Getting Rid of Fruit Flies

As bartenders we like educating not only ourselves, but also our guests on different spirits, cocktails, beers, wine, aging processes, distillation, fermentation etc. When it comes to basic cleanliness and keeping fruit flies out of our bars (and out of our drinks) we are certainly uneducated.

At least once a week someone asks “How do I get rid of fruit flies?” on reddit. The responses are always the same:

  1. Call a bug guy
  2. Dump bleach down the drains
  3. Put up bug strips
  4. Cover drain holes
  5. Burn the entire place down
  6. Put out trap jars of sugar/dish soap/booze/poison and cover them with saran wrap that has holes poked in the top

I hate these suggestions because it’s the blind leading the blind. None of us are certified exterminators but a tiny bit of research can move us in a better direction. Everyone is up in arms about disposable straws but do they know that every bartender in creation is dumping bleach down their drains at night?! According to the Household Products Database at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), chlorine bleach is corrosive to the eyes; injures skin and mucous membranes on contact; and is harmful if swallowed. While you can technically pour bleach down a sink (it breaks down into basically salt water over time) there are other safer methods. Also it can be pretty rough on your pipes if you clean with other cleaning products. Using other products and then pouring bleach on top of them can cause problems. Not the end of the world of course (unless you mix bleach and ammonia in a closed in space like a bar) but to kill the little fruit flies you can do it without using chemicals. Behind the bar we have a few things like glass cleaner, sanitizer, and dishwasher detergent that should never come in contact with bleach. Bleach is a fast and temporary fix that could cause problems. I think we would be better off not dumping that down the sinks.

Bug strips are gross and no one wants to see the tiny carcasses of the flies stuck to them while they are sipping a cocktail that took the majority of their twenty dollar bill. Covering drain holes is just delaying the inevitable and burning the place down involves tons of paperwork. The homemade traps just piss me off and waste inventory while barbacks and bartenders swear up and down that their concoction is better or that it “worked at the last place.” Also they are gross eyesores and the liquid inside will harbor tons and tons of eggs. Where do you think they get dumped out at: the sink.

Know Your Enemy

We need to learn about the fly. The one in question is the Drosophila melanogaster. It is also known as the vinegar fly or the common fruit fly. It is the perfect specimen for biological research in the fields of genetics, microbial pathogenesis, and evolution. They are so perfect because they mate quickly, lay tons of eggs, only have four pairs of chromosomes and exist on all continents. The fly has a lifespan of about a month if temperature and living conditions are ideal. When the temperature is at 82°F they develop fastest, but if the temperature is higher or lower their development slows.

To attract a mate the male does a dance and makes some music like the tried and true move of a first date at a karaoke bar. The male then immediately starts with some smooth talking and oral sex to show that he means business. As soon as she lets her guard down he tries to deposit a few hundred sperm cells into the nether regions of the female. A female can store multiple sperm samples from different males and usually uses a premixed baby gravy cocktail of her own choosing to actually seal the deal. The females also prefer their own brothers to mate with as opposed to a male of no relation. After the female is fertilized, which inversely to humans it’s the females who prefer short bouts of intercouse while the males want to go all night long, she lays her eggs in rotting fruit or other decaying matter. They usually deposit about 100-400 eggs a day. In her short lifetime she will lay on average about 2000 eggs.

The eggs are way small (.5mm long) and take about a half day to hatch if the temperature is around 77°F (or a bar with its AC off at night). The larvae take about 4 days to grow and molt twice within the first two days. The little buggers eat the sugar from their fruit crib and the other smaller guys that are actually decomposing the fruit. Then the mother, out of true love, puts her feces all around the egg sacs to keep the microbial environment similar to what worked for her and after four more days full grown adults emerge from their pupa prisons. Females are ready to mate about a half day after they emerge.

So how do you get rid of them?

I think this is the wrong question. We should be asking: how do we prevent them from laying eggs? The full grown flies are dying left and right. They are an annoyance but if you see flies you have to know that in about eight days you will have more flying around. All too often we find a way to get rid of them and then we go back to our dirty habits not realizing that the eggs have already been laid and they will be back in no time. Prevention is the strategy. Keep these suckers from mating and laying eggs.

  • Keep Everything Clean
    • Duh. But are you really doing it? Pour spouts? The ring around the drains? Soda guns? Under the bar top? Speed rails? The new barback that is in that weird band? The fruit bowl? The y peeler? Sticky bar top in the morning because of a lazy closer? You’ve got fruit flies on the way my friend.
  • Keep All Fruit and Syrups in a Walk-in or Refrigerator
    • The flies hate the cold and can’t do much below 40°F. Leaving fruit out for fruit flies would be like leaving bullets out for a bank robber. The fruit will last longer in the fridge too.
  • Ice the Drains
    • For the first week or so of treatment ice your drains. We need to get over the 8 day egg to adult cycle. Just fill the sinks with ice before you leave at night. The temperature is too cold for the flies and the constant drip will keep things moving around. Whoever opens in the morning should burn what is left over.
  • Fan Out
    • The best piece of advice I can give you is to put up some cheap fans at night. Nothing expensive or crazy. No need for a Vornado or the magic Dyson one, just something to move air. One fan at each end of the bar to keep air moving and one fan on the floor blowing under all the pipes and stuff. Bigger bar more fans. The air flow keeps the flies from being able to land. If they can’t land, they can’t mate, and if they can’t mate, they can’t lay eggs. This is what will keep them away permanently. This is why outdoor beach bars don’t seem to really have a problem with them. Constant breeze.


To summarize. Be clean. Ice your drains for a week. Put up fans anytime the bar is closed starting today. Live fruit fly free. Get going, you are already behind.

Your bartender,

Luke Andrews

Fishing For an Old Fashioned

Yesterday a good friend of mine and I did something slightly out of the ordinary for us city folk. We decided to leave Chicago and drive North to go fishing in a small town called Port Washington, just half an hour-ish past Milwaukee. We had been up there once before on a horrifically hot July day but had no luck. This time we went on a rainy 50 degree day thinking we would have a better chance.

The drive up was gray and pleasant. Upon arrival the town was quiet and peaceful. The bait shop we walked in figured us out immediately. Two city boys looking for a touch of fresh air and a tiny adventure. “You two just browsing or are you planning to brave the elements?” A small unhideable grin creeping across his face.

As we parked the car and looked out into the bluish green water of Lake Michigan we saw another sign that should have tipped us off. No one was fishing on the dock. No one was even walking around. No locals had decided to brave the elements. It was just us.

The ritual of picking a jig and tying the knots took us far too long. I could feel the eyes from the closest tavern window watching our technique. “I wonder where they are from?” The rain started coming down a little heavier and the temperature was dropping about a degree every ten minutes. First cast into the water.

We watched our bobbers slowly sink. “Are they supposed to do that?” I asked. My friends gruff mumble came back “I don’t think so.” So we pulled the lines in and went back to the drawing board. As we sat staring at the bobbers and our tangled string I uttered the most unmanly fishing suggestion in the book: ‘Google it?” We right our wrongs and crack a beer. Fishing is hard work. Lines back in. An older couple passing by asks what we are fishing for. Instead of telling them “our pride” we respond with the usual one liners we assume real fishermen would say. We all quietly chuckle.

I pull out my trusty corncob pipe and slowly start to puff. I had loaded it with an old over the counter blend called Half & Half before we left town. It seemed like a good fishing smoke. My profile consisted of a slightly too large hood with a smoldering pipe sticking out. Hopefully it gave the impression that I knew what I was doing. The empty bucket behind me revealed that I did not, but the fish can’t see that. A few more people walk by. We put on our best fishing stances and try not to awkwardly cast if they are in range.

An hour or so slowly drips by and most of the feeling in my hands seems to have also passed with the time. We agree to just a few more casts and then to head into town for a drink at a warm Wisconsin pub. Neither of us want to admit it but I am pretty sure the whole trip was for this part. You see, the Wisconsin old fashioned is unlike any old fashioned you will get anywhere else. For some reason within the 65,498 square miles that make up the state an old fashioned won’t be the strong after work drink I have always thought it to be. In Wisconsin it’s made with cheap brandy, cheaper lemon lime soda, maybe some bitters, maybe a smashed cherry, maybe some other syrupy liquid and served over crummy chipped ice.

We enter the Sir James Pub (316 N Franklin St, Port Washington, WI). If music was playing it would have stopped. My friend and I are not new to bars. We have worked at and ran some of the best cocktail bars in Chicago. Everyone in the bar obviously knew each other and they surely didn’t know us. We walked in quickly. Trying not to drip onto the worn carpet the bar chose to cover the floor with. We picked the two empty seats at the bar and looked around. A few slot machines. A well worn dart board. It was a beer bar for sure but the liquor selection on the back bar was well stocked. They like to drink here. There was a crock pot full of what I think was sloppy joes and some buns and chips laid out beside it. It would have been rude to help ourselves in their Sunday tradition. Everyone got back to their football games and hushed talking.

The bartender walked over and stood in front of us cleaning a glass that had probably been clean for years. Neither of us wanted to order. We awkwardly moved around getting more uncomfortable in our seats. I blurted out “We’ve been fishing all day!” The bartender didn’t look impressed. “What are you drinking?” I took a quick glance around. Everyone had a beer in front of them…but we weren’t here for that. “Two old fashions please.” He smiled enough to show his teeth. “What flavor?” he asked. This would be a ridiculous question anywhere else but here. I stammer not sure what to say. My buddy speaks up with an unsure tone, “Sweet?” The bartender looks at us like we are idiots. With a facial expression that says: yeah duh, he asks again. “What flavor?” I quickly throw out what I hope could be the right answer, “Brandy?” Bingo. The tired barman saunters off to the cooler for a can of knock-off Sprite. I couldn’t really see what he mixed up in our glasses but the resulting drink was purplish on the bottom with a yellowish, fizzy liquid making up the majority of the glass. We thank him and take a sip.

Now, I can be a snob about most anything but after a day of “fishing” and catching nothing at all these hit the spot. Enough booze to be slightly dangerous and covered up with sweet zingy soda. We waste some time and talked some bullshit. Man stuff. A little bit on sports and a little bit on booze. I ordered another and my friend ordered a light beer. Our tab was an unheard of $14.75 for four drinks. In Chicago three cocktails (if you can call it that) and a beer would be over $30. We let the atmosphere sink in a little bit more and let the booze trickle off like the raindrops that had pelted my face all day.

The Wisconsin old fashioned for two city dwellers like us is a unicorn. We can’t get one in Chicago or anywhere except for the Badger State. Calling it an old fashioned seems wrong but within their state lines that is what it is. There is really no recipe. If anything it is a glorified highball…and I don’t have cheap enough brandy or lemon lime soda around to make one myself. It is a strange treat that involves a long car ride and a humbling fishing excursion but there is nothing like a cozy Wisconsin bar on a rainy day in late October.

Keeper’ Movin’,

Luke Andrews

The Rest of It: New Orleans Recap

My parents live right down interstate 10 from from New Orleans in a small city called Pensacola. Usually when I am in New Orleans for Christmas they pop over to share a drink at Cure and grab a bite to eat somewhere. Being there in the summer however it behooves me to head their way and sit in the backyard…which happens to be the Gulf of Mexico.

My mother popped into New Orleans to scoop me up (no one way flights from Nola to Pensacola but apparently there used to be a train you could take before Katrina) and we grabbed breakfast at one of her favorite places. Red Gravy is located in the CBD on Camp Street right before you cross Canal. I had never been there before as my favorite breakfast spot is on the West Bank at Tout De Suit. We didn’t have time for a ferry ride today though but we did have time for the streetcar and it actually saved us some time in the long run.

The breakfast was awesome. Any place that is talking about gravy for breakfast is okay in my book. This place has won countless awards and is seen as holy ground in the eyes of the locals. I had a simple omelet (with an entire link of sausage in it) and my mother had a meatball omelet (their specialty) and ate every bite. We took the streetcar back, locked up the airbnb, and got on the road.

The drive was nice and easy. A trip I have made countless times in my life from adult to child. The stay was nice. A good break. We just took it easy and enjoyed the beach. One night we chartered a big catamaran and got way out into the Gulf. Another night we grilled out and listened to some of Jimmy Buffett’s best albums. I got a refresher course on my dad’s gimlet recipe and a refresher on how hard they can hit. I also got sunburnt but only on half of my body.

Getting Back: New Orleans

Sunday afternoon I headed back to New Orleans refreshed and relaxed to finish up my trip. We stopped at a spot for brunch in Fairhope, Alabama called Thyme on the Section. It was great. Simple tasty food. If you are ever in that part of the country swing in. I wish I had more time to explore the town. I was pretty hungry when I got into town and walked under the West Bank bridge and past the WWII Museum to Peche. In all my years of visiting this great city I have never sat down at this restaurant that is in the same company as Herbsaint and Cochon. I slurped down a few oysters and had their swordfish special with a glass of chenin blanc at the bar. After a scoop of sorbet to drop my body temperature a degree or two I headed out to meet up with Katie for round two.

I found her at a great spot called Seaworthy. My wife and I have enjoyed it in the past and this time was just as nice as expected. The food is tasty and they have some great low abv drinks to help make it through a long night of drinking, notably the Shermans Cup. This is a smashing long drink with rosé wine at its base instead of something more powerful. Alongside that you have muddled blackberries, orange, lime, lemon, and topped with soda water and crushed ice. I am sure there is a touch of sugar in it to balance all the acid. Easy to put back and it barely counts as a cocktail because of its low proof.

We strolled through the Quarter looking for a nice dark courtyard to sit in and and some dry fizzy wine. We settled on Sylvain, an old favorite of mine, at 625 Chartres Street. They have a great courtyard off the street and a simple yet elevated wine list. We had a cheese plate that didn’t take long to temper in the warm and humid air and a sparkling Tokaji that really hit the spot. Agreeing to take it way easier than our last meeting (and after tiny shooter with our server) we hopped in a cab to our last destination, Barrel Proof.

I had never been to Barrel Proof before and I really enjoyed it. No frills at all and it was in stumbling distance to where I was staying. You don’t really need any frills when you have a shelf full of whiskey like these guys do. We had a pair of manhattans and two small pours of the wheated Weller 12 to end the night. I wasn’t hungry but they seemed to have a small guest chef pop up serving some smoked wings and other things. They looked great. On our way out we popped into Chris Hannah and chatted for a few minutes. Chris and I hung out for a bit last Christmas Eve in Jackson Square for a tradition of mulling wine for the bartenders of New Orleans that have the day off (or not). It was nice to see him in a different Season.

Last Day: New Orleans

I woke up feeling so much better than I had after my first night in town. So good infact that I walked back up to Red Gravy for another omelet. Great as expected. I strolled around for a bit and grabbed an iced tea at Stumptown to sit and plan out my day.

I felt like heading over to Algiers by ferry to grab a gin and tonic at the Crown and Anchor Pub but as I got to the river I learned that the ferry had broken down and was not running. I could have taken a bus or a cab over but it would have taken considerably longer and far less romantic. Instead I walked over to the Monteleone to take a spin at the Carousel Bar the true definition of a gimmick (a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or business). As expected the soda water in my Aperol and soda was totally flat and the service was lackluster at best. Oh well…tricked again.

Still craving a gin and tonic or at least something fizzy I walked back to Bar Tonique. I got there just in time for the sky to fall out and wash the streets clean. The bartender was whipping up Pimm’s Cups for a group so I just decided to have one of those too and watch the rain. The conversations at Tonique are always great. After the rain stopped the temperature was much nicer out. I made the long walk over to Balise for a glass of wine and more oysters. Balise is a small European styled sister restaurant to the fabulous James Beard winning La Petite Grocery. The oysters get shucked right in front of you and the wine list was highly curated and tasty.

I ran “home” and hopped in the shower before heading to my real dinner at Boucherie over by Tulane on South Carrollton Avenue. I could have taken the streetcar all the way there but I was running short on time and it would have been a 45 minute ride. I sat at the bar and the food was great. A grilled peach amuse and a glass of French sparkling started the meal. I ordered a very well put together Caesar salad and I was surprised by a chef delivery of 3 still bubbling char grilled oysters. The oysters had a melted dollop of nori butter. They hit all the spots and I even asked the chef for the recipe. The night I arrived back in Chicago I made a dozen for myself and Caroline on the grill. My main course was a seared duck breast with boiled peanuts and those grilled peaches made another appearance. I always think it’s fun to see boiled peanuts in a nice restaurant when I am so used to buying them from a shirtless guy on the side of the road. I think they are good either way.

I finished my wine and ordered a taxi back to the Warehouse District for a final drink at Barrel Proof again. This time I just had a neat pour of my desert island Laphroaig Cask Strength. It hit the spot and I walked home and hit the hay.

The next morning I woke up and packed for my flight. With a little time to spare I grabbed a delicious pour over across Magazine at French Truck Coffee and got in a cab to the airport. Three hours later I was sitting in my living room looking at the Chicago Skyline and Lake Michigan…and trying to find some aloe. Great trip. Great city. Can’t wait to go back for Christmas.

Here are all the spots I mentioned on a Google map if you are ever down in ‘Nawlins and want to retrace my steps.

Your bartender,
Luke Andrews

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Day One and Two: New Orleans Recap

Coming back from New Orleans always feels like going home after you have been out of the country for a while. You land at the airport and realize you don’t have to go through customs for some reason…and lucky for me because my bag was full of Crystal hot sauce and pralines.

My trip was great and aside from bumping into a buddy here and there I really avoided Tales of the Cocktail all together. I have been trying to make drinking culture a part of my life rather than making it my life as a whole.

Day One: New Orleans

After taking a cab from the airport to the house I was staying in on St. Charles I met up with my old Chicago friend and now local New Orleanian, Katie, at a bar called Bouligny Tavern located on Magazine. A glass or two of wine from their killer list got me acclimated to the humidity and we set off for a happy hour martini at the Columns Hotel. I wrote about this spot previously but if you missed it this place is great. Super old (130 years) hotel that has this beautiful dark bar off to the side of the lobby. The place is an oasis on the St. Charles stretch and it always smells like old books. The drinks are meh. I have never had anything outstanding there at all and I think all I have ever ordered is a martini. Regardless I like the vibe.

We hopped into a cab and shot across town to Bacchanal for some more vino, but we got stopped by the train that intersects Chartres and Royal over in the bywater. We told the driver we would pop out and wait on the locomotive to get moving again at The Joint, a local bbq haunt. The Joint was great and curt as all bbq places should be. A plate of ribs, a roll of paper towels, and a very tart Daiquiri slushy (to-go) helped get some food in the belly and then totally negated it with whatever was in that devilish slushy. Out the door enroute to our original destination got me feeling all sentimental about New Orleans. It’s such a great, weird, and smelly city.

Upon arriving at Bacchanal we picked out a bottle of pink slightly effervescent wine and some meats and cheeses and slowly melted into the live jazz and good vibes in the backyard. Seeing that it was my first night in town and the hangover was already knocking at the door we just hammered that nail in the coffin and splurged for a high acid gamay to end the night.

We did foolishly hop into a cab and head to Le Bon Temps Roule (at the corner of Bordeaux and Magazine) for a final night cap but upon arrival figured it best to call it a night. Boy am I glad.

Day Two: New Orleans

As the laser beam sunlight cut through my eyelids I realized I had made a major mistake yesterday. I felt the same way I felt the last time I was in town on the day after Christmas as I lay in a similar state after painting New Orleans red the night before. I could hear the fan whirring above my head. I could feel my head pounding to the same rhythm. Water.

When the average temperature for the week sits at 87°F and the humidity percentage is somewhere in the mid to upper 90s you have to drink water. The trick that worked for me was always get bottled water when sitting down to eat because it would come in a liter and because you paid for it you would drink it all. From here onward I consumed a considerable portion of water for anything alcoholic I put in my body. That’s the only way to survive the heat and abuse one inflicts while drinking through ‘Nawlins in the Summer.

As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and tried to figure out where I put my keys, wallet, and dignity, I realized I would have to eat at some point and probably sooner rather than later. Going out into the sun was not an option yet. I fumbled around and figured out how to work the shower in this ancient Airbnb and got mostly presentable. The kitchen had a few things around to aid my ailments: some black tea, a box of grits, and advil. I mixed all those things with water and slowly started to come back to the land of the living.

Here is a tip to anyone visiting New Orleans: Don’t ride the streetcar if you are hungover. I cannot stress this enough. It is so loud with its creaking, squeaking, clunking, and humming. The aroma of the city isn’t all that appealing either and there is no air conditioning aside from the natural air movement through the windows while the car bumps along its rails. If it is not moving (and that is pretty often) there is no circulation. The start and go is also detrimental to any feelings of normalcy you may think you had acquired. At least no one can tell that you haven’t lost the shakes yet while you sit beside people going to work or tourists actually enjoying their vacation.

I rode the car in as far as I could take it, around the controversial Lee Circle that is now missing its Robert E. Lee statue, and down Carondelet a ways. I pulled the cord and hopped off at the Ace Hotel for a glass of iced tea at their Stumptown Coffee spot and to steal some AC. The lobby is peaceful and the service is nice. Feeling refreshed and slightly less sweaty I ventured across Canal street and into the belly of the beast– The Vieux Carré. The French Quarter fills you will awe and disgust at every turn. It always has and probably always will. If you could snap a photo and remove all language from the signs no one could tell you where in the world you stood. Spain? France? England? Little town in the South? Those guesses would all be slightly accurate depending on what you set the time machine to.

I sauntered into the Erin Rose on Conti and realized very quickly I would not be able to drink anything for at least another hour. I acquired a sweaty hug or two from some bar buddies I hadn’t seen in a while and continued my walk. The needle was sitting right around 97°F and as I walked around the Quarter I slowly sweated out the drinks from yesterday night and replaced them with strong Community iced tea. I finally walked into one of my favorite haunts: Bar Tonique.

I spent a good deal of last Christmas Day sitting at the well worn bar on Rampart street across from Louis Armstrong Park. Ashley was working on this particular Wednesday and we had met a time or two in the past. The bar was empty save for a group of bartenders that would pop in for a round of shots here and there. I sipped on a Tom Collins that I kept weakening with the “charged water” they had on tap. It was nice to have a quiet dark bar all to myself in a city that was bursting at the seams with giddy bartenders. I spent an hour or two jibber jabbering and hydrating before I put myself in a cab and home for a nap.

Dinner that night was at Sac-A-Lait in the Warehouse district right on Annunciation Street. Modern takes on classic Louisiana cuisine was the shtick and the food was great. I was just in no shape to be eating food of that caliber in my state. I had a small glass of Chablis and a few courses. I filled up on steamed oysters and french fries as my first course but certainly enjoyed the venison carpaccio and collards I ordered. I would recommend Sac-A-Lait if you are ever in the area. Service was great and the food was stellar.

Back home I mapped out my ride to Pensacola to see the parents for the weekend and passed out from exhaustion.

Here are all the spots I mentioned on a Google map if you are ever down in ‘Nawlins and want to retrace my steps.

Your bartender,
Luke Andrews

Email me
Go to Cocktails