On Fatherhood and Tending Bar

I have been bartending for a long time. For fear of dating myself, I won’t say quite how long, but it is up there–I have been in the food service industry since before I could drive, and behind the stick for about half that time. For those of you who know me, I will allow you to do the math. Working in restaurants has taught me a great many things, and has prepared me for more real life situations than any schooling could have. But of all the things that bartending has prepared me for, being a father to a newborn is the least expected.

Here are the top five things bartending has inadvertently trained me for, while dealing with my new born child:

1. Patience: Dealing with people who are intoxicated and have lost their sense of logic is not dissimilar from dealing with a crying newborn. Neither will listen to you; both are going to do what they are going to do, whether you like it or not; and, in the end, you have to make sure you are the one in control.

2. Dexterous Fingers: Working in the kitchen, serving, and bartending have taught me how to work with both hands at the same time. Whether it is pouring multi-bottles in a club, or using a jigger, or changing a diaper, being able to use your left hand almost as effectively as your right hand has become an indispensable skill that I was never formally taught.

3. Staying up late: In the bartending world, we, as bartenders, keep late and irregular hours. As a father to a newborn, I have to be willing to be active and ready for anything at any time of night. After years of doing this (bartending, not parenting) I find this a less daunting task than if I worked a nine-to-five.

4. Eating Fast: When you are working, you might have eight minutes to steal away from the bar to shove a burger in your mouth while simultaneously talking to a co-worker and making a cup of espresso. It’s the same when my baby just went to sleep, my wife is sleeping, and I need to shove a turkey sandwich in my face before I go crazy. This may be the most unhealthy way to eat, but I am accustomed to it.

5. Standing for Long Periods of Time: Every good bartender worth his sweat should be able to hold down his bar standing for eight hours. As a parent to a newborn there is a whole lot of standing (and patiently bouncing your baby with your left hand while shoving food into your mouth with your right at four in the morning).

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Brian MacGregor

Wingtip Bar Director Brian MacGregor has tended bar in San Francisco for over nine years, learning his trade from such local legends as Jeff Hollinger, Jonny Raglin, and Thad Volger. Although he credits his cocktail crafting skills to these fine practitioners, he learned the art of hospitality at a very young age from his father, a career bartender in his childhood home of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Brian has, for three years, creating award-winning drinks and building an extensive collection of rare and fine spirits at some San Francisco’s most acclaimed bars and restaurants such as Jardiniere, Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen, and Absinthe Brasserie and Bar. Currently, Brian resides in San Francisco with his wife, Carey, a bartender herself, their two cats and their greyhound, Pooka.

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