The physical toll of shaking cocktails
We’ve made so many strides and so much progress in mixology and bartending in the last 10 years, and especially in Los Angeles — previously a cocktail wasteland — in the last three or four. More and more often we’re seeing properly long, vigorous shakes of egg and citrus cocktails, not that wimpy two-second rock-back-and-forth that was always the bane of the imbiber — as Dr. Philip Boyce once said to Capt. Christopher Pike aboard the starship Enterprise, “Who wants a warm Martini?”
We’re also seeing nice, big ice that chills the drink without overly diluting it — Kold-Draft machines are becoming more common, and some bars produce their own ice. Apparently there has been a price to pay for this, though.
The New York Times recently published an article featuring several of our local bartenders about the mounting problem of repetetive stress injuries.
“When we first started Varnish, we began sustaining a bunch of injuries,” Marcos Tello said. “I had a huge, constant knot in my forearm. Chris Ojeda developed tennis elbow. Matty Eggleston popped a tendon in his hand. We were all sidelined with all these injuries.”
Varnish is not a football team. It is a stylish, speakeasy-style cocktail bar that opened early last year in downtown Los Angeles. And the men Mr. Tello mentions are fellow bartenders, ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-30s. But in these heady days of behind-the-bar showmanship, when theatrical agitations of shakers filled with heavy-duty ice are becoming the norm, the mixologist’s physical lot is not so terribly far removed from an athlete’s.
I’d been hearing about this from several of our bartender friends in town, and it’s becoming a bigger and bigger problem. I’m glad it’s being addressed — I don’t want everyone to have to retire by the time they’re 40! Later in the article Marcos mentions consulting and even hiring physical therapists as consultants, which is a great idea. If you’re a bartender, how do you cope? How will we have to adapt our shaking techniques to still knock out great drinks without compromising health? Do we need to invent a shaking machine? Or is that just too wimpy?
Let’s be careful out there!