Pine Nuts: The fine art of keeping bar |

Pine Nuts: The fine art of keeping bar

McAvoy Layne
Special to the Sierra Sun
McAvoy Layne

I ask you, how many of us lucky ducks have fallen back on the fine art of keeping bar when our life’s calling falls a little short? I’m confident I do not stand alone in the oasis. There are thousands of us grateful ‘one time cocktologists’ who succeeded in their life’s work thanks to the glorious and oh so enjoyable salvation of, “Yo-barkeep!”

My first experience in this off-road endeavor came while enrolled as a pre-med student at Arizona State in Tempe. I was not making the grades necessary to pursue medicine, and my father informed me he was “cutting me off” for spending too little time in the lab and too much time in the pub.

But I got lucky and landed a job behind the bar at the Cork & Cleaver in Scottsdale, probably thanks to the little white lie that I had previous experience behind the bar. In full disclosure, I have stopped lying altogether now that the amateurs have taken over the field.

Well, like so many before me, I took great delight in learning on the job, much to the consternation of the customers.

One evening Barry Goldwater came in with a small party and ordered a bottle of wine. I had never served a bottle of wine before but I knew somebody was supposed to smell the cork. I just didn’t know who was supposed to smell the cork. So, I smelled the cork and handed it to Barry, who smelled the cork and handed it back to me. I then poured the wine with a shrug of my shoulders to pretend I was an experienced French barkeep. I still don’t know to this day who is supposed to smell the cork. I do remember Barry lost the election after smelling that cork, so I have not smelled a cork since.

Later that same night a fellow came into the bar very close to closing and ordered a “Long Island Iced Tea,” which I had never heard of before. I asked him how he liked the ice and the tea and pretty well milked the ingredients out of him without too much trouble. Little did I suspect that this Long Island Iced Tea would launch him into his life story, starting with his birth and never stopping. When he got to the part where he was hired as a conductor on Amtrak, I reached under the bar and soaked a cloth in ammonia. I mentioned to him that it was past closing time, and started swabbing the bar directly beneath his nose. His eyes started watering, he paid his tab, and left the premises crying.

I might have happily followed keeping bar as a profession were it not for one in-house rule the Cork & Cleaver had at the time for employees: “Barkeeps are not allowed to date waitresses.”

Well, a cocktail waitress and I escaped to Las Vegas one weekend and what I remember most about that escape is that we won enough on the penny slots to pay for our trip. We were both summarily dismissed from the Cork & Cleaver, however, and I can only wonder what she might be doing today…

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.