Saturday night. Brno, Bar který neexistuje.
I have an impression I’ve known Filip for ages. He’s a bartender – and when it comes to mixing cocktails, he’s an artist. His skills are in high demand, and on weekend nights like this one, he’s busy.
The place is packed and the orders keep coming. Filip does not stop for a single minute. I’m sitting at the bar, chatting with a Spanish girl about wine, family traditions and Czech winter. Filip notices that I’ve just finished my drink. “One more glass of red?” he asks. “I’m rather up for a cocktail,” I answer.
“All right, give me a second. I’m with you once I’m done with this mojito.” I watch him in fascination. His every move is a part of a perfectly drilled sequence. He hands the mojito over to the waitress who sets off towards the other side of the room.
He turns to me.“What kind of cocktail are you up for?” His raised eyebrow gives me a feeling I have his undivided attention. “Something unusual? Refreshing maybe?” I tell him. “Hmm… let me think”, he says. “We don’t have your favorite Bols Blue, but here, have a try, this may just work.” He takes a bottle labeled Fialkový likér, pours a drop of dark purple liquid into a shot glass and passes it towards me. I smell it. Never had something like this before. I taste it. Yes, this is what I want. I nod. Filip gives me a wink.
He puts three other bottles on the bar and starts his magic. “Wow, this guy is an artist!” says the Spanish girl. In less than a minute, the artist’s masterpiece is in front of me. I take a sip. “So, what do you say?” Filip asks. “I say it’s pretty awesome.” “Good,” he replies, his eyes giving away a hint of craftsman’s satisfaction. He refills my glass with water and goes ahead with his business, shaking cocktails for the rest of the bar.
A moment later he turns to us again: “Look, I was supposed to make one daiquiri, but by mistake I made two. Would you like to have the one extra?” I think I don’t need to tell you what was the answer. Few things can beat having your best friend an extraordinary bartender.
It’s just… Saturday night was the first time I met Filip. This is the way he would treat any customer.
Three cocktails and a burger on both the Czech and the Spanish side later, the bill is above twelve hundred CZK. When Filip hands us the terminal for payment by credit card, he nonchalantly reminds us that if we want to leave a tip, we have to type it extra.
How does it make you feel when a bartender asks you for a tip?
In most cases, it makes me feel uncomfortable, as if the waiter is telling me: “Look, I was nice to you, now is payback time.” But because I saw how Filip was enjoying himself with the shaker and bottles in his hands the whole evening, I don’t see it as asking for payback. On the contrary. I wanted to show appreciation. And right now, he gave me what I wanted by telling me how.
This Saturday night episode made me ask myself two questions:
What was it that made Filip so special?
Here, the answer was clear. Filip was a pro. More than that, he was brilliant at what he was doing. Fully aware of it. And happy to share the fruits of his brilliance with others.
Then the second question: What do I need to do to be a real pro like Filip?
Answering this one will take some more effort. But I feel that just asking it is a good start.