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Denver's Best Bartenders Uncovered Final Part

Meet five of Denver's most talented bartenders: Austin Carson of Mizuna, Mclain Hedges of the RiNo Yacht Club, Ben Carrington of La Biblioteca, Kaitlin Jones of Ste. Ellie, and Stuart Jensen of Mercantile Dining and Provision.

Austin Carson, Mclain Hedges, Ben Carrington, Kaitlin Jones, Stuart Jense
Austin Carson, Mclain Hedges, Ben Carrington, Kaitlin Jones, Stuart Jense
Jennifer Olson

This week Eater celebrated not only cocktails but those who make them possible, the bartenders. It is the third year of spotlighting the talent that makes our bar culture rock. Yesterday, we revealed the 14 talented bar men and women chosen for this year's feature. On this last day of cocktail week, we present you five more of them in more detail — from first jobs to idols and mentors and favorite spirits.

Name:  Austin James Carson
Where from:  Oklahoma City
Behind the bar at:  Mizuna
First job: Mizuna is actually my first bartending job.  Up until February I was working as a sommelier.  First restaurant job was washing dishes at a pizza joint in Oklahoma City.
Drink of choice:  Margarita or a Daiquiri.
Last meal before you die:  My mom's homemade pizza and my Granny's chocolate sheet cake.
Favorite spirit: Gin
If you could take a trip anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?: Colombia.  The beaches look amazing, I'm a fan of the rums and I'm told the lingerie industry is booming which I feel bears further investigation.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?: Teleportation?  Is that a super power?  I'd go to Colombia...
What's on your phone's screensaver?:  A picture of Russell Westbrook that says "Listen, Smile, Agree.  And then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway."  Not sure where the quote came from, but I'm a fan.
What's the best feeling when are behind the bar?:  I have a great group of people that I work with at Mizuna and I really enjoy being tested and challenged alongside them.  I enjoy the intensity of it all.  I like dancing on the bar, body shots and...wait...another job...
Name a bartender in Denver who is a mentor or an inspiration:  Bryan Dayton.  Can't imagine he knows that.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as an entrepreneur and of everyone I've met in this industry he seems to have the work/life balance part of it down.  At least in that he manages to train as an elite athlete and put in the work necessary to run a successful business.  Two qualities atop my list of priorities.

Name: McLain Hedges
Where from: born and raised in Chattanooga, Tn
Behind the bar at: RiNo Yacht Club
First job: prep cook for my families catering company
Drink of choice: a glass (or bottle) of dry sherry
Last meal before you die: Gus's hot and spicy fried chicken in Memphis, Tn followed by a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a few dashes of angostura bitters.
Favorite spirit: fortified wine
If you could take a trip anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?: Atlanta, GA. Probably the food/beverage scene I hold above most anywhere. A Southern cities rich history and heritage is the thing I miss most. Atlanta, personally, is one of the most well rounded cities in the US. The talent pool is huge and you can really feel a sense of place. Check out people like Greg Best, Miles Macquarrie, and Paul Calvert and you'll understand what I mean....if it were out of this country probably Beaujolais.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?: The ability to understand someones thought pattern by looking at them, not read their minds but know how they construct their ideas and which way those ideas would take that person. I think that would be useful to figure out what someone's next move would be. I guess in some way that is part of our daily job and we all do our best to figure those things out to make a persons experience better. Could also be used in many other parts of life other than the daily grind!
What's on your phone's screensaver?: the most badass woman I know, Mary Allison Wright.
What's the best feeling when are behind the bar?: When you see a smile come over the face of the person you just served. Whether a beer, a glass of wine, or a well made cocktail you know that person is in their happy place and you were a part of getting them there.
Name a bartender in Denver who is a mentor or an inspiration: Sean Kenyon is the obvious choice for me. Sitting at his bar for the first time when he was running the old Squeaky Bean in the highlands was a great first cocktail experience in Colorado. We had been traveling (driving) from Tennessee and happened to stumble upon this gem after a very long day on the road. It was dumping snow and the night before New Year. We sat at the bar and had one of the better hospitality experiences I can remember to date. It was at that point that I knew I wanted to live and work in Denver. We went back the next night for new year eve dinner and skipped out on the main reason we traveled out here which were to see our friends play a show at the Fillmore. I remember that experience like it were yesterday. The man pours his heart and soul into this industry and you can feel it in every aspect. He is an incubator that fuels the growing industry, sharing his experiences and helping mold others into hospitality professionals.

Name: Benjamin Carrington

Where from: Cincinnati, Ohio (Columbus, Ohio)
Behind the bar at: La Biblioteca, soon Solitaire
First job: Bento Go Go
Drink of choice: Mezcal/ Gin rocks
Last meal before you die: Brazilian Steakhouse (I want it all!)
Favorite spirit:  Gin/Mezcal
If you could take a trip anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?: Ibiza, Spain
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?: Omniscience

What's on your phone's screensaver?: pretty colors
What's the best feeling when are behind the bar?: when you're in the weeds and chaos all around you because you're 3 or 4 deep and you take a breath look around and say "I got this."

Name a bartender in Denver who is a mentor or an inspiration: Gotta be all the guys and gals moving around the city an making it a real cocktail and spirit town. Everywhere I go, I see something is should be doing or want to learn.

Name:  Kaitlin Jones
Where from:  Sandersville, GA
Behind the bar at:  Ste. Ellie and Colt and Gray
First job: The Vogue Men's store when I was 14. 
Drink of choice: currently good rum neat or on the rocks
Last meal before I die: A Dairylane cheeseburger. The Dairylane is a burger and shake place in my hometown that started as an ice cream cart in the 50's. When my mom lived in Seattle in the 60s my grandfather would mail her dairylane cheeseburgers. It's the first solid food that I remember eating and it's the first place I go when I'm home. 
Favorite spirit: Galliano
If you could take a trip anywhere right now, where would you go?: I would really like to go to Cognac to learn more about their distilling practices. 
Best feeling behind the bar: I love connecting with people. The best feeling behind the bar for me is when someone walks in a stranger and walks out a regular. Cocktails can be intimidating for people. Getting rid of the pretentiousness and having guests relax and have fun is the most important and rewarding thing. 
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?: telekinesis. How much fun could one have with that behind a bar?!
What's on your phone screensaver?: My phone screensaver is boring but, my ringtone is Manamana (the muppet song).
Name a bartender in Denver who is a mentor or an inspiration: Dwight Long. Dwight was at My Brother's Bar for years and now we are fortunate to have him at Colt and Gray. I'll go in on days off to sit at his bar, steel his jokes, and watch him interact with guests. I've learned a lot from him.

Name: Stuart Jensen
Where from: Colorado Springs, CO
Behind the bar at: Mercantile Dining & Provision
First job: My first job was working for a Real Estate Developer. I was 14 and we would spend all day carrying trees that had been cut down. There was an older kid, maybe 16, that went ahead of us and cut the trees into portions that were (in theory but rarely in practice) small enough for us to carry.
Drink of choice: If I'm drinking wine, I love Rose with a high acidity. If its beer, either sours or something refreshing after work (Coronas are my guilty pleasure), usually with a tequila, rum or whiskey to sip on. Cocktails, I love either a Negroni or a Daiquiri, depending on where the night is headed. It's all a matter of context.
Last meal before you die: Tacos. My first cooking job was at a Latin American restaurant, and that food still resonates with me. I would need a variety of braised and grilled meats and seafood, and a plancha that is at the perfect temperature to grill tortillas. I'd want lots of salsas, lots of friends, the coldest beer and Rose, and whiskey, Mezcal, Rum, and Amaro a plenty.
Favorite spirit:  I need all of them. But if I had to pick, it would be whisky, rhum, mescal, brandy or gin. With some amaro on the side.
If you could take a trip anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?: Probably London. They are at the top of the cocktail world and I'd love to experience their hospitality.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?: The power to teleport. I'd get to hang out with all my friends, wherever they are.
What's on your phone's screensaver?: Stock apple image. It's usually filled with email alerts anyways.
What's the best feeling when are behind the bar?: A busy Friday night when all of your mise en place is in order, everyone on your team is moving in harmony and you're able to be a great host to your guests while constantly making drinks. It's the perfect balance of pressure and preparation that I miss about cooking, with the performance and hospitality of being behind a bar.
Name a bartender in Denver who is a mentor or an inspiration: Mr. Chris Todd. In addition to being an amazing friend, he got me a barbacking job while I was cooking full time and introduced me to this profession and all of the opportunities that have come with it. Most importantly, he taught me that bartending is not about knowing every recipe or every spirit, its about a well timed joke or an open ear when you need a little company. I love the man.

· 18 Great Fall Cocktails to Try Now [EDEN]
· Denver's Best Bartenders Uncovered Part One [EDEN]
· The Cocktail Heatmap: Where to Drink Now [EDEN]

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La Biblioteca

622 3rd Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10017 (212) 808-8110 Visit Website

Colt & Gray

1553 Platte Street, , CO 80202 (303) 477-1447 Visit Website

Mizuna

225 East 7th Avenue, , CO 80203 (303) 832-4778 Visit Website