By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
My childhood buddy’s living the whole young professional living in NYC dream at the moment, so of course I had to go out there and experience the high life. Of course to do that, we spend most of our time outside of his “affordable” roachy apartment.
Which was pretty nice by “affordable” NY standards
One of the coolest places he took me was PDT (Please Don’t Tell), a speakeasy bar wedged in a small room behind a Crif Dogs that you enter via a phone booth by saying a password you had to beat all of NYC calling in for, it seems. The atmosphere was awesome, and the cocktails were unlike anything I’d ever had. Damn, that sazerac….
Anyway, PDT is one of the cocktail bars documented in Hey Bartender, a documentary about a lot of things bar-related, but predominantly charting the rise of the American cocktail bar.
When it sticks to that thesis, Hey Bartender is a very interesting and informative documentary. The cocktail is the quintessential American product, fusing ingredients and techniques from many cultures together in the great Melting Pot of American culture. This documentary does a great job charting the history of the cocktail, as well as its late-80s renaissance and current heyday.
However, they do not have nice things to say about Long Island Iced Teas
They also do a good job of identifying interesting folks to talk to, from cocktail bar owners to on-the-rise aspiring NYC bartenders. Oh, and of course we at MovieBoozer have to raise a glass just because this subject is so clearly after our own hearts.
Unfortunately, the film suffers a bit from a lack of focus. It flits about to many subjects that are interrelated under the umbrella of “bartending”, but never settles on one long enough to give us a real feel for it. In particular, the dive bar owner who wants to turn around his business sticks out like the sore thumb, and when his story interconnects with the others at the cocktail bar “Oscars” in New Orleans it still fails to feel essential. Also, how about you show us some, umm, cocktails? You leave this film no wiser about advances being made in the drinks themselves, which was kind of my primary attraction to this.
The film is professionally done, but sometimes feels like it’s trying to squeeze in its favorite sequences and lines even when they don’t really fit. One cut in particular, in which a bar owner talks excitedly about how many people hook up in his bar, only to cut to somebody calling him a visionary, was kinda hilarious.
And some stuff probably should’ve been edited out altogether. Drunken barfights are no fun to watch (the verbal kind anyway) even when you’re drunk, much less sober and plopped in front of your TV.
Unless, that’s your thing, I guess
Likewise, some of the behind the scenes stuff in this film had the unintentional result of killing too much of the mystique of fancy cocktail bars. Walking out of PDT, I felt like I had just had a really classy, exclusive experience. Now I know some guy from Wisconsin not much older than me opened a cool bar… and that’s about it.
Hey Bartender is an interesting look inside the world of trendy cocktail bars, but ultimately is a bit too uneven and unfocused to recommend to folks not already interested in that topic.
Take a Drink: whenever someone else does (not as much as you’d think)
Take a Drink: whenever someone says something mildly to blatantly pretentious
Do a Shot: whenever a cocktail is named and shown. Sike!