12 Bartenders Confess the Most Embarrassing Things They Used to Drink

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(image: Tim Nusog)

Every big-shot cocktail bartender remembers the youthful period leading up to their drink-mixing career, when they drank shitty beers and super sweet cocktails just to get a buzz. So we asked 12 super successful mixologists to reveal the questionable, sometimes embarrassing things they used to sip on before they got their start behind the stick. From Vodka Sodas to Midori Sours, these are the drinks these top bartenders would like to not remember.

1. Kehlen Selph (The Pastry War, Houston)

“I started bartending when I was 22, so I only had one year that I wasn’t fully educated on beverages. I spent a lot of that year hanging out at sports bars with my server friends drinking pitchers of Miller Light and double Stoli Blueberi on the rocks with a can of Red Bull on the side. But as soon as I started bartending, my new bartender family shut that down very quickly, and my intense love for wine, craft beer and whiskey took over. I was only a hot mess for a year of my life—not too bad.”

2. Morgan Schick (The Bon Vivants, Trick Dog; San Francisco)

Seven & Seven

“The first thing I ordered regularly in bars was a Seven & Seven, mostly because it was the only drink I could think of when I got to the bar. For a year or so there, I was a pretty die hard Seven & Seven drinker.”

3. Charles Veitch III (Canon, Seattle)

“Before I got behind the bar, I used to drink light beer and Polish, which is a plum or berry liquor. That’s what I was introduced to because my grandmama was from northern Wisconsin.”

4. Kenta Goto (Bar Goto, New York City)

Vodka Red Bull (image: Tim Nusog)

“I was drinking literally everything from beer to wine and scotch,” says Kenta Goto. There was no discrimination. However, if I had to pick one, I’d say Vodka Red Bull because that’s what was popular at many trendy places in New York at that time.”

5. JP Fetherston (Columbia Room, Washington, D.C.)

“After undergrad, during a particularly aimless six months of no-job-hdr. paving, a friend and I developed a taste for Sailor Jerry rum and Dr Pepper—like liquid candy. I still think this is pretty delicious to this day.”

6. Kimberly Patton-Bragg (Three Muses, New Orleans)

Vodka Gimlet (image: Tim Nusog)

“In college, I would donate plasma on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could go out for 25-cent shitty, warm beer and Sledgehammers at our favorite club, Shattered. It was great motivational stuff for flowy goth dancing, and at least I got my homework and Shakespeare memorizing done on the gurney. I still have no idea what was in the Sledgehammer, but I’m pretty sure it was a ton of canned juices mixed with below-well vodka. Older and wiser (in my mid-20s), I was all about Vodka Gimlets and Dirty Martinis. I thought I was being sophisticated. Now, the only thing I think Dirty Martinis are good for is improving my liquor cost. Midori Sours are still a guilty pleasure of mine. I’ll own it.”

7. Ivy Mix (Leyenda, New York City)

“What I used to drink is still what I drink, sadly (or greatly) enough. I love a white wine spritz—cheap pinot grigio and club soda. In college, I drank cheap Vodka Tonics. Never going back to down that road again, though.”

8. Julia Momose (Annex at GreenRiver, Chicago)

Gin & Tonic

“I started as a bar back and then worked my way up to bartender when I was 18. So by the time I was 21, I had been working behind bars for a while. That said, before I really got into the world of cocktail making, my go-to drink was a Tanqueray & Tonic.”

9. Jeffrey Morgenthaler (Clyde Common, Pépé le Moko; Portland, Ore.)

“When I first turned 21, I went to Costco and picked up one of those Beers from Around the World mixed cases. I thought I was a really refined dude with my classy taste in beer and kept the empty “exotic” bottles around my apartment as decoration. So people would come over and see my empty Beck’s Dark, Negra Modelo and Newcastle bottles proudly displayed. Some of them I even used as candle holders. I’m a real class act.”

10. Lucinda Sterling (Middle Branch, Seaborne; New York City)

Blow Job shot (image: Tim Nusog)

“This one is fun and easy! My first drinks were the Blow Job shot, Amaretto Sour then Midori Sour. Not long after were shots of Patrón or Grand Marnier. I would usually enjoy them while dancing the night away at Jackson’s Hole, a bar in Denver.”

11. Alex Negranza (Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston)

“My go-to drink when I was underage, believe it or not, was gin and grapefruit with a splash of Campari. It was stupid. I loved it and still do. I was 19 and drinking Campari!”

12. Gaz Regan (Bartender Emeritus, The Dead Rabbit, New York City)

“I’ve been a bartender since I was 14 years old, so as far as I can remember, prior to that I drank Coca-Cola.”

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Discussion

  • Manalto posted 8 months ago

    We're a peculiar culture, with our emphasis on being cool all the time (beyond the age of 15) and our worry about how others will perceive us. Order a rum and Coke and suffer the scorn of your more-sophisticated (or are they?) colleagues at the bar. Open a sweet wine at the end of dinner and watch a guest or two look askance at your choice. Yuck! One of the enjoyable things about liquor, besides the obvious, is the wide variety of choices available to us. Judge for yourself, and leave others to enjoy their preferred spirit, whatever it is.

  • zhuatclfk.67fb1 posted 8 months ago

    Hey! Why the "hate" on dirty martinis Kimberly Patton-Bragg?? :P I'm 53 years old and have been drinking them that way since I first learned it was an option, maybe 30 years ago. I freakin' love olives and salt. My dad used to get pissed at me because I would sneak in the fridge and drink all the olive juice from his martini olives. Especially if I can only get a vodka martini because... well that's not really a martini and needs *some* flavor after all. So now I'm not sure which to blame for my hypertension, salt or alcohol...


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