The Spin: Beyond The Spirits


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The Spin: Beyond The Spirits

Whether you call them bartenders, barkeeps, or mixologists, their mission is to prepare and provide patrons with spirituous potions. The job can be demanding. Even though they’re perpetually surrounded by well-intentioned patrons in various states of dipsomania and overindulgence, these professionals are physically confined behind a 30’ counter and within a 36” workspace (detainees in Guantanamo have more breathing room.)

For patrons, it’s a celebration. For the tender of the bar, it’s all part of the job. Therefore, I regard bartenders as ringmasters for the greatest and wildest social circuses on Earth. The social circus is the bar, and bartenders lead the way as the master of ceremonies.

I believe myself to be “Cocktail Guru,” and the tagline on my business card identifies me as a “Spiritual Adviser.” I’ve sampled drinks at some of the finest and worst bars, and I’ve been served, by some great and other not-so-great bartenders.

So, when I have the good fortune to encounter an absolute cocktail master, I consider it my moral obligation to report it. A few months back, as luck would have it, I met such a master. Late one afternoon, when leaving Clearwater Beach, I stopped at the recently remodeled Marriott Hotel and Resort on the Intercostal in Sand Key. It is here where I met a Trifecta bartender named Rick.

A Trifecta Bartender

“What’s a Trifecta bartender?” you ask. In my world, there are three types of bartender personalities. Every bartender falls into one or more of these categories. These groupings include the Chronicler, the Psychotherapist, and the Businesstender. I label bartenders that embody all three classes as a Trifecta bartender

The Chronicler

The Chronicler is one whose knowledge lies not only with ingredients and the drinks but also in promoting awareness of the past and future. The professionals who fall into this category have a handle on traditional and local knowledge, and they know where and where not to go.

As a chronicler, Rick knows how to reawaken an appreciation of the past and future. His wisdom is both traditional and futuristic. Additionally, his cocktails and local knowledge are second to none.

The Psychotherapist

The type of bartender that I refer to as the Psychotherapist is a natural healer. Over the years, they’ve acquired a sharply tuned awareness on how to best interact with those around them. This type is determined to make cocktails as well as occasions. The good-natured Psychotherapist is always quick with a joke and a light of the smoke.

As a psychotherapist, Rick knows how to bring people together. Always ready to throw out a wisecrack, Rick always finds time to listen to each of his patrons attentively. He oversees his stage like a big band conductor and orchestrates therapeutic moments. He’s the mythological therapist who gently urges everyday people away from their emotional ledges.

The Businesstender

The Businesstender is a maestro who simultaneously and indirectly advises customers on a variety of fronts. Their service is friendly, but not familiar.

In the role of the Businesstender, Rick will not only coax a chuckle out of you but will urge you to try Absolute Crystal instead of Popov. Rick gets to know his customers, and in turn, his customers view him as a person rather than just a bartender doing his job. His approach is self-assured, and he demonstrates his vast knowledge by clarifying why certain brands are superior to others. Unwavering in his role, he has a knack for making customers happy, while making the Marriott Corporation proud.

The eye-catching Marriott on Sand Key is an excellent Pinellas County Florida resort. The resort boasts a newly remodeled Tiki bar and a deck from which you can enjoy views of a magnificent pool, waterfall, and grotto. The resort also features a first-class eatery, aptly named the Watercolour Grillhouse. However, it’s most distinguishing feature is the Trifecta bartender Rick found within the Watercolour Lounge. So, next time you are on Sand key, stop in and allow yourself to be served by one of the rarest and most magnificent breeds of bartenders.

Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites by Marriott on Sand Key
1201 Gulf Blvd, Clearwater Beach, FL 33767
Phone: (727) 596-1100

About the “Cocktail Guru” Author

It is with good reason that I call myself both a “Cocktail Guru” and a “Spiritual Adviser.” My experiences building drinks behind the stick and drinking cocktails created by others have endowed me with vast knowledge on the subject of spirits. During my life, I’ve been served by the best and the worst at some of the finest and the most terrible establishments. Thus, I am armed with an entire range of experience from which to base my knowledge.

In the early 80’s, I traveled west to Southern California. It was there that I spent some quality bar time. I spent much of my day bouncing between my two favorite spots: The Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills and the Hotel Bel-Air in LA.

It was at the Hotel Bel-Air where I first ran into a bartender named Dale. I knew something was different about Dale from our first encounter. Dale had a special way of bartending. There was something distinct in how he interacted with customers and staff.

Six years later, I ran into Dale again at the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center. The bar was filled with patrons who were demanding of Dale’s attention. I also preoccupied, had a meeting and was unable to interact with Dale beyond mere pleasantries. Sadly, I remember I had a Vodka rocks.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized how special of a bartender he was. While watching the Food Network, I came across Dale. He had become Dale DeGroff the “King Cocktail.” Since then he’s authored several books. Dale is a partner of the Beverage Alcohol Resource and the founding president of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans. He is also the winner of several James Beard Awards and the IACP Julia Child Award.