Cosmopolitan: A Bartender's Life Hardcover – October 7, 2003
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-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 Inside Flap
Cosmopolitan: A Bartender's Life is a memoir of the bartending life structured as a day in the life at Passerby, the bar owned and run by Toby Cecchini. It is, as well, a rich study of human natureof the sometimes annoying, sometimes outlandish behavior of the human animal under the influence of alcohol, lust, and the sheer desire to bust loose and party. It's not a pretty picture, but it's always compelling through the gimlet-eyed gaze of the author. As his typical day progresses, from the almost pastoral quiet of opening the bar and setting up to the gathering rush of customers dropping in after work to the sheer madness of catering to a crazed crush of funseekers, Toby Cecchini muses over a life spent in the service industry and the fascinating particulars of his chosen profession. Topics touched on include dealing with regulars, both welcome and not; sex and the bartender; cocktail connoisseurs (and drinks he refuses to make); learning the bartending ropes of the Odeon when young and newly arrived in New York; the sheer man-killing pace of keeping those drinks coming at flood tide; and the manifold varieties of weirdness and bad behavior that every bartender has to learn how to manage.
Cosmopolitan: A Bartender's Life is the hip, behind-the-scenes look at the frenzied yet undeniably fun atmosphere of that great establishmentthe barand Toby Cecchini is, by turns, witty, acute, mordant, and lyrical in dealing with the realities of his job, shedding plenty of light on the hidden corners of what people do when they go out at night.
- Item Weight : 14.1 ounces
- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0767912098
- ISBN-13 : 978-0767912099
- Dimensions : 5.78 x 0.89 x 8.57 inches
- Publisher : Broadway; 1st edition (October 7, 2003)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #934,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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"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? Listen to these yaks and you'll spend the whole night muddling cucumbers and Thai basil, straining blackberries, and trying to clean up your tools in time to prepare the next thirty drink orders that piled up while you were occupied pouring some slop into a stemmed cocktail glass for the grinning weasel supervisor from the local county clerk's office. You're either stationed in the kitchen or behind the bar, give me a break...
Anyway, regarding the Cosmo, from my experience it remains the only new cocktail to have emerged in the last twenty years to have endured with any kind of sustained popularity based on its own merits. It's balanced, simple, and refined. That's all you need in a cocktail. That's all you need in life. A bartender's life.
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.
It makes me want to gather stories from the good ol' gooey soda jet and sticky syrup days of the 70s and 80s. Thank God for bartenders like Toby for helping to change the industry.
Good luck in finding your own satisfaction Toby!
Definitely a problem with pretentious vocabulary. Trees are sessile, customers are not.