Even though the bar has changed hands many times over his 32 years in the industry, Eddie McGuire has worked in the same place — behind the bar. You can always find him at BOND at The Langham (the restaurant used to be Julien and the hotel used to be Le Meridian.) Eater chatted with McGuire about the changes he's seen in the industry, from the way people behave in a bar to the cocktails that they order.
There were women that would come in, too; they were tough and could hang, just like the guys.
What was the industry like when you first started?
When I first started here, it was a two-martini-for-lunch kind of place. All of the business guys would have a ball here, and if they had too much to drink at lunch, they just didn't go back to work. It was the culture back then; that was the scene. When the stock market closed at 4 p.m., people would come right in a 4:05. It'd be six or seven deep at the bar. And it'd just be manhattans or martinis. There were women that would come in, too; they were tough and could hang, just like the guys. They were pretty hardcore, and they'd drink scotch and things like that. Business was also done over drinks. But then the market changed and the economy changed. But I'm in a recession-free business. When people are happy, they drink, and when they're sad, well, they'll drink even more. So I couldn't lose. I'd have a steady clientele that would come here for years.
How have you seen the drinking habits change over the years?
I started seeing a lot of sons and daughters that were brought into their parents' companies, and they'd drink more wine and light beer instead of the stiff drinks of their parents. Then they'd drink things like apple martinis and cosmos to try and fit in a little better. I mean, they were still drinking the hardcore stuff, but now they're going to some of the older drinks and bringing those back. And craft beers are big now too. They'll come in and ask to see the list of craft beers. A lot of the drinks today put things like basil and cilantro, and we get a kick out of it. I mean, do I work in the kitchen or the bar? The younger generation makes up a lot of the drinks here, and I'm just the old-timer that goes along with it all. I throw my own two cents in here and there. I like the older cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Sidecars, and those drinks are starting to make a comeback. Each little generation has its own little flair to them.
The young kids today are fine, but they always want to see a list. I always know what I want to drink if I go out to a bar.
Do you have a favorite generation?
The old-timers for sure. The two-martini-for-lunch crowd. They'd have drinks at lunch, have some when they get out of work, and keep going. But then drinking and driving is a big thing and the market collapsed and people lost their jobs. The young kids today are fine, but they always want to see a list. I always know what I want to drink if I go out to a bar. But it's just a different time.
Have there been any celebrities that you've waited on?
Sure, over the years there's been some. Paul Newman, Christie Brinkley, and Gorbachev from Russia. Clinton too. But I don't want to bother those people. Jack Nicholson used to stay here all the time whenever the Celtics would play the Lakers. He'd take up the presidential suite upstairs. There's been a lot of Saudi princes too. Being close to Mass General, a lot of celebrities stay here when they are doing things health-wise. It's fun, but you try to treat everyone the same. I don't want to haunt anyone or anything.
I've met a lot of interesting people that come here, you know, big business and corporate people. I'm like a priest; I can't talk about peoples' names. But they come in with their employees, and they all treat me well. It's just a really fun gig.
There are some people that will come in and order a martini just to be cool, and when I ask them what kind of martini they want, they just stare back at me.
Do you think that you can judge a person by the cocktail that they order?
Yeah, I can tell when someone's not a big drinker. They'll order something fruity, or something like that. But I get to know people and can tell them what they'd like and don't like. There are some people that will come in and order a martini just to be cool, and when I ask them what kind of martini they want, they just stare back at me. So I ask questions about whether they want a gin martini or a vodka one, one with olives or a twist. I don't want to embarrass them or anything. I can size people up pretty fast, and over the years you just pick up on people and you've got to be able to read them. With all the different personalities, you just learn.
Do you find that there's more dialogue between bartender and customer now?
Nah. No way. People come in now with their cellphones and they're texting and doing all that crap and it's just rude. And they'll blow you off until it gets busy and they need something, and then they want your undivided attention. Sometimes they'll come in and sit on their gadgets for over an hour or so, which is fine, but people lose the interaction with other people. They don't take it all in. They miss the music and everything because they're on their phone. I'm used to people coming to the lounge and meeting people and just shooting the shit with others and meeting people. That's what the bar scene used to be. Nowadays most people are on their phones. It's just rude.
Do you find that stereotype of the downtrodden person that comes into the bar and wants to talk to the bartender about their problems to still be true?
Oh yeah. I hear everything. People tell me personal things about their marriages and stuff. It's just the nature of the beast. I just go along with it. People also want me to fix them up. The guys will come in here and ask if there's any girls around. I tell them that they've gotta do that on their own, I'm not a matchmaker. But I do try to help people interact with each other. If I hear that two people on opposite ends of the bar are from Chicago, I'll mention it to them both. Sometimes people are traveling for work and are alone, so it's nice to set them up with other people for conversations. You learn pretty fast who wants to talk and who doesn't. Tourists will sometimes come in and want the whole history lesson. They love my accent, and they'll ask me to say, "Park the car in Harvard yard." And that's fine; it's fun.
What is good advice for someone who's at a busy bar and wants to get the bartender's attention to order a drink?
Eye contact. Just flagging your hands or snapping your fingers doesn't work. You make eye contact with someone, then you just know. I'll give them a little nod back that tells them they're next. In a busy bar it's loud, and I'm always looking to see who needs a drink, and eye contact works the best.