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Cosmopolitan: A Bartender's Life Paperback – September 14, 2004

3.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Marvelous.  Toby Cecchini is no part-time, blender-drink-slinging woo-woo pouring dilettante. He's a professional. A hard, wise, funny, sad and unflinching look at the world from the other side of the bar.  Beautifully written, as fascinating for its backstairs account of hip restaurant/bar/lounge hijinks as it is for its unique perspective on human behavior. New York night life in all its true, hilarious, horrific, poignant and pinheaded glory.”
-Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential

“Toby Cecchini is something of an expert in creating hospitable environments: for drinkers with his bar, and for readers with this book. He writes with a quiet, lucid style about a profession that is generally loud and chaotic, and he makes almost every aspect of his bartending vocation, including, and perhaps especially, the bad behavior of some of his patrons, totally engaging. He has also captured an essence of New York life in the way that Midwesterners are, for some reason, uniquely able to capture it. Finally, though this book’s title is an overt reference to a particular mixed drink, what it embodies and anatomizes so well is an outlook on the world, in this case from behind a bar.”
-Tom Beller, author of Seduction Theory and The Sleepover Artist

From the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

"Cosmopolitan is a memoir of the bartending life structured as a day in the life of Passerby, the bar owned and run by Toby Cecchini. It is, as well, a rich study of human nature--of the outlandish behavior of the human animal under the influence of alcohol, of lust, and of the sheer desire to bust loose and party. As the typical day progresses, Cecchini muses over a life spent in the service industry and the fascinating particulars of his chosen profession. He is by turns witty, acute, mordant, and lyrical in dealing with the realities of his profession, shedding plenty of light on the hidden corners of what people do when they go out at night.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (September 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767912101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767912105
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Toby Cecchini's lavish and loving descriptions of alcohol really make you want to have a drink; in fact, I'm a beer-only guy, and found myself hankering for a martini or Manhattan while I read Cosmopolitan. Not with the author, though, who maintains the effete and disdainful tone of a French snob throughout. There isn't a single instance in this book's 238 pages where a $10,000 word and/or a French turn of phrase wasn't substituted for the $10 version, regardless of the fit. This was as goofy as it was distracting, and I can't imagine it endears the smarmy author to anyone who reads this.

Case in point: "I always marveled at the élan with which he pulled off that simple action; my efforts at duplicating this maneuver always end with me bludgeoning the recalcitrant glacier mercilessly as chips fly helter skelter." Um, call me crazy, but isn't that a mite highfalutin to describe watching someone chip ice? And while describing the staff at a restaurant where he used to work: "Even now, at the remove of more than a decade, it is easy to conjure, but difficult to summarize, the atmosphere of that floor, its peculiar combination of superfluous terror and incestuous, striving kinesis." Pal, the only reason it might be "difficult to summarize" a bunch of the interaction between a bunch of waiters, cooks, and bartenders, is because you're trying too hard. The last time I saw this much use of the word "lovely" was when I brought our daughter to my grandmother's senior center,

It gets worse.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a professional bartender (31 years behind the stick), I can attest to Cecchini's authenticity. With style, sardonic humor (aside from the Boston shaker, the bartender's most effective tool), grit and total 360 vision, he breaks down the experience for even the most clueless civilians to grasp.

"Foodies," "restaurant people," hospitality workers, "bar dogs," "bar whores," however titled, are a definite sub-culture, observing humanity under a naked black light. Anthony Bourdain eloquently illustrated the inner workings of the restaurant and Toby Cecchini follows suit with his own distinctive style in autopsying the professional bartender and his personal life.

I personally know the feeling of inventing a drink, showing it off with pride, and the subsequent bombardment of requests by spirit-ignorant dilettantes, the bastardization of the recipe by anyone who ever picked up a bottle of well vodka, and the regret that churns your gastric acids on just hearing the name of your drink hurled through the air. Toby brings that mix of pride and disillusionment to light with humor and without crying over the loss of his monster.

Everyone who's ever been a bar or restaurant patron needs to read this book to try and pick themselves out of the crowd. Consider it a training manual in human behavior for the uninitiated and alcohol-impaired.

Regarding the Cosmopolitan, I'd have to say that despite occasional criticism from the new genre of "bar chef's"... what the hell does that mean anyway?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An immensely entertaining read. To be fair, most of what Cecchini writes, and how he writes it, is going to be tough for anyone who does not work in the business to understand. There is a fine line that the best bartenders, chefs, waiters, walk during their career between being immensely more knowledgable about the product they are pushing than the customers buying it, and acutely more attuned to the frailities of the human condition because we spend the majority of our time at our jobs watching everyone else unwind from theirs; and simultaneously being looked down upon by those same customers because they see our profession as inferior, and subordinate.
Cecchini does an excellent job of relating to those of us who see the restaurant business (chiefly the bar business) as a career. In his stories, we may not know the person he speaks of, but we can relate to a similar experience of our own. This tongue-in-cheek, snide, sarcastically elequent style of writing at once shows you his level of intelligence, but he revels in the personal debasement that can drive us, disfunctionally, to continue allowing people to behave at their worst levels in our restaurants.
It is easy to see how a reader who rarely eats out, let alone has worked in the business, can see the author as whiny and pretentious. It's the same type that thinks anyone can bartend, how hard is it really? The best we can hope for is that those readers see the book as an eye opener, but at the least, we hope they see it as entertaining. For those of us that do this every night for a living, the book is something of a motivation to keep going.
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