This week Eater celebrates not only cocktails but those who make them possible, the bartenders. It is the fourth year of spotlighting the talent that makes our bar culture rock. Yesterday, we revealed the 12 talented bar men and women featured this year. Today, we present you four of them in more detail — from first jobs to mottos and go-to spirits, and best meals ever.
Name: Alex Daniluk
Where from: Denver, CO
Behind the bar at: Union Lodge No. 1
First job: Traveling knife salesman.
Last cocktail before you die: Negroni
Best meal ever: Pasta at Cafe Jordano
Go-to spirit for new cocktails: Whiskey
Dream trip: Anywhere, or everywhere in Europe. To eat and drink myself to death.
One thing you'd change in the world: Less Hatin', more Shakin'
Motto or favorite quote: No dancing behind the bar!
Craziest thing you witnessed while bartending: Sometimes the mood is set too well. Breaking up a couple in the bathroom is one thing, but when they are both hitting on you afterward you know the night is headed in a weird direction. It wouldn't be that crazy if it hadn't happened on multiple occasions.
Best bartending lesson you've ever learned: You need to be comfortable on both sides of the bar. If you can't have a good time at a random bar by yourself, then your guests can't have a good time at your bar.
Advice for becoming a better bar guest: Honesty (if you're nice). If you like something, that's great. But If you don't like something, tell me so I can fix it.
Name: Ky Belk
Where from: Air Force brat. Little bit of everywhere.
Behind the bar at: Avanti Food & Beverage
First job: Pot and pan scrubber at military mess hall.
Last cocktail before you die: Barrel-aged Vieux Carre made with stunning cognac
Best meal ever: Tortellini with braised beef in Nice
Go-to spirit for new cocktails: Scotch
Dream trip: A month on the Camino de Santiago. It's a medieval pilgrimage across northern Spain. I'd start across the Pyrenees in France and make a stop in Pamplona for the Fiesta de Los San Fermines, i.e.,"running of the bulls". I got sort of addicted to Hemingway when I was younger, and that trip hits most of the high points.
One thing you'd change in the world: Those little subscription cards that fall out of magazines have got to go. Or end hunger.
Motto or favorite quote: The triumph of hope over experience.
Craziest thing you witnessed while bartending: I got a $1,000 tip once. That's crazy.
Best bartending lesson you've ever learned: You have to work hard until you know enough to work smart.
Advice for becoming a be a better bar guest: Please at least have started the process of thinking about what you might want to drink. You've come to a bar. Just a ballpark notion. I've got you from there.
Name: Nick Touch
Where from: Des Moines, Iowa
Behind the bar at: Williams and Graham
First job: Sailorville Lake Marina in Iowa. My first bar gig was during College in Iowa City at Atlas World Grill. At the time, I thought bartending was just an easy way to meet girls and get free drinks at other bars in town. Little did I know that I was learning a lot about an industry that has become part of my career.
Last cocktail before you die: Something full of sugar, like a Miami Vice, with a bunch of high proof rum in it. Or a huge shot of Tequila Ocho and an ice cold pilsner.
Best meal ever: In recent memory, it was 1313 Main in Napa. My fiancé, Shauna and I had an incredible day of wine tasting together before meeting up with an old colleague of mine from the Vail days, who now lives in the Napa Valley. She and her boyfriend are locals in the "industry" so we let them take the reigns on dinner. Everything was incredible throughout the 7 courses. The food was beautiful, the wine and spirit pairings were perfect, but most of all, the service was the best I've ever experienced.
Go-to spirit for new cocktails: Whatever the occasion calls for, I suppose. Maybe I am trying to fill a gap in our next seasonal cocktail menu, or perhaps making a guest at the bar an original creation for them and their friends. I think it is important for a good bartender to be able to use any base spirit as a starting point for a new creation.
Dream trip: Eating and drinking our way through all of Italy. We would hit as many wineries and vineyards as possible to learn about, and drink as much wine as we could handle. It would be amazing to discover all of the small villages and help make all kinds of Amari between cities. I would love to meet the family that I have in Calabria and fully explore the country.
One thing you would change in the world: It would be nice if everyone could put their cultural, religious, political, and personal issues to the side and be accepting of one another. Can't we all just get along?!?
Motto or favorite quote: Alright, alright, alright....
Craziest thing you witnessed while bartending: So much craziness happens in bars. A few years ago, I had a couple sitting in the darkest corner of the bar who seemed to be on a first date. After a few strong cocktails, things appeared to be going really well for them and the hardcore PDA began. The guy looked to be rounding second base, and the next thing I knew the young lady was adjusting her skirt and moving onto his barstool for what looked like an attempted in-the-park home run. I had to ask them to take that game to the next venue, hopefully home.
Best bartending lesson you've ever learned: Always be open to learn something from a fellow Bartender. Be humble and give gratitude. There is a ton of ego in this profession- lots of self-proclaimed "Master Mixologists" and "Internationally-recognized" bartenders out there. At the end of the day, we are mixing ingredients together in hopes that the final product tastes good, while providing an escape from life's little struggles for our guests. We are very fortunate to be able to do what we do for a living.
Advice for becoming a better bar guest: Don't be afraid to tell me exactly what you want, and if something is not to your liking, speak up so I can fix it for you... or bring me some potstickers or any other dumpling style food when you come to see me.
Name: A. Minetta Gould
Where from: Marion, Michigan
Behind the bar at: Ste. Ellie
First job: Boomer's Nite Club in the Holiday Inn
Last cocktail before you die: A shot of Plantation 5 yr & a bottle of Highlife
Best meal ever: Ten co-workers from jm Curley (the bar I worked at in Boston before moving to Denver) with the entire menu at Coppa in South Boston. It was Fall and they set us up on the sidewalk out front. It was the greatest family meal I've ever had.
Go-to spirit for new cocktails: Tequila Ocho Reposado.
Dream trip: Anywhere as long as I'm in love.
One thing you'd change in the world: Repeated history.
Motto or favorite quote: Averna? I barely know ‘er!
Craziest thing you witnessed while bartending: While cocktailing at Boomer's Nite Club in the Holiday Inn I got caught between a bouncer hauling one girl in a fight out the door and the girl that was still free so I panicked and broke the girl's nose with my server tray. Blood everywhere. I cried a lot.
Best bartending lesson you've ever learned: Be Charming. Stay Humble. Dance.
Advice for becoming a better bar guest: Be Charming. Stay Humble. Dance.