Photos by Adam J Horwitz
Currently bartending at Foundation, Boone & Crockett and Hi-Hat
What is your experience (number of years, where, etc.)?
I’ve been in the service industry since I was in high school, but my first bar job was at a little place in Kansas City called Downing’s. I was a server and the couple of times I was asked to watch the bar, I was terrified because I had no idea what I was doing. But that really forced self-confidence that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Then I worked as a cocktail server and sometimes bartender at a sports bar in Kansas City for years. Hi-Hat was my first 100% bartending job and I started there just over 3 years ago when Dan Dufek was nice enough to hire me and show me how to make drinks that were actually interesting.
Favorite drink to serve and why?
I’ve always looked at this question as, “What’s your favorite color to paint my bedroom?” My favorite drink to serve is one that the customer is going to like and is going to make their experience enjoyable. Whether it’s a High Life, a Last Word, or a Chocotini—it’s all the same to me. If the customer likes it, that’s all that matters. Though, if I’m honest, I get the biggest kick out of making crazy, silly martinis. I don’t care if it isn’t dignified.
Favorite drink to drink and why?
I have a thing for really florally gins and aperitif wines, like Lillet and Cocchi Americano. I think it’s because I’m secretly an 85-year-old in a 30-year-old body. I really enjoy good fruit beers and sour beers, too.
Why bartending? How did you choose this profession?
I had been a server for a long time and I was starting to lose my patience with it. There’s a huge double standard with servers and bartenders. Servers have to lug trays all over the place and fight crowds and then be absolutely perfect at all times just to get almost the same tip that a bartender will. It isn’t fair. I have a lot of respect for servers for that very reason, but I just wanted to do something else.
What's it like working at Hi-Hat?
Hi-Hat is badass and I feel really lucky to have that job. I couldn’t ask to work with a more awesome group of people and it really is a family there. The customers are such a cross-section of society that it never gets mundane, especially on weekends. You want a specialty Manhattan, a PBR, a glass of champagne, two cherry bombs and any number of awesome scotches and bourbons? We have that.
If you weren't tending bar, what would you do?
Probably be working in politics or social work. I know that’s pretty much the opposite of the party atmosphere, but I’m a bleeding heart and get riled up about injustice really easily. Of course, I try not to talk about such things when I’m working (it doesn’t always work).
What do you do on your nights off (what is your ideal night off)?
Karaoke is pretty much my favorite thing ever. I would rather do karaoke than almost anything else. But I’m pretty easily amused and just like to go out and stay out with friends. I figure, I can have fun anywhere if I’m with the right people.
Biggest pet peeves?
My biggest pet peeve is cocktail snobbery—and I mean on both sides of the bar. I can’t stand when people order in such a way that they are attempting to stump you or are actually just trying to show off their own weird cocktail knowledge. No one is impressed. And ditto for bartenders who do that. You’re a bartender. Your job is to host a party, not to show off how awesome you are or offer unwelcome or unsolicited lectures about cocktail history.
Other than that, the expectation of getting stuff because you survived another year. I was born too, but I don’t expect strangers to give me presents for it.
Favorite night/story behind a bar?
At the first bar I ever worked at (about ten years ago), the owner had a birthday party with a band called the Architects playing on the patio and dancers on stripper poles. Considering the patio was directly across the street from a huge teaching hospital, the cops were very quickly called to break up the party. While the owner and one of the guys in the band were getting arrested in front of an over-capacity crowd, I corralled the strippers into the walk-in freezer so we wouldn’t get totally shut down. Poor girls were in there in their bikinis for a good half hour. It was summer, so there weren’t any jackets to offer them. Yikes. God, I miss that place.
Your philosophy behind the bar and advice to other bartenders?
Most people are pretty cool if you give them a chance and try to stay positive. If you meet ten assholes a day, you’re probably the asshole.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m a career bartender. I plan on, one day, owning my own bar. But for the immediate future, I just want to continue doing what I’m doing and hopefully get better at it. Long-term goals include being put into an old-age home when my great-grandchildren discover I’ve been hoarding hundreds of bottles of cheap sherry under my bed.
What are your bars known for? What sets your bars apart from the others in the area?
I work at three bars now. Hi-Hat is great for pretty much anything. We specialize in interesting cocktails and have a huge whiskey selection. It’s perfect for a first date or for a hard party night. Foundation, of course, is known for tiki drinks, but it’s also just a great hangout bar for any reason. I just started at Boone and Crockett in May and I’m really excited about it. It’s been one of my favorite bars since it opened because it is so chill and casual and cozy, but has really sophisticated cocktails and fantastic bartenders.
What drink would you say you're known for?
1 oz Schlichte gin
¾ oz Aalborg aquavit
¾ oz Lillet Blanc
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in mixing glass with ice and stir for thirty seconds. Strain into coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with flamed orange peel.