Great company is the cause of hangovers, not alcohol.
I enjoy the mutual presence of anyone who’s comfortable in their own skin, which seems appropriate for Charlie Lehmann because that seems to be about all he really ever dresses in. That, a fast mouth, and a beard that when harvested could potentially clothe a small family through a harsh winter.
That’s why we go to bars, isn’t it? Company. It’s certainly not for the lame reviews that use jerk off cliches like ‘nestled away’ and ‘beneath the bustling jibe of the city’. No, please shut up, we go to bars to feel a part of something, to lose control a little, to lose our phones, to drink enough to make you want to smoke cigarettes, and to drink enough to potentially make some not-so-well-thought-through decisions.
Company is everything and bars are the perfect environment to find it, soak in it, or even exchange it. And when you do come across it, in its finest form, you always come back for it. This could explain the strong regular rotation of customers, also known as friends and alcoholics, that warm the seats and run their mouths at Sydney bar, Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern. It could also explain why my interview with Charlie went for eight hours instead of one, included me riding a tricycle on time trial at 2am, a cocktail pit stop at Lobo Plantation and various other things that shouldn’t be mentioned without a lawyer present.
I was already hungover and went to meet Charlie at his bar in the CBD on a Saturday afternoon. I’d heard Charlie Lehmann was a guy that gave good company, not just because he makes alcoholic milkshakes*. Everyone, particularly bar fellows, have something memorable to say about him, which probably include him being naked at some point or jumping out of a birthday cake in a dress. But how does he do it? How does he turn the role of a bartender and bar owner into not only the guy you want serving you your beer but also the one you want to drink it with?
Having studied politics at UTS, Charlie’s unbound by other people’s dirty pretentious views of the world and hence himself. He’s not a prisoner to superiority and he’s got a strong appetite for learning and even stronger taste for partying. But there’s more to this than a consortium of tatts, intellect and unexplained hugs.
So, before this starts sounding like an episode of The Wonder Years, let’s move on to the following exercise below and let this man of the people teach you how to have a thirst for being the best and expecting the best while also not being an utter douche about it.
Charlie Lehmann’s tips on how to be not shit at bartending and life in general.
#1 Accept that you’re crazy
“My mum always told me, ‘Charlie, you have ADD’. And, you look at all the bartenders that you’re friends with and yeah, we’re all a little bit crazy. The kids that sat at the back of the room and played devil’s advocate. We’re gelled together by this culture we’ve built. But, the best thing is, we know we’re crazy, it’s what gets us by. The thing is, we’re serving people that think they’re completely normal. But they’re just as fucked and crazy as we are. We accept what we are. We know what we are. We’re all the ADD kid that should be on Ridlin. Use your crazy to your advantage.”
#2 Give good chat
“I was really, really smashed at a party once,” this is how good stories always seem to start and Charlie has a lot of stories, I’m guessing because he gets into a lot of trouble. But they always pay off in the end on the entertainment scale. Charlie’s chat is on point, which like everything gets better with booze. But he also says, “know your boundaries” and “have respect”.
#3 Don’t crack under pressure
“A bartender needs to be able to hold their own. I’ll hold your hand for the first couple of days but then you’re on your own. They need to be able to listen. Not just to management or peers, but also the person on the other side of the bar. There are times when you drop the ball but this is what you signed up for. Don’t crack under pressure or when you’re hungover. ”
#4 Love on people
“I walk into a bar and I would love to sit with every single person and drink a beer.”
‘Lick their faces. Run around nude. Be a menace.’ I’d say this is Charlie’s general regime, I’m sure he fits some work in their too at times. Whatever he does, it runs tight and people love him back for it.
#5 Be open to awesome stuff
“Bartending is the kind of job that you don’t know you want to do until you’re doing it. So, not everyone understands the opportunities available to you as a bartender. As I do progress through this industry, I do see that we all want to come together and make it more open and accessible, to not only women but all walks of life, while making it fun at the same time.”
#6 Be a part of the dysfunctional family
A Ramblin Rascal review found online reads as thus: “Love the cute hipster bar ppl that keep refilling our corn bar snacks.” Like a middle class woman that just stepped foot in a possum enclosure at the zoo. But the truth is, for people that operate outside the bar industry and perhaps don’t frequent bars often, would actually see the Ramblin’ staff in this light. As lovely, slightly eclectic, generous and hospitable people just trying to help you have a good time. Be it slightly foreign to them.
In reality, bartenders across multiple venues have developed this incredible incestuous network of support backed by good times and great company. “There’s a lot of respect in what we do and for each other. It’s probably one of the most attractive parts of this industry, is how we all come together. It’s one of the best feelings you can have, knowing you’re a part of something. There’s no other industry like it, unless maybe you’re a part of the billionaire old mans club where they sit around and drink champagne and eat caviar and pat each other on the back for the shit jobs they do.
“This is an honest hardworking job, but we work hard and we play hard. Get involved.”
Got those top notch points? Your best bet is to head down to Ramblin’ and experience it for yourself. Remember, alcohol isn’t the cause of hangovers, great company is, but in the end it’s always worth it.
*Served on the night: French 1/4 connection I Martel I lemon juice I sugar I egg white I french vanilla ice cream
Catch up on the other bartenders we've met this year here.
Image credit: Daryl Kong
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