By Fred Gonzalez
Miami native Emily Cabanas has been bartending for more than 10 years, the last four exclusively on Miami Beach. You may have seen her at Cameo nightclub, or perhaps at Aero Bar. She's now a staple at SushiSamba's Cosplay parties on Tuesday nights. “I am here as the party host,” she said of bartending. “I make the ugly pretty. I make the uninteresting interesting and, basically, the dull exciting.”
Her weekly routine consists of chores on Thursdays and lots of home cooking to get ready for the weekend when she is at her busiest. And when her work doesn't end until 5 a.m., she's usually in bed by 7 a.m. with her trusty slumber mask. “I myself am allergic to work, so this is the perfect job for me.”
What's the best and worst part of bartending?
The best is my freedom. I really can do what I want. But that comes at a high cost as there are only so many years you can bartend before you have to grow up and get a real job. And that is probably the worst part, having to get out of bartending. It's kind of like the mob … once you're in you don't want to get out.
Anything go on behind the bar that we don't see?
Well, there's not really anything they don't see back there. Sometimes you'll try and adjust a boob or maybe pick a wedgie, and you can't really do it because behind the bar everybody sees everything. There's not really anything you can hide back there. You are basically on the spotlight the whole night.
How do you remember everyone's drink order, especially when the music is loud and you can hardly hear yourself think?
Tips help. But yes, the lip reading does help because it gets super, super loud and if you're wearing earplugs I need to see what you're saying because you can easily tell me Goose and Tonic and it could be Dewar's on the rocks that I understood. I am sure all the bartenders do it, but it's something that you kind of learn on your own.
You get home when the sun is coming up. How do you manage sleep?
I definitely sleep with a slumber mask. You're amped and it's hard to go to bed. Imagine you just came home from working all day long and now they're forcing you to go to sleep right after you got home. If you don't really make any money, and you're super tired, that's when you end up going out because you want to 86 the whole night and forget it didn't even happen.
Photo by Alex Van Clief