Tell us a little about yourself and your work
I've been bartending for about 7 years. I started out in NYC working in dive bars and restaurants, then had an opportunity to work at Harvard & Stone. New York had about run its course so I came to LA. I've been on and off at Harvard for the past 4 years, taking breaks to do restaurant programs and work with chefs and closer to the culinary world.
Why did you decide to become a bartender?
I'm not sure I necessarily decided to, it sort of choses you. I always thought it seemed cool and wanted to learn how to bartend and have always loved cooking, so it sort of became a natural step.
What kind of person would make a good bartender?
It ain't easy... you gotta be super patient, good with service and people, fast, efficient, and be able to hold your own when it gets slammed or people are rude. It's all part of a rhythm you start to recognize when you spend time back there.
How does someone become a bartender?
It's an annoyingly hard industry to break in. Don't bother with classes or bartending school; try to find a barback position. The best bartenders have barbacked and worked in dive bars. And get to know people when you can. You sort of have to have an "in" with someone that takes a chance on you.
What is the pay like?
This totally varies based on the type of job and where you work. Restaurants tend to be a bit less, but the hours are better. I've worked nights where I've made 30 bucks, but I've also made 400. I've had friends that work in Vegas or West Hollywood that make over a grand a night, but imagine the people they have to deal with. Pass.
What are the best parts of being a bartender?
I love everyone I work with, so I'm lucky in that respect. I love that most of us have a degree in something totally different and pursue tons of other things. It attracts an eclectic group. And oh, drinking is fun.
What are the biggest challenges in being a bartender?
Late nights. That stuff gets old.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
Dave Fernie is my mentor and great friend. He taught me how to balance cocktails. I don't care how many classic and new classic cocktail specs you've got stashed away in your encyclopedic memory... If you cant make something that tastes good and balanced I'm not impressed.
Any other helpful resources or links?
The supposed quintessential bar book is The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale Degroff . Good to read for the history but definitely antiquated now. I love rum drinks, so for tiki stuff I like Potions of the Caribbean . For both cooking and cocktails, The Flavor Bible .