I’m Not Sure I’ll Ever Go Back to Bartending Full-Time

Restaurant Diaries is a weekly series featuring four different people working in the industry. Each week, you’ll hear from one of them, from a line cook in Denver to a farmer in Winters, California. This week’s diarist is Jenny Feldt, who recently left her bartending and beverage consulting job to resume her role as a brand ambassador for Grey Goose.

Moving during COVID isn’t necessarily something that I’d recommend—much less moving twice—but when there’s a pandemic and so little is in your control, it felt like the right thing to do for my sanity. Initially, I was working as a brand ambassador for Grey Goose in Atlanta, but last August the company furloughed a number of employees, including me. When that happened I decided to return home to D.C. to work as a beverage consultant, which is how I ended up at Prost. It was nice to return to my roots, training bartenders and creating a beverage program.

The last few months at Prost required a lot of thinking on our toes. And with everything that has been going on in D.C., we took things one day at a time. The ban on indoor dining went into effect at the beginning of January, so we had to find creative ways to drive to-go sales and amp up outdoor seating, which is definitely challenging when temperatures drop below freezing. Cocktails can help, though, and we made sure that Prost’s three signature warm cocktails weren’t just specials that appeared every so often on menus but ready to rock and roll at all times.

Even when you’re making drinks that customers love, being a bartender during a pandemic is difficult. In the service industry it’s crucial to be able to understand your guests, anticipate their wants, and get a sense of what kind of experience they’re looking for. Everyone is different—some folks want a super-curated, personalized cocktail whereas others just want a beer, some food, and to be left alone. But you can only figure that out by having some interaction with them.

During the pandemic that all disappeared. I had to depend on servers to get a feel for guests, and I just made cocktails according to my recipes. I still managed to find ways to connect. I would send out handwritten notes with to-go orders or write a story or history of the cocktail on the chalkboard to interact with customers at even the most basic level.

Photo by Jose Pereiro

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