Mastery in P.J. Clarke’s . . . a saloon
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on May 27th, 2010

If you’re a bartender, aim to be the best.

Not being a habitue of  gin mills, nor having had much opportunity to study a brilliant bartender at his or her craft I’d never given thought to the possibility of achieving Mastery at Tending Bar. This NY Times article by Frank Bruni was mind-expanding. I love examples of a passion to be great at something, anywhere I find them – and especially thrilling when they’re unexpected.

“He filled beer mugs without watching what he was doing. He could apparently tell, by the weight of them, when to stop. He plucked bottles from their perches without pausing to check labels. He apparently had, in his head, the whole liquor layout at P.J. Clarke’s, on the East Side.

Doug Quinn behind PJ Clarke's bar

And he remembered what my companion and I were drinking, even though we had ordered just one round so far, and there were at least 35 people clumped around the bar on this early May night, and he was dealing — alone — with all the tickets from all the servers in the adjacent dining rooms, and he wasn’t writing anything down, not that I could see.”

Are you on a Masters’ Path?

2 Responses to “Mastery in P.J. Clarke’s . . . a saloon”

  1. chris baker says:

    As a painter and artist, I can begin to sense Doug Quinn’s ability to “see” with his hands. Often, after a day of painting at an easel, and upon returning I ask myself: “Who did this fine (or not so) work?” Given years of working at a craft, be it bar tending, painting, cooking, or of course swimming, things begin to fall magically into place. Not having to think about the right brush, how much indigo blue to mix with the burnt umber, or how to slip that arm quietly into the water, and then relax takes years of repetition, mistakes and corrections. Most of us are likely somewhere in the middle. Except every once in a while…cheers.

  2. Markku Siipola says:

    Some master have sad about the road to mastery:
    First learn everything, then forget everything.

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