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It's Not Just Beer Geeks who are Snobs

Around a month ago I visited HulaTiki Lounge in Manchester’s Northern Quarter for the first time. I’d wanted to visit for a while, hearing my friend talk about all the specialist rums after he’d done the Rum Trail. But too often I was swayed into visiting the likes of the nearby Common and Port Street Beer House for some decent beer instead. Also the place seems continuously busy and popular, which isn’t a bad thing, though the queue is exhausting. Being the Northern Quarter they hate men. Always take a lady on your night out to the NQ. If you are 3+ males, you are not going anywhere.

I’m not a huge spirits drinker. I’ve long wanted to enjoy whiskey and scotch, hoping some dormant adult admiration for the drink will arouse, especially as everything peaty or smoked appeals, but I just have a childlike palate. What I can appreciate is decent rum, neat and over plenty of ice. I’m not an expert on this spirit though. I am, however, more partial to a spiced rum. Perhaps it’s my sweet tooth. Whatever the cause, spiced rum would be my spirit preference, and I’m not ashamed by that.

After my first visit to Hula Tiki’s, I was left in a rage, ranting, fuming, at the incredible lack of propriety, respect and service shown by one member of staff. I thought then of writing about the experience, but I just put it down to the “NQ” attitude. In fact, as you’ll recall from this post, really it’s the “Manchester” attitude. Politeness and customer service are, of course, uncool. Here is a transcript of my first conversation with a bartender from Hula Tiki Lounge:-

“What Spiced Rum do you do?”
“Erm… I’m not sure. Do we do Bacardi Breezers?”
“Alright, we’ve got Kraken, Sailor Jerry’s, Chairman’s Reserve…”
“I’ll have a Chairman’s Reserve, please.”
“Why would you want to drink that?”
“It’s my favourite spiced rum.”
*Shaking his head* “It’s the best of a bad bunch, I suppose. Still horrible.”

It wasn’t just the odd mockery, but the rather repugnant attitude. So I sat down in this bar having been thoroughly ridiculed for my choice of beverage and hating everything about the bartender. He likes his rum – obvious. He hates people – more obvious.

I tried to talk it out with my friends, referencing times I’ve seen people put down in beer bars for ordering rubbish. One likened it to going into Port Street and ordering Carling. I initially agreed, but then took this back. This was like going into Port Street and ordering Moravka; most of the staff will know that it’s the cop-out choice for people who don’t really like beer, but they are unlikely to voice it. I referenced a recent experience in the Porterhouse Bar in Dublin where somebody came in asking, “Do you have Guinness? No? Then what do you have similar?” to which the bartender replied, “Water.” I thought it was hilarious, but then the bar doesn’t actually sell Guinness so it is funny. Hula Tiki Lounge does sell spiced rum.

I was going to forget about lambasting a bar just because of one man’s hatred, but then I returned to Hula Tiki Lounge last weekend and had the following conversation with a different barman:-

“Can I have a Chairman’s Reserve Spiced, please?”
*Barman wrinkles his nose, grudgingly slams the drink on the bar.*
“Can I have some diet coke with it, please?”
*Barman sighs, puts coke next to drink and glares at me.*
“Can I have a slice of lime in the rum too, please?”
“You can have whatever you want, darling.”

Shocking. Actually shocking. I accept that ordering such a drink in a specialist rum bar must be like ordering a lager top anywhere. But sometimes when I’m in a bar, I don’t want my rum neat. I’m unlikely to enjoy it, or it’ll disappear too quickly.

Of course, being patronised by bar staff is probably completely acceptable these days and I’m not hipster enough to appreciate the irony. Whilst I’ve seen pubs and bars such as The Grove, Huddersfield and Brewdog Manchester be testy with people ordering a Fosters with a certain amount of contempt, knowing that it’s clearly not on the bar, this is not the same. Plus, I refuse to believe that the majority of people in Hula Tiki Lounge that night weren’t having some form of mixer with their rum. Were they all approached with a degree of hostility?   

I’ve wondered ever since if beer enthusiasts have similar attitudes or approaches and I can’t think of a time I’ve been angered by anybody’s choice of drink. To be a bartender and do so is interesting.

Perhaps this is all just a terrific marketing ploy to play this game, because I’m left wanting to return to this bar to marvel at the customer service. One day I would have liked to gone and sampled some rum rarities, but instead I’m just going to order a spiced rum with coke and lime every time. It’s just a little game we like to play. I wonder if the last guy would have the stones to patronisingly call me “darling” stood on the other side of the bar…

Visit Manchester – we hate people!


Gareth said…
Nice double standard 'It's shit, and we know it's shit, but we'll take your money anyway...'

I would have thought they could at least have recommended something else for you to try, but it sounds like their product knowledge is as poor as their customer service. Betting all they punt is the next 'undiscovered' brand.

Still, sure you have plenty of good places to drink!
Mark Johnson said…
The explosion of Sailor Jerry's made Spiced Rum "the thing" to drink. It's basically the rum equivalent of hoppy IPA's. Whilst I can understand an enthusiast's exhaustion, as you say, an alternative would have been welcome. I would have enjoyed a session in there working through something more exotic and unknown to me. I don't think it's the right environment for it
Anonymous said…
That's one of the things I love about the PSBH. I've never once stood at the bar whilst someone next to me asks "do you do Guinness?" or "have you got John Smiths?" and seen the staff do anything other than explain the alternatives on offer and then hand out quick samples for the customer to try. More often than not they end up converting a new ale drinker on the spot.
Mark Johnson said…
Indeed. Yet, whilst handing out such advice is admirable, surely this is just part of their job so the least we should expect? Not so at this Hula Tiki lounge
Unknown said…
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