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Irish bartender techniques

Unknowingly anticipating the writing of Sumerian Vortex, I’ve spent hundreds of nights in pubs across Ireland over a period of 15 years. I’ve watched barmen perform gargantuan tasks against all odds in extremely crowded pubs and have developed massive respect for their mastery of critical skills.

Just-in-Time Inventory Management

When the pub is busy, a good barman becomes a short-term forecaster, pre-pulling pints to exactly match the expected demand. Bartenders invented just-in time inventory management well before production managers to placate the emotions of pint drinkers who are known to become increasingly nervous as their pints near their end.

Extrasensory Perception

Even with the bar counter five-deep with ordering punters, a good bartender effortlessly keeps track of who’s next. Semaphoric signaling in an Irish Bar resembles the imperceptible bids at an auction – untraceable, except by the bartender. No signaling is the sign of a regular who expects his pint to be instantly replaced as he downs his last swallow.


While lip-reading is not a prerequisite skill, a really great bartender will have acquired the technique as a matter of course. It is practically essential for the efficient delivery of orders coming from five-deep at a clamorous bar. In this regard, foreigners with accents can have a difficult time ordering and run the danger of receiving Tomato Juice instead of Tullamore Dew.


The first pint is reverently crafted – it is an artisanal moment -- sacred, really. The bartender knows that the bond between the punter and his pint is emotional, and the first careful sip into the white head is therapeutic and life-affirming. But after this first slug, the taste buds are overwhelmed and lose discernment, swamped by the sheer power of stout, and then the experience is all about sip-volume, mouthfeel, and swallow-density. So, the barman’s job is to make sure that the first sip is mind-blowing. After that, his job is done. He maintains the illusion of a perfect pint every time, while forgoing assiduity in the interests of time (and, need one mention, money?)


The bartender must create and maintain the conviction and mystery of the perfect cellar that coddles his kegs of Guinness. He encourages the shill who proclaims – “Ah, now that’s the perfect pint”. In the mystery of why some pubs serve better pints, rumors, conjectures, disinformation, and even superstition all play a part – actual data is nowhere to be found.

Voice Timbre Management

The bartender’s pub is his stage. He plays many parts. In particular, at closing time, versatility in the correct messaging of the dreaded “Time, gentlemen, please!” is a must. His voice needs to cut through the cacophony of conversation, modulating its timbre as the clock ticks down. Starting with a voice tone surprised that it is already closing time, he moves on to a peevish tone as he is roundly ignored and the din of conversation grows louder. This is followed by a beseeching plea that soars over the din and collective smacking of lips. Finally exasperated, insistent, angrily disappointed, he starts to gather up partially finished drinks ignoring unrepentant protests…

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