Jake boasts that Canvas Lounge, located in Nashville, Tennessee, is the best of the gay bars on Church St. He described it to us as an intimate bar space featuring local art whose rear dance floor, DJ booth, homemade and legitimately delicious bar food, freshly squeezed juices, cosmetic quirks, old barbershop chairs, old school pacman table, working phone booth, and the occasional blow-up sex doll create the perfect setting for funky theme nights; 90s parties, 80s parties, bear parties, underwear parties and so on. Canvas Lounge’s small staff helps to create a familial environment that attracts a solid group of regulars who span the gay spectrum in terms of age and life story. He wanted us to know that he genuinely loves his bar. We asked him several questions about the ins and outs of bartending.
Jake: Do you mean a literal tool or a metaphorical tool? Doesnt matter, I’ll answer both.
1) Literal tools: the basics are probably boring – pen, bottle opener, lighter, shoes you don’t mind destroying, and at my bar a fairly exhibitionist wardrobe.
2) Metaphorical tools: patience, social grace (knowing when/when not to interject and how to deliver bad news in a non-provocative way), a good short-term memory, a sense of humility and humanity (or at least the ability to fake it), flexible sleeping hours, alcohol tolerance, assertiveness, and a total lack of shame.
H&H: What is your number one bartender pet peeve?
Jake: I mean there are two types of pet-peeves:
1) Staff directed: its a major pet-peeve to open a bar that wasn’t properly+thoroughly closed the night prior (even though that’s obviously purely speculation because of course that never happens at my 100% perfect bar).
2) Patron directed: Do i have to pick just one? No i don’t, I’ve decided. I hate when you say “make me something good” because good is a subjective term w/r/t palette preferences. I dont know you or your inclinations and I want to spend zero time trying to figure all that out – you aren’t special and I have other people waiting and they know what they want to drink so fuck off and evaluate your own mood/life and then get back to me. I also hate when you ask for multiple rounds of ice-waters (the water comes out slowest from the soda gun, asshole) for your whole friend group and then you don’t leave a tip. I hate when you ask for my digits if you arent cute. I hate when you get roofied at other bars and then come to our bar just as the ruination is taking-off. I hate when you make me call you a cab (cellphones, people). And I hate how many adults have reached adulthood without ever learning how to drink properly in public. Bartending frequently resembles day-care which sort of presents a metaphysical conundrum because a primary axiom of serving alcohol goes: I am not responsible for your life choices (i.e. even though you may be a borderline alcoholic and this night might be the night that upsets the rest of your life, its not my problem, thats your autonomy man). I guess I’m divagating here a bit, but what I’m trying to say is its a total bummer when that philosophical credo comes in conflict with solving the diurnal issues of, like, maintaining a functional bar + babysitting adults who clearly cannot manage their autonomy, if that makes sense.
H&H: What is your advice for people who are just starting their adventures in drink making?
Jake: Be diligent and gracious and a paradigm of anticipation. Toughen up the proverbial skin. Act yourself, not some forced facsimile of what you think your customers want you to be.
H&H: Is there any type of alcohol that you always have on hand at home?
Jake: Good bourbon, good tequila, Mt. Gay Rum and Japanese Shochu.
H&H: What is your go-to cocktail of the moment?
Jake: Its fall so when drinking at home I’m going with dry ciders during the day, maybe with a shot of cinnamon whiskey (Jack Fire > Fireball) mixed in. Some popular ones now at Canvas are: Moscow Mule, Salty Dog (again, the grapefruit juice is fresh squeezed), Tokyo Tea (makes people feel unique I guess?), PBR for the hipsters and Rum-Runners. I love serving sangria because it gives me an excuse to revisit my Spain sojourn. My go to shots when someone says OMG I WANT SOMETHING SWEET are: Red Death, Jolly Ranchers and Vegas Bombs. Vegas Bombs are really popular in Nashville. Or should i say NASHVEGAS HAHAHAHAHA.
H&H: And lastly, why bartending?
Jake: It just made sense on so many levels. I appreciate alcohol. I enjoy having a socially-permissible excuse to talk to strangers. I liked the idea of being an element in your (universal you) end-of-the-day unwinding+relaxation+diversion. I guess in other words, being involved in the part of life people actually look forward to. I don’t mind being the center of attention as long as that role transpires organically (no karaoke, please). Also the part-timeyness of the whole thing gives me – your stereotypical millennial with delusions of creativity – a chance to pursue personal side-projects. Obviously the money is pretty good too, I’m not above admitting that.
Thanks so much for being our second guest on Between Two Barstools Jake! Its been a salt-licking good time! Hopefully this post will inspire people to approach the bar with confidence. If that isn’t an option because you aren’t sure of your tastes, check out the You Do You Bar post for some tips!