What’s in a Name?

Terminology is usually not too important when it comes to drinking.  Most of us who enjoy this hobby are not too picky about most things drinking-related.  Sometimes words are unnecessary; pointing and nodding have been known to get the job done – especially when overseas.

This question of the importance of words also applies to those pouring the drinks – the bartender.  This title has been used and accepted over many, many years.  Yet recently I read an article specifying gender to the title: bartender for male; bartendress for female. 

To some, the feminization of this traditional title could be construed as negative.  However, I encourage the distinction; the word is sultry and seductive, giving the impression and allure of feminine wile and wit.  When picturing the word, the bartender (or barman for the truly traditional) is a gentleman in a shirt and tie, apron neatly tucked and shirtsleeves rolled.  Yet a bartendress is altogether different: engaging and mysterious, simultaneously commanding liquor bottles and gentlemen’s attention.

Although opinionated, I am no expert.  So I contacted Derek Brown, another DC local who’s considered “a leading voice in the emerging cocktail renaissance” and co-owner of The Passenger, coincidentally a favorite local cocktail bar.  Derek asserts the gender-neutral bartender works best, as other terms such as mixologist, bar chef, and mixicologist, are overly controversial.

Regardless of what you believe (or envision) a bartendress or barman to mean, the best practice is to learn the first name of the man or woman pouring your drink.  Exchange pleasantries when pulling up a barstool or simply smile and say hello.  Chances are you’ll receive the same in return and perhaps after a few visits, even make a new friend.

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Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 12:12 am  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. It’s like “steward” for a male flight attendant…it just doesn’t feel right.

    Thanks for the “spirited” discussion, though…it is very much in keeping with the highly articulated tripartite philosophy of this booze blog.


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