Updated: Oct 3, 2019
So, we bought a bar. What now? Cassie (my twin sister) and I have been in the service industry since we were sixteen because our mom also owns a bar in White Sulphur Springs called Bar 47. We knew quite a bit about customer service, bartending, and food service, but did not know how to work in a fine dining setting or how to make craft cocktails.
To open up the business, we had to create menus for the restaurant and the bar. I couldn't even drink. How was I supposed to create a cocktail menu that people liked? Well, I had to do lots of research. Since our theme was the 1920's, the classic cocktails were easy and it was pretty easy to come up with names for our signature drinks, as well.
At Bar 47, the only drinks I had to know were a whiskey ditch and how to open a bottle of Bud Light. The Jawbone was a whole different story. We had to learn how to make a perfect martini, just enough vermouth to vodka (or gin which I didn't even know was a thing before then) ratio. We had to learn the difference between single malt scotches, brandy, Canadian whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, etc. I crafted a menu that tried to cater to everyone's taste buds. I added some bitter drinks, a drink from every different spirit category, sweet drinks, tropical drinks, and spicy drinks. Just because I couldn't drink didn't mean I didn't know what people liked. People want variety and flavor and I could offer that without even knowing much about alcohol. When we first opened, I had a few locals sit at the bar and taste some of the combinations I came up with. One of our drinks, The Blind Pig, has grapefruit juice, lime, jalapeno tequila, simple syrup, and soda water. Working with spicy, sweet and bitter can be tough, but we came up with a ratio that worked after a few trials and errors.
Let's talk about wine. At Bar 47 we were used to serving boxed wine. Now we not only needed to know our Merlots from Cabernets, but we also had to learn what regions they came from and had to decide which brands we would showcase on our wine list. Then, we needed to learn the language to describe the wine to properly pitch it to the customers without personally being able to recommend it based on experience. Thankfully, we had help from the local state liquor store owner and a few self-proclaimed sommeliers. Our chef helped pair the dishes we chose for our menu with the wine we'd settle on to carry. Our community and support systems helped to fill the gaps in our knowledge. What we didn't know, we simply asked for help with.
Opening up The Jawbone has been a learning experience for both of us. It has forced me to learn new things like mixology and what makes a good wine. I have learned how to have different mannerisms when serving in a different setting to a different clientele. On days when I work at Bar 47 during the day and The Jawbone at night, I have to change the way I look, the way I talk to people and even my body language. I have to dress a certain way and carry myself differently. Learning versatility and allowing myself to play many different roles in our community, as well as asking for help when I need it, has been key to any success I've experienced. I try to keep this in mind as the challenges of owning a business continue to evolve. I may be able to drink alcohol now that I'm of legal age, and therefore can try the drinks I'm inventing, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't seek input and involvement from those around me.