Bartenders spend most of their time, well, tending to you. They make you drinks, make you laugh and convince you that your drunken babble is nothing short of genius. Or at least the good ones do. In the Bartenders Bible series, we let the folks manning the speedrails and taps around town have their say. This week, we hear from Smiths’ Ash Sims, who discusses his beer snobbery, explains why having sex in a photo booth is not the best idea, and tells us all about the time he witnessed a full-out melee at his previous gig at Dave & Buster’s.
Name: Ashley “Ash” Sims
Coordinates: Smiths, 39-41 S. 19th St.
Bartender or mixologist? Bartender
Tenure at Smiths? A year and a half. I’m coming up on two years in May.
Total years behind the bar: Seven. Dave & Buster’s was my first bartending job. I went from a busser to a barback to a bartender within a year. I was there for about three years. I quit that and went on to something out of the service industry. My brother managed a cleaning company - he was going to make me the manager of the Pennsylvania region, but it didn’t turn out the way we wanted, so we quit together. I came back to service industry and worked at Lucky Strike. The money brought me back. It’s a lot easier to be a bartender with a few hard hours and walk home with a lot of money in your pocket.
One unexpected fact about Ash: I am related to Stedman Graham, Oprah’s boyfriend. He’s my uncle’s cousin. I’m not exactly sure what I would call him - my eighth cousin, five times removed?
Favorite beer: Right now it’s the Yards Brawler. I’m a bit of a snob. If I got invited to a party and they’ll only have Miller Lite, I’m going to bring my own sixpack. I do like beer a lot. It’s part of the reason I like my job at Smiths, as bar manager I get to pick the beers that I like and think will sell.
Favorite liquor: Bluecoat Gin, Grand Ma, Glenlivet 16yr Nadurra
Favorite cocktail: Bluecoat and OJ
Your best customer in five words or less. Knowledgeable, friendly, patient.
Your worst customer five words or less. High-maintenance, needy, uneducated, picky. They think that they know everything, but clearly don’t.
All bartenders should know a good joke. What’s yours?
A lonely guy meets the girl of his dreams and after dating awhile decide to get married. He can’t believe his good fortune. The day before his wedding while his fiance is busy with wedding preparations, she sends her sister, who our guy has never met before, to spend time with his fiance. They spend the day together and have an amazing time. At the end of the day he realizes the sister is a younger, cooler, prettier version of his fiance. And the admiration is mutual. They return to the sister’s apartment and she offers herself to him as one last fling before married life. She gets naked and heads up the stairs and into her bedroom while our guy stands there watching. He then turns around and walks out of the house. There on the yard is his future father-in-law and brothers-in-law. “Congratulations,” said the father-in-law, “You passed the test and can now marry my daughter.”
The moral of the story? Always keep your condoms in your car.
Have you ever had to break up a fight at your bar? What was it about?
When I worked at Dave & Buster’s, there was this huge melee. It was crazy. When it started, I was in the bathroom and I came out during the middle of the fight, not at the beginning so I don’t really know exactly how it happened. Apparently, we were serving this group, a girl got belligerent and threw a drink at the bartender. She missed the bartender, the glass shattered and the guys she was with tried to go behind the bar. The bartenders jumped over the bar, the girls were trying to beat up the bartenders and it was crazy. Security came and started… yeah, I don’t want to cast a bad light on Dave & Buster’s. Some of the security there are retired police officers, they know what they’re doing and they’ve been in those situations before. They started slamming heads and putting people in cuffs. Also, the crew at Dave & Buster’s did mixed martial arts - they were pretty crazy. When the melee started, their special set of skills came out.
It’s okay to sleep with customers. Yes or no? The answer is both. It’s fine to sleep with anyone you want as long as it doesn’t interfere with work. But remember that whoever you sleep with will always know where to find you.
The best tip you ever got?
I got a $500 tip from the host of a party we catered (smiths also offers catering through b*smiths catering), plus there was $200 in my tip jar. Not bad for five hours of work.
What’s the best part of the job?
To see the reaction on someone’s face when I’ve introduced them to something they’ve never tried before, whether it be something on our food menu, a new beer, a new cocktail, or a new wine. I get to talk to all different kinds of people from all different walks of life. I can get them all to come together and have a drink and let it all out.
What’s the worst part of the job? The long hours. It’s partly because I’m also the manager. Sometimes I’m there almost 70 hours a week.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen at your bar?
Nothing too bad at Smiths, but when I worked at Dave & Buster’s, I saw a couple naked and going at it in a photo booth. It would not have been so bad but they were NOT attractive. It was the end of the night and a server caught them in there getting it on and told every other person in the building, so it was a mad dash to watch them. The manager finally came over and stepped in and was like ‘you have to get out, this is gross.’ There were no hard feelings - everyone had smiles on their faces - but security had to escort them out. I didn’t see if they left any photos - I should have looked!
What’s your patented drunk-handling technique?
Stop serving and offering a glass of water. if they don’t want the water, they can leave. If they don’t leave and become a nuisance, then the law is called.
Give us one of your bartending tips-of-the-trade:
Always bleed your taps in the morning to make sure any air and old beer from the night before isn’t left in the lines.
Why should people get a drink from you rather than the bartender down the block?
Besides the fact that I’m here, we can talk about the Birds and Phils all day long. And because I will bring you some amazing food. Our grilled fillet skewers are eye-rollingly ridiculous.
What’s the secret to being a great bartender?
Asking questions and being able to interpret what people are really asking for. And not being pushy.
Know a bartender who should be part of the Bartenders Bible? Tips gladly accepted here.