Health

What It’s Like to Bartend at the ‘World’s Best Bar’ During the Pandemic

Dante has a lot of fans. How are they responding to takeout and delivery?

The first day that we gave this a go it was so amazing because every single person who ordered something had a name that all of us knew. Because we are in a building with a lot of apartments on top of us, some people have a ritual of walking downstairs and getting a drink and saying hello. We have a lot of people who love and support us as best they can.

Hygiene is of course of utmost importance right now. What additional steps has Dante taken?

We prepare everything up to hygiene standards and have put other measures in place to make everything as safe as possible. If you come to do a pick-up we take your order at one window and then everything is collected, contactless, in another area. We set up markers at the front of the building so that people have a sense of their space and stand six feet away.

What made you want to become a bartender?

I got into it when I was really young, about 19. It’s exciting. You get to talk to people and create things, and the hospitality scene is interesting. It feels like a massive community, which it is, but it’s a welcoming community, too. Everyone wants to know about you and talk to you. You can have an impact on someone even if they’re in your bar for a half hour.

Right now you can’t be in a buzzy room taking care of your guests as you normally would. For people who work in hospitality, that must be devastating.

The situation, as dire as it is, has brought out some of the very best in people. We had a pick-up customer who was talking to me and a colleague whose birthday it was. The next day she came back and brought him a cake. Even though it’s different we are still offering hospitality to our customers and making every experience unique, whether that’s hand-writing a card with instructions on how to make a cocktail at home or a personal thank-you message.

Dante is also making, donating, and delivering hot meals to New York hospitals including Lenox Hill, Mount Sinai, New York-Presbyterian, and NYU Langone. Can you tell me a little about that program?

One thing we wanted to focus on, and people are really receptive to, is giving back to the community as much as we can in this time. We are making about 250 meals a week for hospital staff and EMT workers. Linden gets in his car and delivers them himself. We have lots of people and brands who reach out to us and want to help donate to that. It’s such a positive thing. Editor’s note: To help feed those on the frontlines, Dante is accepting hospital meal donations through its website.

How do you think the landscape of restaurants and bars might look on the other side of this?

The concept of it is pretty frightening. It all still feels very unknown. When will we be allowed to reopen? Obviously we’re not going to be able to reopen as we normally would have, so what does that mean? How do we navigate that? It’s hard because it was such a quick lockdown that nobody had any time to prepare.

A silver lining for the drinks industry is that many folks seem to be finding liberation from indoor monotony with cocktail hour, either experimenting with different recipes or reacquainting themselves with classics like an Old Fashioned. Do you think this surge in home bartending might ultimately lead to more interest in bars and the craft of the cocktail?

So many of my friends in Australia will send me messages asking what liquor they should buy and what cocktails they should make at home with it. Some of them have absolutely no idea how to make a cocktail, but they’re excited about trying. Social media has been great for some people in the industry. We’ve been getting requests to do virtual cocktail classes. We’ve only done a couple, but it’s cool to teach a few things. It’s nice to see how we can put a lot of our brain trust and resources into something that people can hopefully learn from.

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