I’ll forget (how to make something).”

Right now, she says the most popular shot is the cherry tootsie pop – chocolate vodka, grenadine and Red Bull – and the popular drinks are the usual: $1 long island iced teas on Thursdays and $3 pitchers of Keystone Light.

On a typical Thursday night, Rossi comes in to work at 5 p.m. and begins stocking the bar with cups. On the busy nights, she can be found with a cup of coffee just before business gets going around 10 p.m.

“Thursday through Saturday, I need my coffee,” she says, smiling, as she adds that those nights are also her favorites to work.

But it isn’t until 11:30 p.m., and even later if it’s cold out, that things really start to get busy behind the bar.

That’s when “you take multiple orders, and you run like crazy,” Rossi says.

But she has a few hours before she has to worry about that. At about 10:30 p.m., just about all the stools at the bar are occupied, but besides that, it’s virtually empty. That’s when Rossi and her fellow bartenders for the night, Cassie Sanford, senior integrated math major, and public relations major Margaret Dorfman, have time to talk with each other and with customers.

“We’re humble people, and we like to talk to our customers, unless we’re busy,” Rossi says.

She says these conversations can range from what a person’s life plans are to conversations she doesn’t want to have.

“Guys – once they get liquored up, they’ll say anything,” she says, laughing. “I don’t take offense; I really can’t.”

Behind the bar at this time of the night, a shelf of shot glasses and pitchers is almost completely full. As the night goes on, it will empty a bit, and these glasses will transfer to the sink, which is at the far end of the bar. Only a few dishes sit there now – the dishwashers haven’t even come in yet.

But it’s still crowded back there. Only a few feet separate the counter from the wall, and three bartenders are walking back and forth. Above them, Halloween decorations hang from the ceiling, and among the staff, an anticipation of the biggest holiday in Kent seems to loom.

The girls excitedly discuss how they all plan to dress as animals in a zoo, and the one male bartender is going to dress as their zookeeper. Even though they’ll be behind the scenes, they’re looking forward to it.

“Halloween is like a whole new world behind the bar,” Sanford says.

Looking back at her time in college, Rossi says bartending has given her a behind-the-scenes look at college life.

“You get to see (people) and what they do,” she says. “You know a lot of things about them that maybe they don’t know.”

Despite working most weekends, she says she still finds time for fun, and when she does, her friends often ask her to make them drinks. Unfortunately, though, their liquor supply often consists of just vodka and juice, which is quite the opposite of the fully stocked supply at the Brewhouse.

Sanford points to a root beer liquor and says in her time working there, she’s never used it.

But one she does use often is tequila.

It’s getting later in the evening, and three men sitting at the far end of the bar order shots of tequila. As Sanford grabs the bottle off the shelf after taking their order, she realizes it is empty, so she grabs another. Before pouring any liquor, she fills the mixer with ice, and then she fills a “jigger,” a triangular device used to measure shots, three times, and chills it with the ice.

Sanford sets three shot glasses out in front of the men, along with three blue napkins, three limes and a shaker of salt.

“Are you guys allowed to do shots?” one of the men jokes, as Sanford pours three perfectly even shots.

Rossi looks on, laughing as they take the shots.

“I love watching their faces after they take it,” she says. It’s tequila that she says generates the “best” reaction.

Meanwhile the bar is beginning to fill with patrons, and two girls begin singing karaoke to “Rollout” by Ludacris. Rossi says she’s heard people sing everything because the bar hosts karaoke every Thursday.

“Sometimes I don’t notice, unless it’s really, really bad,” she says.

She also swears that every male has a secret obsession with *NSYNC, based on the number of times people sing their songs.

“Every guy knows the words,” Rossi says. “I think every guy is an *NSYNC fan.”

More and more patrons begin making stops to the bar to get drinks. Dorfman waits on a girl who says, “Surprise me with something with rum.”

Dorfman asks if she’d like something sweet, and her customer says yes. She makes her a blue drink called a Blue Hawaiian. The girl sips it and says, “Oh, it’s good.”

Rossi says learning to make drinks on the spot when a customer doesn’t know quite what they want is an important part of bartending, and it’s something that gets easier with time.

“You learn over time what goes good with different things,” she says. “It’s just like if you’re making a sandwich.”

The most important question she asks in this situation is if there’s any liquor the customer doesn’t like.

“There’s always that one liquor that you can’t take,” Rossi says, “and it’s usually Jager or tequila.”

More and more patrons begin to enter. Karaoke continues, and nearly the whole bar begins to sing along as a group of girls sing “Killing me Softly.”

It’s almost midnight, and business is now nearly in full swing, but Rossi says things are a bit slower than usual because it’s the first cold Thursday of the year.

The three bartenders are gathered around the cash register at once, some gathering cash and others adding to already-opened tabs.

“If you open a tab, I’ll remember your name,” Rossi assures, and she says she’s learned many names and faces during her time there.

To be a bartender, she says it takes a good personality.

“Be aware of your surroundings,” she says. “Be personable. Practice what you’re doing.”

And most importantly, “have fun.”

Contact features editor Christina Stavale at [email protected]