Behind Bars: The Straight-Up Tales of a Big-City Bartender

Overview

After Reading Behind Bars, a no-holds-barred tell-all in the spirit of Kitchen Confidential, you'll never look at your favorite bartender the same way again. Ty Wenzel offers a raw and clever account of slinging drinks in New York City on the Bowery before and during its renaissance. Wenzel, now thirty-six, has just thrown in the towel after a decade at the swank Marion's Continental Restaurant and Lounge -- a gig that was supposed to be a temporary escape after corporate burnout, but instead, as happens with ...
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Overview

After Reading Behind Bars, a no-holds-barred tell-all in the spirit of Kitchen Confidential, you'll never look at your favorite bartender the same way again. Ty Wenzel offers a raw and clever account of slinging drinks in New York City on the Bowery before and during its renaissance. Wenzel, now thirty-six, has just thrown in the towel after a decade at the swank Marion's Continental Restaurant and Lounge -- a gig that was supposed to be a temporary escape after corporate burnout, but instead, as happens with most bartenders, took over her life. Honest, witty, and often scathingly funny, this memoir at once offers outrageous tales, the dirty little secrets of the trade, and inspired commentary on bar culture and the human condition. Wenzel's candid stories of life behind the bar cover everything: sex, money, celebrities, the tricks mixers play on you to get you to stay on that stool, how to jump-start your own bartender fantasy, that all-important tip ... and how "pink drinks" like the Cosmopolitan are ruining civilization. Behind Bars is also a riveting narrative of Wenzel's life outside the bar, which is complicated by her Islamic background, her drive to save enough money and get out of "the life," and the ultimate realization that the grueling lifestyle that is driving her crazy is also something she has grown to love.
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Editorial Reviews

Elle
"Wenzel's pulp-fiction prose can hold its own against Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. . . . Compulsively readable."
Minneapolis Star Tribune
"A superb memoir of urban life . . . sharp-witted and complex. . . . Behind Bars delivers a subtle and mature personal narrative."
From the Publisher
"Wenzel's pulp-fiction prose can hold its own against Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential....Compulsively readable."

- Elle

"A superb memoir of urban life...sharp-witted and complex....Behind Bars delivers a subtle and mature personal narrative."

- Minneapolis Star Tribune

Publishers Weekly
In this self-absorbed, mildly amusing, but ultimately uninspired memoir, Wenzel offers her bona fides-a Muslim born in Turkey who moves to New York, attends fashion school, rejects the "shallow and harsh world" of working at Cosmopolitan magazine and spends a decade tending bar in a fashionable Lower East Side club. She then spends the next 250 pages recounting what she learned there, which isn't much: bartenders use sex and flirting to get more tips; a good sexy bartender in New York City can make a lot of money from tips; many movie stars and rock stars (she lists about 30 by name) are good tippers; bartenders are usually pursuing "creative endeavors"; people who drink a lot often throw up. When she isn't recounting details of her nightlife, she often mentions her novelist husband, Kurt Wenzel, but she never really says what her own creative endeavor is outside of making "enough money to stop agonizing about bills every month." And her occasional attempts at sociological insight-"The age of Starbucks has given birth to a generation of people who can't see past their own, self-magnified needs"-are inevitably and hilariously undercut by the author's staggering self-centeredness and blissfully unaware cliches ("Alcohol is a great way to soften the blows of life") deployed throughout the book. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A former "spineless, frustrated Islamic New Jersey girl" chronicles her decade-long bartending stint at Marion’s, a "kitschy fifties knockoff" in Manhattan. Wenzel was in it for the money, like most bartenders. That woman behind the counter batting her eyelashes isn’t in love with you, the author explains; she’s in love with your tip, and it better be decent or your night is going to be a thirsty one. Bars are the stomping ground of outrageous behavior, and Wenzel has plenty of stories about mean and stupid drunks, about men who simply urinate where they stand or sit ("You ever hear of Depends diapers?" she asks), about sex ("Dry humping and heavy necking are de rigueur at the bar, but outright fornication does transpire on occasion. . . . Ah, if restaurant bathrooms could talk!"), about squirting Visine into drinks of the truly loathed, about managers stealing bartenders’ tips. "Girly drinks" are undermining the nation’s foundations, she tells us, and "taking tobacco out of the environs of a bar is like taking the bubbles out of champagne." Now and again as she lays out the dos and don’ts of bar behavior, Wenzel's vibe gets a little thick: "My wet dream is serving other bartenders. . . . I know they are going to take care of me and I am certainly going to do anything they want short of bending over." But the vibe in most bars is also thick, she reminds us: "Let's face it, God invented bars so people could get laid." For those with a serious bar fixation, here’s a look into the barkeep’s not-always-enviable world. For those who never seem to be able to get the mixer’s attention at a packed bar, here’s a helpful hint: you pay for it. Enough jaundice to turn the paper yellow, but alsoenough pep and advice on bar etiquette to get you on the barstool for a test drive. Agent: Douglas Stewart/Curtis Brown
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312311032
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Ty Wenzel was the fashion editor for Cosmopolitan and a fashion coordinator for Bloomingdale's before her years as a bartender. She lives in East Hampton, New York, and New York City with her novelist husband, Kurt Wenzel, and their young son.

www.tywenzel.com

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Table of Contents

Shaken but Not Stirred 1
Sex with a Twist 17
The Rules: How to Date the Bartender 61
To Tip or Die in Manhattan 73
Pink Drinks and the Downfall of Culture 99
The Orphans 119
At the Kahiki Lounge 151
There's a Fly in My Martini 175
Still Want to Mix? 223
Last Call 257
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 15, 2009

    Great Read for the Person Becoming A Bartender

    I am becoming a bartender and I read the book to give me insight to the world of the bartender. This book gave me exactly what I was looking for. It told me about the job, the customers, the owners, working with other bartenders and everything in between those subjects. There were points when I burst out laughing as I was reading the book. It was interesting and enjoyable.

    Ty is raw, honest and straight to the point. She expertly articulated why I am attracted to bartending, the freedom and the money. She also zeroed in on why I do not want to make bartending a career.

    Most importantly for me, she simplified the task of knowing which drinks are the important drinks to know starting out as a bartender.

    Ty, if you ever read this review, thanks for a wonderful insight to the world of bartending and please know what a coincidence, I finished reading the book on October 15th, which has significance for you.

    Thanks, B. C.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2004

    Get Me To AA Right Away

    Uhg! After reading this predictable,boring, unpleasant 'memoir' I swore off alcohol forever. My only regret is that I was sober when I read this wretched mess.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2004

    Finally a memoir with punch

    Ty Wenzel is the kinda gal I would have fallen in love with. A sassy, sexy barmaid with a hundred stories to tell. I wish I had been one of her patrons back when she was still slinging drinks in NYC. Nevertheless, I felt like I was sitting at her bar while reading this, her voice so distinct and overflowing with brutal honesty, yet flirting with me for my tip. She knows how to balance the two, a personal conundrum to say the very least. The answer to a chick with Bourdain's cigarette smoking sex appeal. Loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2003

    Bartenders from Seattle love Behind Bars

    I had come across this book after reading about it online. As a bartender myself, I had to pick it up since I had never read or even heard of a bartender having written a memoir. It was fantastic! Wenzel put into her viciously hilarious prose everything I've always wanted to say to my own customers - including that I sometimes love them though most of the time I want to... you know. Nearly every one of my bartender friends have read it and loved it. Some waiters too. This would make a fantastic christmas present for people in the service industry, or anyone working for a tip. Not to be considered fluff, Wenzel does also offer insight into her Islamic background and family which was a nice balance to her broad but succinct observations of people who came to her for solace and booze. Definite BUY - it's worth every penny.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2003

    A very fun and entertaining read

    A friend of mine gave me this book when I got laid off from my corporate job and was considering becoming a bartender to make ends meet. I was so glad! Not only does Wenzel give you great insight on what to do to become a bartender, but recipes and what types of places are best to work at. All of this interspersed throughout a very well told story of the highs and lows of slinging drinks (on the Bowery, no less!). There are the usual suspects (drunks, vagabonds, prostitutes, 'suits', college kids, etc.) but her author husband, Kurt, makes a few cameos along with her Islamic upbringing. There is a fun insider glossary in the back plus funny and famous liquor quotes that begin each chapter. Though Wenzel's take on the biz isn't as glamorous as it seems to an outsider, it's realistic in all its debaucherous and sometimes melancholy take. It would also be a great XMas present for people in the service industry. Very great read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2003

    'Take Me Drunk, I'm Home'

    Gimlet-eyed memoirs of the author¿s decade-long stint as barmaid at Marion¿s Continental Restaurant and Lounge, a logy fantasia of a Rat Pack-flavored supper club in Manhattan¿s East Village. Wenzel, a soft-spoken beauty of Turkish descent who transformed herself several nights a week into the kind of hard-boiled, but heart-of-gold cocktail server you might catch on the Late, Late Show, guides you through the sometimes rough-and-tumble vicissitudes of the mixology trade. Filled with dishy behind-the-scenes anecdotes of bar and restaurant life¿sexy trysts among (and between) waitstaff and diners; surly and outrageous customer behavior; the occasional celebrity guest appearance¿anyone who¿s done time in the service industry will chortle with recognition. Bonus: there¿s great cocktail recipes used as chapter headers! Behind Bars is more than just a boozy memoir, however: we also get a very specific history of a restaurant as microcosm of how lives and neighborhoods change, sometimes slowly, sometimes overnight, sometimes as an improvement, and oft-times depending upon one¿s taste and perspective, tragically for the worse. Read this book on a barstool at your favorite watering hole as you nurse that second round. While the rest of the world fades into oblivion, you might just get a clearer picture of these cozy surroundings and the person in front of you pouring the sauce.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2003

    Make mine a double

    Behind Bars is smart, funny and full of gossip you can't get anywhere besides your favorite bar. It's also surprisingly human, like the best Woody Allen movies, or episodes of Seinfeld and Sex and the City. All that, plus recipes on every chapter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2003

    I hope everyone in the world reads this book!

    If I wasn't so hungover every morning and had any writting talent I would've loved to write a book like 'Behind Bars,' just to educate and entertain the drinking masses out there! I laughed my head off recognizing many on my customers in the description of the author's customers. I guess people are just the same every where! This book is the self help book for the service industry in the sense of knowing we're not alone, we all suffer the same, although I guess it would be easier to suffer if I were living in New York city instead of in the middle of nowhere. I hope she sells many many books so she doesn't have to go back to bartending! Plus the more people that read this book the more understaning they'll be of their bartenders, waiters etc. She totally gets it right! This book is like a window into a different world that most people don't think about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2003

    So much fun!

    This book was a blast. I felt like I was sitting at that bar Wenzel worked at for ten years. I loved the recipes, the quotes the funny glossary. She gets a little cranky about tipping but so does my own bartenders so it's pretty accurate in that most barteenders feel that way. Fast read, great gift for any waiter or bartender and lots of tips on how to get great service and a date with your favorite bartender.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2003

    Great beach read!

    I just finished reading Wenzel's Behind Bars and found myself laughing out loud several times. I was a bartender when I was in college and could relate to nearly everything she said about her customers and co-workers. No one on the other side of the bar can ever imagine what it's like to deal with people who are inebriated and Wenzel tells it like it is. It's not for the lighthearted, but if you can take the heat, this is a very fun and exciting insider book for anyone who has ever wondered what it must be like. The 'life' isn't what the layman would ever have imagined and it's not as glamorous as it seems. The book is segmented into several sections and I found the glossary hilarious and the drink recipes useful (I always wanted to know how to make a killer Cosmo). Her own story of being a Muslim from Jersey was an interesting and nice balance to the glam New York bar scene. People who don't tip well may find themselves angry by her honesty, but hey, that's what this memoir is about: telling the reader what bartenders are thinking when they serve the public.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2003

    No Reprieve From the Governor

    What 'Killer Klowns From Outer Space' is to cinema Ms. Wenzel's 'memoir' is to literature..her jaundiced view inspires me to drink in the safety of my own home!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2003

    Got my hands on a galley and loved it!

    I'll admit that I'm a bartender (L.A.) and I was thrilled to be given a galley of this book by a friend in publishing who thought I might enjoy Behind Bars. It's about time a fellow female bartender let's it all spill forth, so to speak, about the dark, sometimes scary sometimes uplifting world of bartenders. She tells readers what I've always wanted to tell my own customers but couldn't. People who've never worked behind a bar or in a restaurant might find this a little unsettling, but it is afterall, a true account of what it's like to be behind a bar, for better or worse. I loved the 'pet peeves' that are interspersed throughout the book, the hilarious insider glossary and the recommended bars which I plan to visit on my next trip to New York. I laughed out loud a few times. I also consider it a great summer read because it's fast, fun and ultimately, Delicious. Drink up! Cynthia

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