The day has arrived. The busiest drinking night of the year.

On behalf of bartenders everywhere, I’m taking this opportunity to thank the patrons who will make this night bearable, and to apologize to anyone who will undoubtedly see some staff at their worst. This shift will be the longest shift of the year, regardless of how many hours are actually logged. It might also be the most lucrative. If you have never worked this night, or even seen it from the other side of the bar, you could argue that it balances itself out. That is entirely subjective, and dependent on so many variables that I won’t even dare to address.

Your bar staff is going to have their patience tested like no other. They are going to put in more steps than any FitBit could track. They will lose track of how long it has been since they ate or drank, let alone took a bathroom break. Even the best of the best might get snippy or short-tempered. We don’t want to snap at anyone. We don’t want to have to cut you off (this might be a lie for some). And we definitely do not want to make a mistake. But, at some point or another, one of these things will happen. We are human. We apologize to the innocent bystanders.

There will be not-so-innocent bystanders, though. There’s always one. Always.

How do you stay out of the line of fire this Thanksgiving Eve?

How can you enjoy your Thanksgiving Eve with minimal regret, tears, and conflict?

It’s quite simple, really.

  1.      Start a tab.

More than any other night, starting a tab is the best way to get faster service. It is much easier to tell your bartender your last name and have them ring in your order than to wait around for individual credit card transactions for every jager bomb, or watch them break open rolls of quarters. This doesn’t just make our job easier; it actually lets us serve you faster. Win-win situation.

  1.      Order your round in one breath.

Staff are moving fast (even faster if more people abide by the first tip on this list). The minute you turn around to deliberate on what everyone may or may not want to drink, you’re starting to lose our attention. Again, moreso on this night than any other. You’ve lost eye contact. While you are having a deep conversation about draft or bottle, we are scanning again. Looking at who is ready. I have seen bartenders move on to the next customer on a night like this. Whether or not I agree with that, I can certainly understand.

  1.      Treat the bar staff like humans.

We know that you are getting impatient, too. We know that you, and the person next to you, have been waiting. We are trying to get to all of you as fast as we can. Do not slam the bar. Do not whistle at us. Don’t catcall or assign us other pet names. We aren’t your baby, pumpkin, or cutie. Extend the same basic respect to the other bar staff, from security and bar backs, to the food runners and waitresses. In fact, extend the same respect to everyone so you can focus on enjoying your night.

  1.      Get there early to get a seat.

This has nothing to do with the bartenders, and is purely for the newcomers. This isn’t a night that you should spend hours at home pre-gaming and adding to your SnapChat story. Seats fill up fast. Being elbow-to-elbow with everyone in the room isn’t fun. Bars will strictly abide by occupancy limits. It is for the safety of the patrons, and for the business. Officials will be making their rounds, strictly enforcing code. Let’s know forget that last year at least seven bars were shut down in the middle of the Thanksgiving Eve rush because they were over-capacity, or violating other rules.

  1.      Leave before last call.

Rest assured you are not missing anything that impressive at or after last call. You are saving yourself a headache and the risk of making (more) mistakes. Beat the rush. Not just the rush to get that last drop of Tito’s, the rush for the pizza place orders. Get those jalapeno poppers while they are good, and while the deliveries take under 30 minutes.

  1.      Close your tab.

Don’t be that guy doing the walk of shame on Thanksgiving morning or night to pick up your tab because you couldn’t hang on Thanksgiving Eve. Starting a tab isn’t like opening a layaway account. Leaving your tab behind is not excusable for not tipping your servers, either.

  1.      DO NOT DRIVE.

This should go without saying, but just in case you are on the fence, here are a few convincing arguments.

 If you don’t have money to pay for Uber, or Lyft, or Yellow Cab, or a bus, then you probably shouldn’t be out racking up a tab at your local watering hole. And you definitely do not have money to pay for legal fees, fines, a new license, an expensive insurance premium, medical bills, a new car or car repairs.

 Are you one of the “I’ll just leave my car at the bar and get a ride home” types? While this is definitely better than driving home, a few questions. Why worry about someone else damaging it? Or have to get up even earlier Thursday to get a ride back to pick your car up somewhere? And in all too many cases, people start the night off saying they will leave their car overnight, and then swear they aren’t “that drunk” at the end of the night and talk themselves out of leaving their car. Don’t even give yourself the option of driving and leave your car at home

Parking is going to be a nightmare. Save yourself the hassle.

The tow trucks will be out in full force. Nights like this fund their Christmas bonus funds.

Be safe out there. Be kind. Oh, and don’t forget about that holiday spirit stuff, too. On behalf of your bar staff, we appreciate you, we appreciate the tips, and we especially appreciate that first sip of cheer when we get to move to the other side of the bar.

Whether you’re hosting or not, hungover or just plain hungry, you may need to kickstart your Thanksgiving festivities before the turkey is ready. The morning of Thanksgiving is increasingly popular in Worcester. Many friends and family have started traditions centered around a morning rally at a local bar.

For most, it is a toss-up between two Worcester favorites: Parkway Diner and Banner Bar & Grille. For others it is simply a matter of which one to stop by first. As the demand for a morning pitstop has increased over the years, a few more businesses are trying to stake a claim in the Thanksgiving morning hustle and bustle.

The Banner Bar & Grille

Outside, runners will be lining up waiting for the annual Thanksgiving Day Fun Run 5K to start. Inside, the equally as ambitious, cardio-averse crowd will be warming up over cocktails and a simple breakfast of champions. Breakfast sandwiches and homefries never disappoint, but at a mere five dollars per plate there’s no room for complaints. The Banner will open its doors bright and early at 7:30am, and sends you on your way around 1:00pm. Things get cozy after the race ends and the runners join in on the fun, so I recommend getting a seat early. Shane, Colleen, and Elizabeth will be there all morning eagerly awaiting countless orders of breakfast shots and mimosas.

The Parkway Diner

There’s no denying that a breakfast at the Parkway will set your whole day on the right path, but have you tried their fall cocktail specials? Thanksgiving Day is your chance. Brian and John will open the doors to their family-owned Shrewsbury Street staple from 8:00am on Thanksgiving morning. Sip on a Drunken Pumpkin Latte or Apple Cider Mimosa while you wait for your food, and finish off with a Pumpkin Pie Mudslide. Familiar faces Aleah and Alicia will also be there to assure you that a liquid dessert before the turkey carving is perfectly acceptable. Be advised that while they are open until 1:00pm, the kitchen will be closing at 12:00pm.

The Cosmopolitan

The hidden gem of Grafton Hill has hosted Thanksgiving morning for nearly a decade. I may become the neighborhood enemy for sharing this tradition, but I’m just spreading holiday cheer. The doors open at 8:00am. Before you’re kindly sent back out into the daylight, enjoy a complimentary sausage sandwich with your Bloody Mary. Mark, one of the co-founders of the Cos’ neighborhood tradition, will be there to serve you until kickoff of the Lions/Vikings game around 12:30pm. If you get comfortable, you can head back for round two after dinner.

Quinn’s Irish Pub

With a strong year under their belt, Tim Quinn and his staff know exactly what the people want: free food and friendly faces. Quinn’s will open from 8:00am until 1:00pm on Thanksgiving Day, and re-open at 6:00pm. From 9:00am until 11:00am they are offering a free breakfast buffet. If you haven’t sampled the Quinn’s Sunday brunch buffet yet, this is your time to do so. Karen and Jackie will be leading the charge all morning, making sure you have everything you need to start your holiday off on the right foot.

Bartenders and servers are opening the doors bright and early to welcome in those seeking a little extra holiday cheer, or, in many cases, a little hair of the dog. Some may have just survived a night behind the bar on one of the busiest drinking nights of the year, and others are taking time away from their own holiday prep to host you. Be kind. Tip well. Don’t sing Christmas carols.

I’ve lost count of how many times I have cursed a rapper—or in some cases, a “rapper”—for creating such excessive hype around a drink order. The once-beloved Sean “Diddy” Combs is usually a culprit. First, it was Ciroc. “Ciroc & Barack” haunted me for a few years.

A few years ago, he had rosé overflowing at one of his infamous White Parties in The Hamptons. Suddenly, “Yes Way Rosé” t-shirts were haunting social media newsfeeds, and customers swapped out their mimosas for a bottle of rosé. Okay, that’s a leap. Of course, Diddy isn’t the mastermind behind this. I just can’t ignore the fact that he has a constant connection with annoying trends.

There were popular social media accounts starting to generate buzz around the new wine fad in 2013, maybe even earlier. Rosé is, by no means, a new wine to hit the market. In fact, it is actually one of the oldest wine varieties in the market. It was highly overlooked for decades because it was perceived to be low quality. Similar to white zinfandel, it was the wine people were embarrassed to order.

What is the allure?

Is it simply because of the color? Is it appealing because (until recently) it isn’t available on every drink menu? Does one glass per day cure millennials’ RBF plague?

Affordability is key. Demand is the only driving up costs of even a cheap bottle of rosé. Even by the bottle it isn’t going to break the bank.

For a few years, celebrities were often photographed sipping a pink sparkling wine, which most certainly contributed to the growing buzz. Rosé was therefore perceived as a luxury. Somewhat of a status symbol. Ironically, it was one thought of as the poor man’s wine.

The rise of rosé is primarily the result of brilliant marketing efforts by social influencers and wine brands alike. Kudos to them for seeing this trend brewing and capitalizing on it. Investors and self-proclaimed “basics” applaud these business-savvy, in-with-the-in-crowd players. A rosé market was created to nurture this trend, continuing its growth year after year.

Graphic t-shirts and tanks with a silk-screened “Rosé All Day”, and “Slay, Then Rosé”, fly off shelves. It really gives little hope for orange to have its day in the sun.

Brands have been born solely to capitalize on this market before it fizzles out. White Girl Wine, for examples, rose to fame with the launch of “White Girl Rosé”. In reality, though, the founders were social media famous long before the wine label was printed.  Founders Josh Ostrovsky and David Oliver Cohen may be better recognized as the brains behind Instagram favorites @thefatjewish and @babewalker (Twitter: @whitegrlproblem). They already claimed an impressive stake on the social media red carpet.

Rosé aficionados will tell you that their drink of choice is “summer water”. So now that you are greeted with a layer of frost on your windshield, do these fangirls (and boys) go into hibernation? Love knows no season. Best efforts are being made to keep this drink choice on wine menus yearlong. If I had to venture a guess, though, I’m willing to bet that this audience is just as easily pacified with pumpkin spice anything.

Football and bartending have one thing in common: no days off.

Bars and restaurants are not only open on holidays, but some of these days they are ringing their best sales of the year. On others, it could be crickets. If you apply to work in this industry you have to accept that at one point or another, you’re going to be scheduled to work on a holiday.

Now that the Christmas music is on, and holiday décor is popping up, it’s time for bartenders to start considering which holidays to volunteer for, and which ones to avoid at all costs.

Summer Nights

Every holiday has its pros and cons, except for the summer holidays, like Fourth of July and Labor Day. Those are almost always the slowest holidays to work at a bar in Worcester. “It’s basically like sitting through detention,” according to Greg, a bartender at multiple bars in the city including Breen’s Café and Galway Bay Irish Pub. “Labor Day and Fourth of July are, by far, the two worst holidays to work.”

Anyone in Worcester wants to get out of Worcester and head straight to Cape Cod, or any other beach right away on Fridays in the summer. People sticking around find a friend with a pool, or head to Lake Chaubunagungamaug. On a holiday in the summer the only difference is the obligatory cookout appearance. No one wants to be inside.

“[Fourth of July] Might be the worst holiday to bartend. It’s a cookout day. If it isn’t raining, people want to be outside, and you are inside, missing fireworks, not having fun or making money,” agreed Katie M. of Quinn’s Irish Pub.

If you are scheduled for one of these summer holidays, start practicing your rain dance because that’s your only hope.

Personally, I dread Halloween weekend the most. People tend to think that having mouse ears or face paint on allows them to be their most rude and obnoxious version of themselves. Let’s just clear this up right now: you’re either a Power Ranger or a jerk; a Disney Princess or an imbecile. You don’t get to be both. Everyone is on an adult pixie stick high and the costumes get sloppier as the night goes on.

When Irish Eyes Go Drinking

The most dreaded holiday in Worcester county is a toss-up between Parade Day and the actual holiday, St. Patrick’s Day.

“Everyone starts drinking before the bars are even open, and generally are bordering blackout drunk before they get to any establishment,” said Alicia L., bartender and server at Parkway Diner. After many years working behind the bar on Park Avenue for both the parade and St. Patrick’s Day, she has more than a handful of horror stories to tell.

Alicia said, “They forget what they want to order, and basic motor skills are hardly functioning at this point so forget a ‘please’ and ‘thank you!’”

It’s true. The people of Worcester celebrate this two-part holiday unlike any other single day of the year. You can make it a lucrative shift, without question, but it calls for a superior level of patience, and twice as much cleaning up as any other shift.

“So busy it will take an entire 15 minutes to get from one table to the kitchen. And cleaning glasses with curdled Bailey’s is the worst part of the night,” said Katie M.

These days do have their perks.

“Part of you wants to throw all the drunks out, but the other part of you wants to grab the popcorn and watch the show,” Greg said with a laugh.

It’s true. Even the worst holidays behind the bar make for interesting stories to tell later.

Holiday Cheer

Christmas (day or night shift) is surprisingly a favorite among bartenders. Naturally, the majority of people would prefer to be at home with family and friends, but if you have to work a holiday, Christmas is a good one.

For many customers, they either don’t celebrate Christmas, or don’t have a family to celebrate with. They genuinely appreciate your business being open, and having a bartender who may be taking time away from their own family to give them a place to go. For those reasons, people are not only generous, but they are the nicest to be around.

“Despite whatever is going on in their life, people tend to put that aside and treat you like the human being you are, and not a peasant like many people treat us other nights,” Alicia said.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular mornings and nights for many bars in Worcester. For some it is the hair of the dog after a rough Thanksgiving Eve, or it’s that liquid courage to get them through the day with family. Others have made it a tradition among friends to get together before or after the family obligations are done. There is money to be made serving holiday cheer on these days.

Of course, Thanksgiving Eve cannot be overlooked on this list. It is understood that this night is going to get out of hand. It is going to try every ounce of patience any bartender has. As Katie puts it, “you know you are going to make incredible money, but also know you’ll be dealing with the drunkest of the drunk.”

Thanksgiving Eve is the best example of working hard for the money. At the end of the night you are exhausted and you just want silence. And probably a pizza and a beer. But by 8:00am the next day, many of us have found our way to the other side of the bar and are ready to kick off the actual holiday with a smile on our face, and a large coffee with a shot of Bailey’s.

Holiday Brunch

Springtime holidays such as Easter and Mother’s Day are great shifts to work if your bar or restaurant offers brunch. These holidays have become increasingly popular to let someone else prepare the meal, especially for families without small children. The mornings start of a bit chaotic, but your day generally tapers off early in the afternoon making it a short day with a good tip-out. For the most part, everyone is on their best behavior, and you spend the day popping champagne bottles for mimosas and shaking up countless rounds of Bloody Mary mix.

If you find you have your choice of holiday shifts at your bar, choose wisely. For every busy holiday, there is another painfully slow one. At one point or another you’re going to have to experience them all for yourself.

Tomorrow, October 27, is National American Beer Day. Not National Beer Day, but National American Beer Day. That’s right, you can’t have just one beer holiday. With so many options to choose from, and in today’s hypersensitive culture, every beer gets its day.

We are dedicating today to the great beer brands and styles brewed in America—from the basics of Budweiser and Coors, to the craft beer brands, like Wormtown and Alchemist. There are enough options to keep you celebrating all day long.

American style beers include: American IPA, American pale ale, Double/Imperial IPA, Cream ale, American amber ale, American brown ale, golden/blonde ale, American stout, Pennsylvania porter, and steam beer/California common. Of course, there is discussion and debate around everything these days, so some people can argue this list. The point is that there are a lot of options to choose from when honoring this beer holiday.

On the subject of options, gone are the days where it was simply a matter of Budweiser, Miller Lite, or Coors at your local bar or retailer. In fact, customers are no longer satisfied with just a few draft options at all. People are looking for bars and restaurants with an extensive draft list.

“Do you have any IPAs?” is the first question most servers are asked when they present a beer list. That question is usually followed by, “Do you have any [XYZ] craft brand on tap?”

Craft beers have been a rising phenomenon for well over a decade, so we can’t call it a trend. It is established. It has clout. It isn’t slowing down. Everyone has embraced it. It’s taking over the draft lines.

So when did this micro-movement start?

According to the Brewers Association, it was a stop and go trend that started in the 1980s. After staggered momentum through the 1990s, it wasn’t until after 2003 that this trend picked up enough steam to propel into mainstream culture. Now here we are, in good ol’ Worcester, the Heart of the Commonwealth, reading about a new local brewery setting up shop every month or so.

Tree House Brewing Company most recently took over as Worcester County’s favorite fall outing. People are flocking to Charlton to wait in line for hours to sample one of the over 30 beers Tree House has in its rotation. Heavy on IPAs, Tree House experiments with flavor, allowing them to create a wide variety within this category alone. They do a great job of keeping their website update with what it is available each day so customers can plan trips accordingly. It’s a limited stock, first come, first serve scenario.

There is a reason to intentionally hang out on Cambridge Street these days: 3cross Brewing Company. 3cross opened their doors to beer drinkers and bike riders alike, and it is a great union. Currently they have eight beers on draft to sample, offering multiple IPA options, as well as Kombucha and homemade sodas for those taking a break from beer. If you can’t make it down to celebrate this great holiday, look for them on draft or in stores at select local spots, including Austin Liquors, The Boynton, and BirchTree.

Take a drive out to Wachusett Brewing Company in Westminster and embrace their New England, particularly Boston, pride. Bella Czech Pils, Wachusett Wally, Wicked Hoppy, and Brewin’ are just a few of their great nods to the locals. Go beyond a Blueberry with any of their seasonal offerings and you won’t be disappointed. In warmer weather it is a great spot to hang out, play cornhole, order from their airstream food trucks, and just soak up that crisp New England air.

Of course no local list is complete without Wormtown Brewery. More than a dozen beers in their rotation and a prime Shrewsbury Street location make for a good day at the brewery. Their recent collaboration with Table Talk Pies had the pumpkin aficionados in a frenzy. Plenty of options to keep you entertained for hours, all made with local ingredients for added hometown authenticity.

Lord Hobo Brewing Company in Woburn isn’t quite Worcester-local, but it’s close enough that you can make a trip without losing a whole day of apple picking, or football, or just napping. They offer five of their own beers on draft, ranging from 4.5% to 9.5% ABV, and usually have at least two other breweries that they are proud to share a draft line with. If you don’t enjoy a quality IPA, then skip this trip. IF you are up to trying something new, check out their food truck calendar to plan your appetite accordingly. Spoiler alert: today Boston Burger Company is onsite.

Also worth mentioning, Rapscallion and Jack’s Abby are a short drive from Worcester and have quite a few notable brews to try, or try again.

Even if you can’t make a night of it, honor this great holiday and fine American craftsmanship from the comfort of your own home, or couch. Look for an American beer at your local package store. Jackalope Brewing Company (TN) is a new favorite of mine, and, to my delight, can be found at a few of the local stores in Worcester.

Or postpone it for a weekend trip. Bissell Brothers and Alchemist can be done in a day (with a designated driver of course), but if you can, stay the night and drink with the locals in another city.

Celebrate safely, folks.

In the service industry, just as in sports, wins and losses are shared by the whole team. The wins and losses in our industry are translated in our tips.

While each business has their own way of breaking down who gets what cut, almost every bar or restaurant in the country has guidelines in place for who gets what percent of the tips at the end of a shift. Servers are generally the only position in the restaurant who keep their own tips, but even they are required to tip out the service bar, food runners, and other support as needed. At most bars, the bartenders pool their tips. How they divvy that up at the end of the night varies from place to place.

Bartenders start shifts at different times during the night, and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. While you, the customer, were having a wonderful conversation with your bartender, and enjoying their personalized cocktails, their counterpart may have been cleaning, stocking, or handling an issue in the kitchen. They were picking up the other work that must get done so that you could get the attention you deserve.

When a customer slides money across the bar and asks, “Can you just put this in your pocket just for you?”, it is a huge compliment, undoubtedly. Even if you assure us that you will include a normal tip for the pool as well, we can’t just pocket the money for ourselves.

There are times when we all wish this weren’t true, and unfortunately those aren’t necessarily because of great teamwork. These are the days when one person is not pulling their weight at all and it is painfully noticeable to the customers. I am sure I am not the only one who has been in the uncomfortable position of having to address this with a customer. It is such a relief that customers want to honor hard work instead of focus on the weak link, alas, we still cannot pocket the money.

So, what do you do as a customer wanting to reward great service? Well, there are a few options.

First, you can still leave that tip. Yes, it will get split amongst the rest of the team, but ultimately it is increasing our take-home. And, in the last scenario, it is making up for teammate who may be bringing down our bottom line.

As cliché as it may seem, a good review goes a long way. If you had a great experience, let the world know. In a world of “Can I speak to the manager?”, be the “Everyone, go visit this person at this place!” Bar and restaurant owners and managers refer to their reviews regularly when it is time to make decisions, including scheduling and promotions.

Although promotions aren’t something you see happening regularly in this industry, they do happen. Getting weekly or monthly notifications about reviews that mention the same person are a catalyst for change. If Suzy Sunshine is constantly receiving rave reviews for her well-crafted cocktails, it’s time for Suzy to take over the dinner rush. If John Doe continues to get complaints that customers see too much of the back of his head during a game then he probably shouldn’t be working the Sunday shift during football season.  

If nothing else, let us know that you had a great experience and come back. Regulars are the best thing to happen to a bartender—and a business owner—who wants to last long in this industry.

Drink specials are a thing of beauty.  Around here we can’t host Happy Hour so business owners and sales teams have developed countless other liquor promotions to fill seats and drive sales.

For example, last week Applebee’s announced their $1 margarita deal.

The news sent some people into a frenzy. Is a $1 margarita worth subjecting yourself to the lackluster (and stomach-turning) food menu? Does it only take a dollar to stop your habit of referring to it by its other nickname? For the love of all the pumpkin spice anything, I really hope it didn’t take one dollar and a terrible margarita to sway you too quickly.

There is a secret behind drink specials like the $1 margarita, and the secret is what, exactly, you are drinking. If a brand name is not promoted with the drink special, you’re drinking junk. Not shocking for many readers, and for those who were already in on this “mind-blowing” tip, you can move on to Yussef’s food review now.

For everyone else, save yourself the dollar and the disappointment and keep scrolling.

Brands don’t always matter. You can get just as many compliments on clothes bought at Target as the ones you considered buying at Michael Kors. The quality, however, is where the difference is most important. And if you are ingesting copious amounts of tequila (or vodka, or rum, etc.) you want something a little bit better than well brand.

Even better than the no-name liquor is the mix that comes with these mystery drinks. To start, you can bank on excessive use of sour mix. Top it off with a nauseating amount of juice. That’s what you are paying for. You might be able to force down more than one, but it won’t be long into your second glass before that burning starts.  Worth it?

Sure, a $1 margarita isn’t a huge loss, but let’s not get caught up on that one example. The lesson here goes beyond a chain restaurant appealing to the masses.

When you are out and about, look for the drink specials that call out names you know. Those liquor vendors want you to enjoy their product. They want you to have an accurate pour that fully conveys how well the liquor blends with the other flavors. These brands frequently have a promotional team at the bar or restaurant offering free shots and blind taste-tests in addition to the special drink menu the bar is running. Pushing product at their expense in the hopes that next month you order it on your own.

Sangria and margarita pitchers are by far the most alluring drink specials. I won’t say no to a pitcher of sangria on the patio in the summer, or any season really. That is, of course, if it isn’t coming from a plastic jug and the bartender isn’t ashamed to make it in plain sight. There are places in Worcester where you can trust the quality of the product, and these are the exceptions to the rule. These are also the places where a “special” is only really a few dollars less than paying for individual drink rounds.

Ask your server what they are using. If it’s a dollar drink, don’t expect much. And don’t be surprised when they tell you that it won’t be the same price if you substitute for a better brand.

A dollar today is a sure-fire hangover tomorrow.

Brunch has quickly become one of Worcester’s favorite new (feeding) pastimes.

We are no longer limited to a few restaurants that have a line forming out the door by 9 AM, or reservations that book up a week in advance, months for holidays. Our growing dining options mean we hang out a little longer and drink a lot more.

From bottomless buckets to build it yourself bars, you don’t have to keep it quick and easy. With all the options for what and where you drink, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to try something new. There are simple ways to enhance the classics that even the busiest bartenders will enjoy concocting for you.

More Than Mimosas

Mimosas are a staple of brunch. Mix with an array of fruit juices garnishes and you can’t lose. Berry and a select few citrus flavors are your best bet. Pomegranate juice with a lemon twist, for example, is a palette pleaser.

While you can’t go wrong with a classic, putting your own twist on something as simple as a mimosa offers a pleasant surprise. I love mixing different flavors to create a new champagne cocktail for those “make me something sweet” brunch customers. My go-to combination is to add a shot of Deep Eddy’s Peach vodka with just a splash of orange juice, and a few raspberries. It’s sweet but refreshing. You can easily enjoy a few of these with your meal.

Keeping with theme of champagne cocktails, consider a Poinsettia. That’s right, they aren’t just fallback Christmas décor. A classic Poinsettia is a mix of champagne, Cointreau (or any other orange liqueur on hand), and cranberry juice, served in a champagne flute. Take the cranberry taste to the extreme with a splash of Deep Eddy’s Cranberry vodka.

All Hail the Bloody Mary

Hangover helper and another brunch basic, a Bloody Mary can change lives. Not really, but it might feel that way for those desperately seeking the hair of the dog. Many bartenders have their own secret recipe for the best Bloody. Dash of this and a sprinkle of that. A former bar manager gave me his recipe before my first brunch shift, and, with very few modifications, I have kept it the same over the years. If it isn’t broken, as they say.

When you order your Bloody Mary there are two key questions to consider regarding citrus and spice. Do you want an elevated citrus taste? If so, ask for it to be shaken with extra lemon squeezed right in, or be bold and have it made with a citrus vodka, such as Absolut or Kettle One.

If you’re looking for an extra kick of heat, there are a few ways to enhance your cocktail. Tabasco sauce, horseradish, and crushed black pepper are among the best solutions. You should also consider wasabi and jalapenos. Of course, you can flip the script on this completely and make it a Bloody Maria by swapping out the vodka for tequila. Might I recommend the Ghost—as in ghost pepper—tequila for those daring few. For the loyal locals, Ghost Tequila was created by a Boston-based bartender. Cheers to the hometown hero.

If you find yourself at a Build Your Own bar this weekend, don’t skimp. Try a little of everything. Bacon. Shrimp. Cheese. Chicken and waffles on a skewer (it’s a thing!). You’re paying for the toppings either way, so why waste your money if you’re only adding a pickle? Go big or make it at home.

White Russian

If you have yet to embrace this creamy brunch favorite, let me show you the way. This was one drink I just couldn’t enjoy as is. Then I stumbled upon the Vanilla White Russian, specifically made with Stoli Vanil. That was a game changer. Not sweet enough for you? There are more ways to make this dessert-like brunch drink even better. Three Olives Cake vodka, for one, turns it into what I simply refer to as a Russian Birthday. It’s a diet-buster, without question, and exceptionally filling. But if you are fine with only having one, and one might be all you need, have at it.

Give yourself a shot of caffeine and ask your server for vodka for Van Gogh Double Espresso vodka, or a similar variety. Van Gogh’s vodka has double the caffeine of other vodkas of its kind, and balances bold and smooth. In combination with Kahlua — original or any of its seasonal varieties — this combination will wake you up in time for the game, and take that morning edge off right away.


A very underappreciated drink in general, but particularly on the brunch-front, is the Greyhound. Commonly made with vodka, gin is a popular alternative for this cocktail. Stirred with grapefruit juice and served in either a Collins or Old Fashioned glass. Depending on your bartender, it will be mixed with simply syrup, and garnished with a lemon or lime. It is so simple, yet so refreshing. At one point or another growing up, most of us remember a relative scooping out a half a grapefruit for breakfast as part of their diet. Consider the Greyhound the much more fun way to bring this diet back to life.

Some things are better left as is, but in today’s world of flavored everything, why not step out of the box a little? When you are camping out for a few hours at brunch this weekend, don’t be boring. Experiment with new flavors. Load up on the toppings. It doesn’t matter if you are doing it for the flavors, or just doing it for the gram.

As if the giant “Pumpkin Spice everything” banners at Dunkin’ Donuts weren’t enough — the Halloween candy is out, the plaid is aplenty, and the stats and politics of football are flooding your news feed.

All things Fall in New England are everywhere you look. While it still feels like August recently, it is officially Fall.

Bring on the new seasonal drink menus and beer displays at the grocery store.

Pumpkin Spice everything is the trendy way most folks welcome in fall, but there are so many other flavors that make this season taste (and smell) delicious. Whether you are camping out for a Sunday Funday at your favorite watering hole, or stocking up for your home bar, make sure you incorporate these fall favorites into your festivities.

Seasonal Beers

Octoberfest beers are out in full force. The two most common you’ll find at bars in Worcester are Samuel Adams and Wachusett. If you see it on the menu or at your neighborhood liquor store, I strongly encourage you to try Jack’s Abby Copper Legend. It’s a traditional lager with a 5.7% ABV. It has a bitter after taste but it is smooth and slightly sweet, making it surprisingly very drinkable, even for someone who doesn’t love most lagers. To each his own, but this is worth a try if you see it.

Of course, pumpkin beer is readily available (and has been for perhaps too long). Shipyard Pumpkinhead is a crowd-pleaser, and the most popular of the pumpkins on draft, if for no other reason than it’s the only one of its kind offered on draft at most places that are only offering up one kind of Pumpkin.

Wormtown Fresh Pumpkin Patch ale has a strong presence on draft lists in the area, giving you the chance to expand your seasonal horizons. It is not light on spices, and has a crisp, clean feel to it. Don’t pass up on this pumpkin option when given the chance.


Typically I stay away from ciders altogether, but there is something about McKenzie’s Hard Cider that appealed to me a few years ago and I’ve gone back to every year since. Keeping up with seasonal relevance, the Pumpkin Jack does not disappoint. Be warned, it is incredibly sweet, even for a cider. Despite the undeniable sweet flavor, the Pumpkin Jack is loaded with spices and an aroma that delights.

McKenzie’s Seasonal Reserve is a limited edition option that isn’t quite as sweet as the Pumpkin Jack. Strong cinnamon and nutmeg flavors compliment the slightly sweet, crisp apple taste. The Green Apple option is overwhelmingly tart, so an Angry Orchard or Redd’s will be your best options if you want to stick with a traditional hard cider flavor.

Flavored Vodka

Top off your pumpkin beer with a shot of vanilla vodka. I prefer Stoli, but Absolut makes a great vanilla as well. This little burst of flavor takes your classic beer to the next level. You won’t need many of these to warm up when it finally does start to feel like Fall. Regardless of the season, mix it in your Moscow Mule or White Russian for an enhanced, smooth flavor.  

Salted Caramel vodka will also do wonders to turn your beer or cocktail into a sweet treat. Get that candy apple taste without the trip to a festival (or the sticky hands) by adding this to your Angry Orchard or other cider. If you have a bottle of white wine laying around, mix in a few shots of salted caramel vodka, with a splash of cider and you’ve got yourself a great Fall Sangria you can enjoy outside while it’s still feels somewhat like Summer. And, last but not least, this flavor blends well with RumChata as a dessert martini.

Rim It

Why limit yourself to a simple draft beer in a chilled glass? Treat yo’self, as the kids say. Ask your bartender for a cinnamon sugar rim.

There are a few different methods to getting this right: Some bartenders do a simple liquid, even just water, around the rim before dipping it. I prefer to use caramel sauce as a base because it gives a thicker hold to that cinnamon sugar. Fireball whiskey and vanilla vodka are also nice bases, and they pack a little extra kick with every sip.  

Cinnamon-sugar is the most commonly used rim garnish in the area, but for creamier dessert-like drinks, step up the rim game. Start with a fluff base, and then use a plate of crumbled graham crackers to top it off.

If you are stocking up at home, don’t worry about being stuck with a ton of leftovers. Not only will these flavors go fast on your own time, many carry over into winter favorites. Almost all bars and restaurants will have these options on their seasonal menus in one form or another.

Branch out this fall. You are bound to find something new to look forward to next season.

It is not uncommon for small and independently owned businesses across all industries to require a minimum spend on credit card transactions.

While it makes your life more convenient to pay with a credit or debit card, it does cost every business owner money to offer you that service. It is a financial decision that makes sense if for every $1.99 purchase you’re getting charged $.30, in addition to the costs of the equipment, etc., and only two out of every 10 customers are utilizing the service.

Most of the bars and restaurants I have worked at never required a minimum spend to use a credit or debit card. The volume of business has always outweighed the costs, tenfold. If you ask the bartenders, however, nearly all of us would say we highly encourage enforcing a minimum spend rule, especially late at night.

And it’s not just on how much you are spending, general rules around minimum tips on open tabs are also a hot topic around the bar at 2 AM.

On a busy weekend night, when there is a line at every register, each bartender finds their groove. They are acknowledging who is next, taking multiple orders, cruising through the stress like the seasoned bartender they are. One person handing over a faded debit card for a $3 beer seven times throws a wrench into this.

No, it’s not putting a screeching halt on all service, and if it is, that’s a business problem, not a customer problem.

If you know you are going to be at the bar for a while, and you are going to be ordering your own drinks, and paying with the same card, just open a tab. It’s much more efficient to just say, “I have a tab under Martin, thanks!” Even with a common last name, I have never had an issue with there being two people with the same first and last name at the bar I am at.

Running your card for a single bottle of Bud Light seven times in one night is the equivalent of writing a check for bananas at the grocery store.

It is common practice amongst bartenders that if you see someone you started a tab for standing by your register waiting to order, even in a long line, you will tend to serve them first because you know it is more likely be a quick and easy exchange.

There are the outliers, who start a tab for one drink, and at the end of the night all that is on their tab is that one drink. Kudos to them.

Then there are the people who abuse tabs, which makes most bartenders wish they could enforce a minimum tip on credit cards. Many restaurants enforce this rule for parties of a certain size, why not apply this to tabs over a certain amount?

Everyone knows a social hero of the group, the one who is so “generous” and puts every round of shots on their tab. They have no problem racking up a tab. At the end of the night, one of two things are going to boil a bartender’s blood like no other: the hero left without closing the tab, or the hero’s generosity ends at buying the drinks, and the tip line on the receipt is pathetic.

If you lack the common sense or the means to leave an honest tip on that high tab you racked up all night, don’t expect to be a fan favorite the next time you walk in. Didn’t think the tab would get that high and you are tapped for funds? Check on your tab when you order a round. A simple “can you tell me what my tab is at?” can prevent that last call shock and awe. Ask your friends for cash before you put that round on your card. Be responsible.

If your bartender served you $200 worth of chilled shots across multiple rounds, they shouldn’t be penalized for your negligence.

The other heroic move is leaving without closing the tab. An emergency comes up, your car is getting towed, whatever. Those things happen every once in a blue moon. We quickly learn who the customers are who abandon their tabs before the lights come on. They do the walk of shame back in a day or two later and deliver an Emmy-winning performance. “Oh, you closed it? I was going to leave you such a good tip! Darn, I only have this dollar bill on me.” Save it. We have seen it too often, and we become very familiar with who you are so we can refuse to open a tab for you next time.

These people trump the previously mentioned heroes by a landslide. They send a message to the bar staff that their service is worth nothing. No one outside of a volunteer organization is going to say “thank you” for letting them working for free. Some cities and states allow enforcing a minimum tip on open tabs. Even if it is not 20%, it is something the validates the service bartenders perform.

This is where the critics will say I should be grateful for any business my customers offer and that they will not frequent the establishments where I ply my craft. Business owners are thrilled to have every transaction. Bartenders work for tips. Open a tab. Close your tab. Don’t be one of the heroes outlined here.