You see them at networking receptions, devising drink orders from customers' shouts like an improv actor taking cues from an audience. You see them at celebration events, jamming with party–goers like a DJ dancing to his rhythms. You see them at gallery openings, mixing layered shots like an artist blending paint on a palette. They are the bartenders from Penn Student Agencies (PSA), and they know that a "Cranberry Vodka" is really called a "Cape Codder."
In order to join PSA Bartending as a staff bartender (and earn at least $20 per hour), you only need to be 18 years old, attend a one–day certification course ($189), fill out the application, pass a written test administered in the PSA office, and have an interview. Since the jobs are first come first serve, PSA will take as many bartenders as who make it all the way through the hiring process (Hint: the first question asks how to make a cosmo).
Although there is an official manual, mixology allows for creativity and customization. Bartending Assistant Manager Eleanor St. John Sutton (C'18) loves to make layered shots—not only because of their eye–catching quality, but also because "they require delicacy and patience," she says. This allows her to "be creative in a way that's totally different" from her schoolwork.
PSA Bartending Manager Jared Fenton (C '17), and former bartender at Harvest, reflects on his source of inspiration in coming up with new drinks: “You can go online and look up cool drinks and see what other people have done and then do variations on that...but the thing that I try to do when I make drinks is that I try to tailor the drink to the person.”
Aside from understanding the customer and catering to their preferences, bartenders also need to know how to assess different situations. They need to respond accordingly and professionally. As Eleanor mentions, "I think bartending is a creative role because I draw from recipes, but also have to be spontaneous. There's improvisation involved, and I have to be adaptable because every gig is different." Jared echoes, “When there’s 100 people at the bar stand, you have to perform. You have to figure out what you are gonna do...If you are doing some type of performance, then I would imagine...you are trying to do the art itself and please people at the same time.”
Bartenders live with the event, moving along with the vibes while adding their own sights and surprises. Bartending Deputy Assistant Manager Chloë Schwartz (C '17) remembers a time when she bartended an event hosted by the Greenfield Intercultural Center: "Everyone was just having a great time, coming in and hanging out with me...We were all enjoying the experience of this get–together," she says. Connecting with her past performing arts experience, she adds, "I would leave with the same rush [after bartending] that I got from performing, and I really love that feeling."