Doug Quinn is not shy about sharing his opinion. Nor is he modest about his skills behind the bar—and rightfully so. For our November/December 2016 issue, Robert Simonson profiles Quinn, who is widely considered among his peers (and customers) to be one of the finest career bartenders in the industry, in part because of his octopus-like multitasking prowess but also because of his knack for making every guest feel welcome. At his New York City bar Hudson Malone, a list of “Quinn’s Laws” adorn a large blackboard and detail life lessons intended to be inspirational and slightly tongue-in-cheek. They range from “Keep it Simple. Life is Precious” to “Mediocrity Sucks.” (Read the full list here). We asked Quinn to elaborate on the laws, share his philosophy on hospitality and explain why you should never wave down a bartender.
On Quinn’s Laws
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve noticed the way people behave, especially in restaurants and bars, has kind of denigrated over the years, in so many different aspects. [The laws] are just basic things that your grandmother taught you. I like to try to teach people things—I try to feed your mind, your eyes, your ears, your spirit. It goes to why people go out; It addresses saloon culture, which is really about hospitality. And that goes back to how you should treat people the way you want to be treated. I think most people are decent. However, I think they get caught up in their own myopic world and they get in their own way. Not everybody is going to get it.”
On Cocktail Culture
“I had a guy here who was more of a ‘mixologist.’ Everything was all about him, and as soon as it got busy, he would have his head down and wouldn’t look up. I appreciate creativity and great drinks and taking pride in what you do, but I think a lot of bartenders want to be rock stars. They should look up from their drink, or put their hand across the bar to shake somebody’s hand once in a while. There’s an arrogance and an issue of taking yourself too seriously in it all; the customer definitely has suffered. You don’t want to make somebody a vodka on the rocks because you think you’re above it? Come on. They’re coming in to drink in your establishment—make them happy. Stroke their ego and take all their money, and they’ll come back the next night and help you put your kid through college.”
On Bar Etiquette
“When you come into my bar you’re coming into my home or my church. We greet you with open arms. And it’s not about me; it’s always about the guest. But the guest isn’t always right. When he comes in and he’s being a drunken buffoon and causing trouble? That guy doesn’t belong here. And on our cocktail menu we do have some bar etiquette stuff on the other side. Some of it is meant to be kind of entertaining; I have one that says, ‘Please don’t wave unless you have a head wound.’ I see the bar very well; most of my bartenders see the bar very well. If someone is waving at me, it’s usually because there’s a good reason. Usually I’ve gone to them three or four times already, but maybe it’s just not their turn. I don’t see people walk into a bank and they’re 10th in line so they start waving at the teller. But for some reason they feel perfectly comfortable doing it in a bar.”