We understand that sometimes it’s hard to remember your favorite bartender’s name or what their favorite drink is. So that’s why we decided to introduce you to some bartenders around the country who are interested in sharing a little more about their craft. Bartending isn’t easy — it’s long hours, busy nights, slow days, and sometimes the occasional rude customer or two. Take a step into a bartender’s shoes and get to know them a little better! Once you learn their favorite cocktail, maybe you can offer them a drink or two after their shift…
The Daily Meal: Where do you work?
John Henderson: Tavern Road in Boston.
TDM: How long have you been bartending?
JH: Since 2009.
TDM: What is your favorite drink to make for guests?
JH: I don't really have a favorite, it all depends on what the guest is drinking. A ridiculous, elaborate tiki-style garnish is always fun, though, as is a few drops of bitters, carefully swirled onto the top of an egg drink.
TDM: What is the worst thing that's happened to you behind the bar?
JH: Classifying something as "THE worst" is pretty tough. I spent a couple years working in clubs, though, and I've had some pretty wacky things happen to me. Everything from trying to break up a fight, and ending up having to dodge a girl who was using her high heel as a weapon, to falling onto a speed rail and practically having to remove a pour spout from my thigh.
"We put a lot of time and effort into what we produce, both cocktail and hospitality wise." TDM: What's the best pick-up line you've received from a patron while tending bar?
JH: One night, a tall gorgeous woman approached the bar, and makes a beeline for me. She grabs my arm before I could even say hello, sticks it down the front of her shirt, and says, "Are you a natural ginger? Because I'd love a tall handsome ginger, all night." Best part was, I shot her down!
TDM: What is the worst part of being a bartender?
JH: Being a bartender is fantastic, but the hours and the physical toll it takes on your body are pretty rough. I'm on my feet for an average of 12 hours a day. Which means my meal and sleep schedule is pretty skewed. I know a lot of people that end up with repetitive stress injuries from shaking or stirring cocktails for several years
TDM: What's the best part of being a bartender?
JH: There are about a thousand best parts of being a bartender. For me, the constant positive energy is great, I feed off it when I'm working. There's also an exhilarating rush I get when I reach that critical point of service pace and energy level. I'll be making drinks and interacting with guests, everyone's having a great time, and all of a sudden everything clicks. I know it sounds cheesy but it's like everyone's dancing to the same song. The creativity I am allowed to express is also one of my favorite parts. I used to work in a lab as a research assistant, and I always tell guests that the kitchen and bar are two of the best "laboratories" on the planet. Finally, the people I get to meet every day are a predominantly the best part of being a bartender. Everyone has a story, or their own long list of things to do, but it's cool that they chose to sit at my bar for a few hours. Whether they are looking for advice, an escape from their daily routine, or just looking for some entertainment, the people are what makes this job great.
TDM: What's your go-to cocktail when you're out with friends?
JH: A Negroni, a traditional daiquiri, or a beer. When I've spent 60-plus hours during the week/weekend, dealing out crafted cocktails and playing with complex flavor combinations, I really just want something cold and wet, or bitter and in your face.
TDM: What's your favorite alcohol to create cocktails with?
JH: Recently a friend of mine launched a new cachaça brand called Avuá, so I've been playing with that a lot. Cachaça sounds scary to a lot of people, and unfortunately it has gotten a bad rap over the past few years for being firewater, but there are a bunch of great distillates coming to the market that will hopefully change people's perceptions. I love the funky grassy nature of these spirits, nuanced with some great tropical fruit notes. Even in small portions, cachaça can really elevate a cocktail.
TDM: What is the most ridiculous bartending story you have?
JH: You're going to have to come find me, and ask in person for that one... We see and experience a lot of things — many of the most ridiculous aren't appropriate for here!
TDM: What else do you want people to know about you and your craft?
JH: We put a lot of time and effort into what we produce, both cocktail and hospitality wise. With that, we are paid to keep an eye on human interactions. If you're a guest at my bar, don't forget "please" and "thank you." It makes you look like an idiot when you do. And what's even worse is that I don't have a problem calling you out on it!