Bartender Profiles

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BARTENDER PROFILES

1. Audrey King
Troop PVD
a. How did you get into bartending?
I began bartending at Foxwoods, of all places. While it was a crazy and fun environment, it wasn’t exactly the type of bartending I wanted to be doing. It involved making a lot of appletinis and chocolate martinis with chocolate syrup drizzles in the glass, which are great fun and influence my cocktail creating to this day! I was, however, super interested in craft cocktails so I started studying on my own and when I relocated to Providence, I was able to jump into it as there already was a scene happening.

b. What do you like best about your job?
Currently my favorite part of the job is dancing with my guests and coworkers at Troop! We have so much fun there! I also really love the creative outlet of making original drinks. I have a background in art, particularly painting, so the visual aesthetics of making really beautiful or fun cocktails is a huge part of the experience for me.

c. What’s your signature style?
I think what I’m most concerned with is introducing people to new flavors and spirits while maintaining a sense of humor and accessibility. I want the experience to be fun and welcoming. I never like to take myself too seriously.

d. What’s your signature drink?
I’ve done so many that I’m not sure I have just one at this point! I definitely gravitate toward rum or mezcal, but lately I’ve been harkening back to childhood treats. I’ve been using candy, sprinkles and cereal in my drinks at Troop a lot.

e. What’s your favorite type of customer?
Adventurous ones! I love customers who are willing to let me experiment and try weird or unusual flavor combinations.

f. Do you have any strange or unusual stories?
All I will say is that I’ve experienced everything from impromptu dog sitting to hauntings to embarrassing Tinder dates, and even bats flying around the bar while I’ve been slinging drinks. There really is never a dull moment. Come visit me and my awesome friends over at Troop for a truly fun time. We sing, we dance and serve up great food and a mean cocktail!

2. The gang at Rogue Island Kitchen and Bar
From left to right: McKenzie Buckley, Kandace Richmond, Amanda Leigh, Bill Pietras, Ryan Bessette, Jacqui Macek, rotating answers at random.
a. How did you get into bartending?
I was working at Joe’s American Bar & Grill, it was a super busy Saturday because of WaterFire, we were down a bartender and they threw me on the bar because I knew the cocktail recipes. The rest is history.
I think all of us got into bartending that way. Working well as a server on the floor, showing interest in learning the ropes on the bar, being given the opportunity, and shining.

b. What do you like best about your job?
It’s great interacting with our guests and finding out how they heard about us, where they’re from. I love helping pick the right beer and meal for them, creating a friendly, relaxed and tasty experience. I also love working with such a great team while selling fresh, local products I 100% stand by.

c. What’s your signature style?
Our signature style is teamwork. We are a veritable A-Team of the libation world. Each one of us has different background experiences to bring to the table. We have Certified Beer Servers, experience from New Orleans cocktail bars, and years of service experience in the local craft beer and cocktail world.

d. What’s your signature drink?
I don’t think any of us has a signature drink per se. Although we each have preferences, whether it be beer, whiskey or classic cocktails, we all contributed cocktails to our cocktail menu and we all love to drink, talk about and taste different styles of beer.

e. What’s your favorite type of customer?
People who are interested in craft beers and cocktails, who are willing to learn something new, and experiment with new flavors.
People who are laid back, easy to talk to and get along well with other bar guests. Bonus if they like bad jokes.

f. What’s your funniest or strangest bartending story?
We had a girl once who was straightening her hair at the bar. She thought we were strange when we told her she couldn’t do that.

3. Opie Oppenheimer
Twin River, The Hard Rock Cafe and The Professional School of Bartending
a. How did you get into bartending?
TGI Fridays originally trained me as a bartender almost 20 years ago. Back then, if you were a Fridays bartender, your popularity in the local hospitality industry skyrocketed, leading me to bigger opportunities.

b. What’s your signature style?
I’m more of a volume bartender. I’m known for my speed and sarcastic dry sense of humor. I’m a flair bartender. My team and I have raised 90K for local and national cancer charities through an event called Flip Out on Cancer running from 2009-2017.

c. What do you like best about your job?
Bartending has allowed me to travel the world to compete, train and consult. I have met some of the best and smartest in the industry who I continue to learn from. I am surrounded by bartenders and managers who push me to do better and keep learning.

d. What’s your favorite drink?
I love rum. My favorite drink is either a mojito or a Kona big wave ale.

e. Do you have a strange or unusual bartending story?
About a year ago, a couple, Bruce and Antoinette, were sitting at my bar. You could tell that they had been in love for for years and years by the way they were acting and talking. They couldn’t keep their hands off each other. She got up to go to the bathroom. Bruce looks at me, laughs and says, “So I was hitchhiking here and she hit me with her car about an hour ago. She was so upset. It wasn’t even that bad. So I told her if she gave me a ride here and bought me a few drinks I’d pretend it never happened. Crazy right?!” They’re still together to this day. Hope they see this.

4. Stuart Window
Fortnight
a. How did you get into bartending?
I had previously done bar work and worked in kitchens and had a great love of beer, then the opportunity to join the co-op at Fortnight came up. I really loved the ethos of the bar and the opportunity to serve exciting things and hopefully introduce people to something new and great from cool producers.

b. What’s your signature style?
I think at Fortnight we are, initially, deliberately obtuse about the options we have. I love this because then we can do a quick tasting and have people really pick something that they love without sticking to the familiar. It’s great to have a constantly rotating, diverse list that we can introduce to people.

c. What’s your signature drink?
“Want to try something weird?” Buying beer for the bar I try to balance the talented people brewing classic styles and ridiculous big ideas. I love pouring something that is hopefully unlike anything else you’ve ever had from a brewery or winemaker that you’ve never heard of before.

d. What’s your favorite type of customer?
I love people who are genuinely excited about things, enthusiasm is cool, I love trying something new so I’m really happy when people who are equally excited by new things come by. People who are open about not knowing a lot about wine or beer, but totally open to trying something they aren’t familiar with are great also.

e. What’s your funniest or strangest bartending story?
We have some regulars who could fill a column by themselves, but at the moment I love having a bar that shares a name (albeit spelled differently) with a massively popular video game. Whenever [those game] servers go down, we get phone calls from people who are very, very upset that they can’t play their game. Some are nice but confused, some just start screaming racism and homophobia right away. Makes me glad I didn’t decide to make games for a living.

f. What do you like best about your job?
At the bar I get to meet interesting people and help them have a great night out. The other owners of Fortnight are incredibly talented and make the place really special. Being part of a genuine workers’ co-op is important to me, and I hope worker-owned businesses will become more and more prevalent.

g. Do you have a day job?
My day job is pretty great also; I’m a photographer/designer for artwork. I normally shoot landscape/architecture at night and I really love Providence as a subject. My wife and I do design and copywriting, and also document events and performance as Stray Creatives. I also do as much theater as I can, and Providence is a great city with some wonderful theater happening all the time.

5. Brien Lang
Wild Colonial Tavern
a. How did you get into bartending?
I did some bartending while I was in grad school at Trinity Rep, but I started it full time not long after my friend Maurice opened up the Wild Colonial Tavern. The running joke is that he asked me to work the door for a few weeks and, 17 years later, I’m still working on the bar.

b. What do you like best about your job?
Definitely the customers. I am lucky in that our bar attracts a very eclectic crowd of truly great folks. Our regulars are awesome.

c. What’s your signature style?
I do tend to get a lot of compliments on my playlists at the bar which, I think, exemplifies how I like to run things – just set up a vibe and let people enjoy, relax and hang.

d. What’s your signature drink?
I am a big craft beer nerd, so I am always happy to talk beer with customers. My go-to cocktail for customers who don’t know exactly what they’d like is the Charm Pop. The recipe’s a secret, but it generally makes people happy.

e. What’s your favorite type of customer?
Again, our customer base is very eclectic so I appreciate anyone who has a unique story or perspective on things. We always welcome a healthy, friendly argument at the Wild Colonial, and that’s definitely what I like.

f. What’s your funniest or strangest bartending story?
It’s not too strange, but my favorite, totally Rhode Island story was a customer who came up to me and said, “Could I have two Captain and Cokes? One with lime, one with not.” I got what he meant, simple, but it still cracks me up to this day.

6. Jason Kindness
Kai Bar
a. How did you get into bartending?
I started bartending back in 2000 at a place called Gameworks (it was like a Dave & Buster’s) in Tampa, Florida. I had just left Rhode Island to try to get a change of pace and the restaurant business is a great place for people who can’t hack a 9 to 5 and need some cash.

b. What do you like best about your job?
I love being creative and sharing that with people.

c. What’s your signature style?
It’s really cool to take the fruits (and vegetables) of the earth and explore new flavor combinations and serving up an alternative or what most people don’t know is an option when ordering a cocktail. Most of my cocktails involve citrus, though.

d. Do you have a signature drink?
That’s a tough one! I suppose from all of our signature drinks that have stuck, the Wolf of Main Street, formerly The Wolf of Thames Street, stands out as the most unique. I like to use Brugal rum and then blend it with coconut milk, fresh lime juice, and then we add miso, which brings depth and tempers the sweetness. We serve this in a small cocktail shaker with a fresh mint sprig and occasionally we grate some nutmeg on top as well.

e. What’s your favorite type of customer?
My favorite type of customer is the adventurous kind. When you go out to a restaurant you should be willing to experience what it is that that particular establishment does best. I’m currently in Costa Rica as I answer these questions (not to brag) but when I go out to eat here, or in any other place I travel, I like to ask the server or bartender for the most authentic dish that reflects the local culture and is what the locals eat. Some guests come into our bar and know what we do, give us a couple of clues and put their trust in our hands.

f. Do you have a strange or unusual bartending story?
I was once bartending in Florida on the water in a very high-volume place when lo and behold, Hall of Famer Wade Boggs pulls up a chair right near my service bar. He proceeded to do play-by-play while I was getting my ass handed to me and working my way out of some serious weeds. All while crushing about a case of Miller Lite over the course of an hour and a half. No lie, but if you did your research you would know that this is not unusual.

7. Joaquin Meza
El Rancho Grande
a. How did you get into bartending?
When we got our full liquor license, we needed to start making margaritas so I had to learn. Along came the RI Chapter of USBG (US Bartenders Guild). I felt I didn’t fit or need to join because all I needed to know was margaritas. I joined USBG, and by being around the amazing talent in Providence I learned. Also, connecting early on with the Boston bartending community was key.

b. What do you like best about your job?
[The] best thing about bartending is the friendships and connections you make, the bartending community is a very extensive and really close knit community. Being able to connect with people across the US, Mexico and even Europe is pretty invaluable. Especially in the agave sector, it gets even tighter. Secondly, being able to share whatever bit of knowledge I have … About the agave industry, we are the first line of education to our guests.

c. What’s your signature style?
I don’t have a particular style, but I do like to draw from classics and incorporate my own twist, especially adding a bit of my culture.

d. Do you have a signature drink?
I personally focus more on agave spirits forward cocktails. Mezcal lends itself very easily to lots of classic cocktails. Dark, boozy mezcal stir drinks are my thing. I don’t have a signature cocktail because I’m not famous, [laughs] but I do have two that I like very much: Tiki-Tolteca has been a regular at Rancho for a couple years now. When I named it I was thinking of the big Olmec stand heads. I made a mistake on the name, but it turns out that that’s the name of a really awesome Tiki bar in New Orleans. The other cocktail is Fuerza Mexico. I named this drink after the earthquake in Mexico in September, and used this drink in a special menu to raise funds for various organizations in Mexico, our way of giving back to our homeland. The Tiki-Tolteca is a mezcal, tropical, fun, dark bitter drink with mezcal, Cynar, orgeat, passionfruit, lime and Peychaud’s bitters. Fuerza is a stirred, more serious but still fun cocktail with Mezcal Cupreata from Michoacan, Palo Cortado and Amontillado sherry and Pamplemousse liqueur.

e. What’s your favorite type of customer?
My favorite type of customer is anyone who is willing to sit in front of me and is willing to listen to me ramble on about agave distillates … In reality, anyone who just wants to enjoy a spirit, drink, wine or beer and casual conversation. (Although I get super excited when they ask about mezcal.)

f. Do you have a strange or unusual bartending story?
When you get a group of bartenders together there will always be plenty of stories. I just can’t put them in print (they never happened).

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