The Ritz's Norm Bukofzer Talks Big Tabs, What the Young Ladies Are Drinking These Days & Why He Doesn't Like Basil in His Drink
For the past 30-odd years, he's been the man behind the bar at the Ritz Carlton on Central Park. His Facebook fan club has 122 members. In this world of mustachioed mixologists and bar pyrotechnics, Norm Bukofzer reminds us all what a bar should be.
What is it like being one of the city's most famous bartenders?
I don't know. I don't take it that way. As long a my friends like me and customers like me. I never went out of the way to look for anything. I never promote myself.
Do people come to the Ritz and ask specifically for you?
Yes, oh definitely. I've been dealing with these people for nearly 30 years. And that's what makes it great. I may not be dealing with them -- I may be dealing with their children or their grandchildren now, if you do it so long. But that's what makes everything worthwhile is the people that you meet.
You have a Facebook Fan Page with, as of now, 122 fans. Have you seen it?
I don't know how to use a computer. Somebody must have did it. I bought my wife an iPad. I can't use a computer. I can't use a mouse, so sometimes she lets me bang it a little bit. It's addictive. I try to look up people from 50 years ago. That's the only purpose I look for, but once you get to a certain point they ask you for $9.99. I don't want to pay for anything. I don't want them to know I'm looking for them.
What do you think the best decade for drinking has been?
I gotta tell you being a Ritz Carlton person for so many years, we have and the consumer that we're use to and our clients they all run into each other. There was no downside to the Ritz. There was no bottled water downside, no white wine downside. They were always educated drinkers -- Old Fashioneds, Martinis. Never saw the downside of the drinking with the Ritz. This wasn't a neighborhood place and it had no effect on Wall Street. People had money. If Wall Street went bad, they drank more.
Have you seen a change in what people are asking for?
I see a change in the way the young ladies are drinking now. Years ago, a young lady would never come and ask for a Negroni, or a Macallan 18, or a Manhattan. Young ladies now are drinking a lot of spirits, a lot of brown as opposed to a lot of white wines and Perriers and bottled water. That's the biggest change I see. And they're young, very young. Under 30. Years ago they would have come in and ordered a white wine and maybe a mixed drink, but never the old standards.
Is that a good thing?
We can make the drinks with the basil and cucumbers, whatever it is, but at the Ritz we really don't get that much. I don't believe in lighting things on fire. If you want a fruit cocktail, go, we'll give you dessert. I'll marinate a lot of things in a Pimm's Cup. We never saw the basil, the this, the mash. I think it's wonderful, but thank goodness there's the Ritz on Central Park. If they do ask we're always prepared to make it. We have all the ingredients. I have my fruity martinis in the summer -- peach, plum, everything.