People love personalization-- something made just for them. An article in The Wall Street Journal a few days ago talked about that exact thing. As you know, companies use your data to figure out what you like. Now they are making custom mixes of stuff like shampoo, vitamins, and health drinks for people based on their preferences. Some are using the same technology that allows Amazon/Instagram/Facebook to recommend that new sweater for your dog or those concert tickets to see your favorite artist live next week. You don't remember telling Amazon you love [insert hip musician here], but they know because you stream it continuously on your phone. Others have shoppers fill out a list of up to 30 questions to dial in the exact custom mix for eye cream or hair conditioner.
Of course, I immediately thought: bartenders have been doing this forever. Bar patrons love custom drinks. The "dealers choice" is less about the dealer and much more about the drinker. Usually, the questions start with "What kind of spirits do you like? Lighter/darker?", "Do you prefer shaken or stirred drinks?", "How would you like the drink served? Up, rocks, julep, in a shoe?" The idea of a custom drink is sometimes too much for a person to pass up. The crazy part is when that patron comes back a year later and wants the same thing.
It makes sense for an online tech company that makes tailor-made nail polish to remember (in a database) exactly what custom shade Sarah uses on her nails. Bartenders have to keep all that info in their mind alongside the other cocktails, baseball scores (here in Chicago we have to remember National and American league numbers), movie trivia, and whether or not to greet someone as a regular or a stranger if their spouse is in tow.
The fascination with customized drinks or unique hair product is easy to break down. Everyone likes something special or something that makes them feel exclusive-- to stick out. With the "dealers choice" option it cheapens the experience. If everyone has something special, does anyone stick out? This, of course, brought on the bartender beer and a shot cocktail protest of 2011 that still lingers in cocktail bars all over the world. While the patrons all sit with their off the cuff fancy cocktails made just for them someone that orders a cheap canned lager, and a shot of bottom shelf whiskey inevitably sticks out. "They must know something I don't!" It's all peacocking.
What everyone is chasing is known as "the usual." The glass of suds Sam would pour Norm around 5 pm daily at Cheers, the "shaken not shtirred" Martini preferred by MI6 agent, James Bond, and the Old No. 7 on the rocks that Ol' Blue Eyes always had in whatever hand wasn't holding a microphone. Granted two of those characters are fictional but the usual exists in real life; it just takes some work to get there. The same way that everything you look at and click on is being tracked and analyzed to market to you better, a good bartender is tracking you as well.
The way to have a bartender ask if you are having your usual is to order the same thing every time. No dealers choice. No new cocktail list. No being swayed out of your drink. If you do this often enough at the same place, it gets locked in. Bartenders will even fill in the other bartenders the way you take it. If you are a prolific drinker, you can have different usuals all around the city. You can have your evening Martini spot and a late night Manhattan joint. During the summer you can have the bar you drink gin and tonics at and another for margaritas.
Go often enough, and they will stop asking what you want. Walking through the door is enough to count as an order. How often do you think Sinatra actually ordered a Jack on the rocks? Everyone just knew to get him that. If you watch enough Bond movies, you will notice 007 rarely orders his Martini. Usually, the villain knows precisely how he takes it, and orders for him or has it brought out before revealing whatever sinister earth ending plot they're carrying out.
You can pay for custom, or you can earn it.
"Welcome home Luke. Care for your usual Martini?"
"Thanks, Alexa. You're the best."
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Bar To Home
A simple translation from bar to home.