Tales from Behind the Bar: Brooklyn's Dram
When last call has come and gone, the bartenders-only after-hours scene comes to life. Details.com enlisted two of New York City's best barkeeps — Nicholas Jarrett (Clover Club, Dram, he Flatiron) and Frank Cisneros (Dram, co-owner of the Drink) — to give you exclusive access to this uncensored slice of nightlife. Join them and a rotating crew of seasoned drink-slingers every other week for tales of debauchery.
THE BAR: Friday night at Dram, in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.
THE BOOZERS: Tonia Guffey, bartender at Dram, the Flatiron, and Lani Kai.
THE LIBATIONS: A bottle of Fernet Branca; three "shorty" beers (two Sixpoint Otis Oatmeal Stouts and an Einbecker Pilsener); three pink gin and tonics (Boodles British gin, Fever-Tree tonic, lime juice, and Angostura bitters).
2:02 a.m. "Grand Guignol"
Following a story from Nicholas about the unfortunate barback who once, on a dare, drank so much tonic water that his ears began to ring, the talk turns to battle wounds.
Frank Cisneros: Behind the bar, it's war time, it's Band of Brothers. One night, at Prime Meats, I'm talking to a group of nice ladies in front of the service station while putting up 11 drinks at once, when the peeler — we actually call it the Death Peeler — slips out of my hand, hits my knuckle, then the bone. I just start splurting blood all over the place. At that point, I've finished all 11 drinks — they're just missing the garnishing — so I wrap a towel around my hand and ask the other bartender to finish 'em up, and he says, "Why? I'm in the weeds here." And I'm like, "Dude, because of this" — I let go of the towel and my hand starts pouring blood like a faucet. He's like, "Holy shit! Go take care of that!" So I grab one of my managers, we book it downstairs, and we proceed to go through four fucking bar towels, soaking each one in my blood. Then my manager looks at me and she says, "We're going to have to Super Glue it back together —
Tonia Guffey: Super Glue actually helps the wound.
Frank Cisneros: Right? And your Band-Aid's just going to wind up in someone's drink. Then she says, "Are you ready to go back to work?"
Tonia Guffey: You've got to keep going, no matter what. One time, at Flatiron, I slid into the side of the well [bartender-speak for the metal racks where the liquor bottles are kept] and it punctured a hole in my leg. I was bleeding, my leg was swelling up, I could barely stand — and my manager just duct-taped a bodega bag of ice around it, sent me on my way.
Nicholas Jarrett: I once dropped a bottle of Patrón and a piece of it shot right into my shin. My shoes were literally full of blood. I had to throw away my pants.
Tonia Guffey: How metal is bartending, right?
Nicholas Jarrett: So metal.
2:40 a.m. "Scumbagging"
After a round of Fernet shots and discussion of daylight saving time--the first day of which leads some bars to close "early" for a night — the three bartenders parse the definition of the term scumbagging, which all will later cop to having done themselves.
Frank Cisneros: Where did that term come from? Everyone says they got it from me, but I have no fucking clue where I got it from.
Tonia Guffey: I credit Christina Rando [a bartender at Clover Club]. Scumbagging is when you're a dickhead, but we love you, and you come in at 15 minutes till close.
Frank Cisneros: If you're in the industry, it can also mean something you do to your own bar, by not restocking it, or you can scumbag someone else's bar knowing full well you're not supposed to show up at 3:45 in the morning and order 10 fucking cocktails. Rule of thumb is, starting at 30 minutes before close, it's beer-and-shot-o'clock.
3:35 a.m. "Ghost Parties"
While reminiscing about the Flatiron, Tonia recalls one particularly grim night of cleanup after a mob of bankers passed through.
Frank Cisneros: The Flatiron was essentially the second great cocktail bar in Manhattan, after Milk & Honey.
Nicholas Jarrett: If you were to collect everyone who's put in time at Flatiron, you'd essentially have a who's who of New York bartending. The Beijing Peach, near as I can tell, has made over a million dollars. One drink.
Tonia Guffey: A jasmine-infused vodka mixed with peach purée and fresh lime juice. So simple.
Nicholas Jarrett: Yeah, and bitches love it. But let's talk about that one night at Flatiron… the men's room.
Tonia Guffey: Oh no, I can't talk about that.
Nicholas Jarrett: How much cocaine was all over that trash can?
Tonia Guffey: I once worked a party downstairs in the [Flatiron's] Club Room. We call that bar the Hole because it's a tiny workstation that never sees the light of day. Anyway, we had maybe 90 dudes downstairs, all Wall Street. They're grinding away at their teeth while ordering one Johnnie Walker Black after another, spend a ton of money, get fucked out of their minds, and when closing time comes around we all emerge from the Hole to start cleaning up the mess. The boys' bathroom is full of bags. But not, like, little drug bags. These are fucking Ziploc sandwich bags of cocaine residue.
Nicholas Jarrett: Then we find a bottle of Heineken in front of the toilet closet…
Tonia Guffey: It looked like the ghost of Christmas Past had been partying his ass off in the bathroom…
Nicholas Jarrett: …and there are four banker dudes crammed in the tiny toilet closet, you know, where we store the toilet paper — snorting liberally from their sandwich baggies of coke.
Frank Cisneros: Let it be known, by the way, any massive cocaine parties held in a bathroom will now be called a "ghost party."
3:38 a.m. "The Wake-Up Call"
In honor of Frank's new coinage, the three clink glasses of Fernet, then drain them. Nick gets up to pour more shots.
Frank Cisneros: Small ones, Nick. Small ones!
Nicholas Jarrett: This is shot No. 3!
Tonia Guffey: C'mon, it's not even overproof.
Frank Cisneros: Some of us have to fly to Holland tomorrow.
—Illustration by Illustration by Maritsa Patrinos, photo of Dram by Jackie Neal Chadwick. Also on Details.com:
Top Shelf and Under The Table: Bartenders Spill Everything (Except the Drinks)
Get a Taste of the Bartenders' Secret Weapon: Fernet-Branca
For Memorial Day, Where to Get Great Cocktails in Flyover Country
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