Tag Archives: working at a winery

Behind the Bar: A Day in the Tasting Room at Paumanok Vineyards

28 May

My friends and acquaintances know that I do love a seat at the bar (skiing Mahogany Ridge, I like to call it). They all know that I don’t do a whole lot of sitting at the bar anymore, but not all of them know about my behind-the-bar history.

My first bartending job was at a bar here on Long Island known as Diamond Lil’s. To say it was a dive would be generous understatement.

Morning meeting: winemaker Kareem Massoud briefs the tasting room staff on all things wine

Morning meeting: winemaker Kareem Massoud briefs the tasting room staff on all things wine

It was the last resort of the biker crowd, which had been banned from every other bar in town (and there were at least a dozen in town back then). When it was packed on a Friday night with a cover band playing — the bands as a rule really rocked –, it was fun alright, so you didn’t notice, but if you also worked on quiet Sunday afternoons, as I did, it smelled bad. Stale beer and stale cigarette and cheap tequila and piss. Bad. It was dirty. It was dark. The ceilings were so low, they squashed expectations. The jukebox played “Plastic Jesus” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” at random — and often alarming –intervals. The pool table was off-kilter. So were the toilets, probably from so many large bikers sitting on them in reverse, in order to use the tank to cut cocaine. If I came in hungover, the hangdog divorced lonely Sunday afternoon guys — who were often hanging about by the door waiting for me to open at noon — took great delight in ordering shots of tequila all afternoon, to see if they could make me puke. I will not tell you whether they were successful.

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