Beverage Napkin 101
Beverage Napkins, or as they are very commonly referred to as BevNaps, are a service device that are used to perform a very specific function – absorb condensation. As such, they have a place under any glass that will potentially sweat (as a result of ambient temperature differentials that exist between the air around you and the chilled product in your glass) and possibly leave a pool of condensation which threatens to stain the cuff of your shirt or short out your fancy new smartphone. The crazy thing, is that the forefathers of the boozing it up figured out a way around this, the stemmed glass.
The stemmed glass, whether it may be holding wine or a cocktail, will not sweat and therefore needs no bevnap. The one exception may be the stemmed “tulip” style beer glass, but not because it can or will expel condensation, but due to the fact that sometimes when draft beer is poured, a small amount of excess beer may be poured over the side of the glass while getting the “head “ just right. I’d much rather see a bevnap or coaster in this situation than see the bartender wipe my glass with a soiled bar towel. Anyway, what I’m getting to, is that I like, enjoy and implore BevNaps in the right scenarios; i.e.: under your water, beer, highball, and swizzle, but I never wanna see them under stemmed glassware.
They don’t belong under your Martini, Champagne Cocktail, glass of wine or Pisco Sours, and why not? Because those classic cocktails all came with their own condensation defense mechanism we collectively refer to as a stem. Those drinks, no matter how long you nurse then, will never create a pool of water on the bar top. Oh and bevnaps NEVER EVER go on top of a table cloth!
What really upsets me is when I serve someone a stemmed cocktail like a Death In The Afternoon, and the patron belligerently takes the napkin from beneath the glass of water I greeted him/her with and places it, under the sparkling wine flute, that will never sweat. Now there is a pool of water where the bevnap should be (and was) –under the iced water. It’s like being called a dumbass by an idiot.
So where did all this misuse of beverage napkins get started. I have my ideas. One is the fact that It’s a used as a communication tool in many concepts to let floor managers, fellow servers and bartenders know that the guest(s) have been greeted, which is fine and I get it. The problem is that these high volume casual dining chains have trained customers to expect a napkin for just about anything including their room temperature glass of merlot, just like they’ve trained them to expect free breadsticks or grated parmesan.
Other egregious misuses of the bevnap include, removing it from underneath a glass of iced water to place it under your phone (if you just let it do its job your phone would have nothing to worry about) or using it to wad up your gum (do adults really chew gum anymore? shocking!). Anyway it may seem as though I am being hyper critical about a thing as insignificant as a 3.5” square piece of tissue paper, but isn’t it all about the details?
Post and photos by Alex Gregg