Esquire’s ‘Best Bars In America’ Is Back For Season Two

My Wednesday night ritual of watching “Best Bars” has begun again!

Other shows I can let sit unwatched on the DVR for a week or two, but “Best Bars In America” is something I not only love to watch right when I get out of work on Wednesdays — but also study.

The show is in its second season on the Esquire Network, and the first episode of Season Two aired last night at 9 p.m. — with Jay and Sean visiting San Francisco for the second time.

I’m not going to lie — I’m a sucker for anything booze-related. The same with writers and journalists. Chances are, if you get me started watching a movie about a bartender or reporter — I’ll have to finish it. And in the absence of “Best Bars,” during the recent lull between Season 1 and Season 2, I tried to fill my time with other shows. I caught up on Esquire’s “Brew Dogs,” which I love equally — and I developed a fondness for National Geographic’s travel booze show “Chug,” though that one always leaves me wanting more.

The New York Times wrote this piece a while back about what they called the current “renaissance” of booze-related television programming.

I’m not sure if I’d call it a renaissance exactly. There certainly were a bunch of shows that popped up all at once and while I haven’t watched all of ’em yet, I do have my favorites.

For my money though, “Chug” is pretty decent. I like Zane Lamprey a lot. And the one-off feature on the Smithsonian Channel called “United States Of Drinking” was alright, but doesn’t need to be its own series. I’ve still got all the episodes of the Travel Channel’s “Booze Traveller” to plow through, and this is exactly what I was writing about earlier — other shows will sit unwatched on my DVR for great lengths of time, but “Best Bars In America” is too enjoyable for me not to watch it right away.

I realize this might not be the case for everyone. You’ve gotta like the host or hosts of a travel show to want to stick with it. I felt sort of indifferent to the “United States of Drinking” one-off and stuck with it only because I’m a fiend for such programming.

With Esquire’s “Best Bars” though, I not only like the hosts as hosts, but my ideas of funny are in line with their style of comedy. The show is pretty slickly-produced and I enjoy the soundtrack that accompanies the video roll of all the bars they visit, as well as their choices of bars in general. I’ve got a dual love for both shots-and-beer bars as well as high-concept craft cocktail bars. I got into this industry as a barback/DJ at a rock bar in a college town and now tend bar at a fun and eclectic upscale place in Jamestown.

But I’m beating around the bush, blathering about the music and bar selection on the show. What’s really important is the focus they put on people in the industry — whether they be ultra-creative bartenders at craft joints in big cities or people who’ve been working the stick all their lives in watering holes all across America. Despite the differences in what specifically they’re each serving, there’s a commonality between all the bartenders shown — they’re not just serving drinks, they’re all serving people.

Also, this:

And sorry that those aren’t clickable links. That’s just a screen capture I grabbed from Tender’s Twitter post.

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Queen City Shaken & Stirred

Last night I saw Neil Diamond at First Niagara.

It was a whirlwind 24-hour trip with my wife and her mother, but we managed to do quite a bit of drinking, dining and shopping during our overnight stay.

Photo by The Buffalo News

First up was some spiced rum in the hotel room and then an Ithaca Flower Power IPA and a Sierra Nevada Torpedo at the show.

There was more beer to follow, much more… But everything after “Cracklin’ Rosie” was pretty much a hot mess and, most importantly, what I really want to write about here is Queen City Shaken & Stirred.

Before I get to that though, here’s what The Buffalo News had to say about the concert.

At some point when I was writing my post Monday about Buffalo Proper, I stumbled upon info about Queen City Shaken & Stirred — a boutique supply shop for bartenders and home mixologists.

If you like barware and craft cocktails, then Queen City Shaken & Stirred is going to be your new favorite store. If you’re in Buffalo, just remember that the shop’s not far from Elmwood — and is located at 1455 Hertel Avenue. Look ’em up online here.

It’s not hyperbole or even cliche of me to write that I was like a “kid in a candy store.” I wanted everything I saw, even the things they were selling which I already own. The only thing that kept me from grabbing everything I saw was making a promise to myself that I’ll return as soon as possible.

I was politely greeted when I entered the shop, and the two people working gave me enough personal space to browse comfortably — checking up on me only once or twice and even offering helpful info about out-of-stock items.

Everything about the experience was very chill. The items in the shop are perfectly displayed, almost in a minimalist sort of way. When I had questions, staff had answers. We chatted briefly about the vintage and unique booze bottles on display… And had I known then what I know now from checking out the shop’s Instagram page, I would’ve asked about the occasional classes and speakers they host.

What specifically was there to buy? Well, pretty much any fancy glassware a person might need, but also an impressive selection of bitters and flavored syrups (not to mention tools like jiggers, bar spoons, ice molds, Hawthornes, julep strainers, shaker tins and mallets).

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Quality Cocktails Take Teamwork

Quality cocktails take teamwork.

Sure, bartenders make drinks solo from behind the bar, but chances are someone else helped set it up, stock it and clean it. An owner probably orders the liquor and someone on the kitchen staff might be the one who makes the weekly supply of simple syrup.

Then there’s a bartender’s actual Front of House coworkers. The diversity of interests and talents between a group of passionate and dedicated people can be amazing — one might be more knowledgable of wine while another’s a bitters geek and a third knows the ins-and-outs of brewing beer.

Everyone’s got their strengths, and through the work of everyone on a team the final product will inevitably be a better one — even if it comes from a solo bartender on a closing shift. Chances are some of what that person’s making (and how and why) are likely due in part to how they were taught or something a coworker put together for the restaurant.

There’s no real point to this little rant other than to set up the following picture, a photo of my coworker and I straining pickle juice for a Pickle Back shots:


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