Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tuesdays with Eben: Prologue

Part 1

Rewind to Tales of the Cocktail 2008. "Mr. Freeman, I have a proposition for you. Are you interested in free labor?" I cautiously put out to Eben Freeman as he was busy making cocktails for the cocktail hour hosted at the Hotel Monteleone.

Without stopping what he was doing, Eben looked up at me.

"I would like to learn about cocktails. I am willing to do any and all menial labor in order to do this," I continued and waited for what I thought was the inevitable.

For a while, I'd been on a mission to find out if I could trade in my time to learn a few things about being behind the bar. And not just theoretically, like ask a bunch of questions or read a bunch of books, but something more hands on. However, I knew this would be difficult in setting up. I was basically requesting to be a monkey wrench thrown into the machine of someone's well-oiled bar. I had little to offer besides my almost masochistic lack of qualm at being put to work, an almost annoying curiosity to see how things worked (a.k.a. "nosiness") and almost "to-the-point-of-naivete" ability of finding things infinitely cool once I knew how it worked. Besides that, I really didn't know much. I'm not saying I don't get things. I'd been reading and watching people like like a hawk, but I mean you could get me to talk your ear off on what different bartenders are doing with X, but put me behind a bar and tell me to make something and I probably would break down crying.

On the other hand, I didn't want my request to come off like I was saying just because I learned a little I can be a bartender or that once I had the skills down I'd be some kind of expert. I knew by asking around for this "favor" there'd a slight chance I'd offend some who might take it that I wanted to hop behind a bar for a little bit because it's fun. I wasn't even asking to work a shift. If I could just watch and do barback stuff, no pay, or I don't know, come in and clean toilets so I could get a little one-on-one, I'd even do that. I'd met with rejection a couple of times before, so at that point I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I was going to hear another "no."

A look of bemusement spread across Eben's face like I'd just told a really clever joke. I winced a little on the inside and braced myself.

"Let's talk when I'm back in New York," he said.

I stared blankly for a minute or two, then cried out, "Really??"

Eben nodded, "Yea."

I hopped from one foot to another clapping my hands in time to, "Real-ly? Real-ly? Real-ly??" (No, really, I did that.)

Eben laughed a little and said yes, I should talk to him. He'd be out on vacation once he got back, but after that we could work something out.

Now, fast forward to early September. On a visit to Tailor, I quickly finished up a cocktail to gird myself, I asked Eben if he remembered that I had mentioned how, you know, maybe I could, I don't know, do a little work in exchange for lessons or something...and by the way I would totally understand if he wanted to say...

"Yea," Eben said.

"...'yea?' As in, I can do this?"


I squealed and hopped back and forth from foot to foot as I again chanted, "Real-ly? Real-ly? Real-ly?"

Yes, really. So a couple of emails followed and it was decided that Tuesdays would work best. I was soon set to start the first session.


RumDood said...

What a great story. I've often thought of doing the same. I'd love to get some experience behind the stick to get a better appreciation for the craft. Alas, in Orange County, there aren't a lot of Eben's wandering around. ;-)

Good luck!

Sonya Moore said...

rumdood: I am so very grateful that he said yes. Especially because he's giving me his time and letting me use his space just to teach me. I know I'm not exactly behind the bar material with zero experience serving or making drinks, so he easily could have said no since what I really need is someone holding my hand through what happens behind a bar.