GETTING STARTED | Mixing up a Career: The bar business

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By Alison Bailin Batz

Bartending today at many establishments goes far beyond simply mixing a drink. In fact, mixologists and bar professionals are in the midst of a massive revolution and evolution as an industry. Together, they’ve curated cocktails that are getting noticed on the global scale, and giving the sometimes stereotyped business a massive image overhaul. We sat down with some of the most respected folks in the local beverage community and asked them how they got their start, and came to find success in the field:

“I grew up working in the restaurant industry with my family. And, while I was at one time an aspiring amateur chemist considering a career in movie pyrotechnics, when I moved to Phoenix after I graduated high school, I started working in the bar industry… and it lit up my creativity just as much as fire ever did. I was one of the original team members at Cowboy Ciao, where our team helped start the food and cocktail revolution that is so prevalent in the Valley today.  I would go on to found and oversee the cocktail programs at both Citizen Public House and The Gladly, respectively, before consulting with the likes of Binkley Restaurant Group, Kazimierz World Wine Bar and a host of others before getting my chance to dream big at Bourbon & Bones.”
Richie Moe, Corporate Mixologist for Square One Concepts

“I grew up across the street from a country club in an Ohio suburb, so ended up working summers at their golf course. One day, toward the end of summer, the chef for the club saw me walking home and asked if I wanted some winter work (golf courses aren’t exactly busy when there is 10 feet of snow on the ground). I jumped at the chance and quickly fell in love with food and beverage service, so much so that I would eventually pursue it as my career. After whetting my teeth there, I moved on to a concept club in downtown Cleveland, then eventually opened my own bar in Tempe, which did well for years. By 2012 when I joined Harrah’s, I was already thick into the local cocktail scene. And, as luck would have it, I moved into the beverage operations manager position just as Harrah’s was starting to plan for both Oak and Fork – our small plate bar – and Chop, Block & Brew – our newest food and drink concept. Kismet!”
Nathan Kinstlinger, Beverage Operations Manager at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino

“Initially setting my sights on becoming a chef, I fell in love with the front of the house and bartending when I joined the Princess in 2006. Eventually mentoring under some of the top beverage consultants and mixologists in the nation through the Michael Mina Group, who operate the Princess’ award-winning Bourbon Steak, I was formally made the beverage manager property-wide in 2015. In the past three years, I’ve had the chance to re-imagine the entire beverage program at our La Hacienda, visit various distilleries to help choose custom barrels solely for the use of the Princess, and so much more.”
Matt Doerr, Cocktail Curator and Resort Beverage Manager at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

“A long, long time ago in a bar not too far away, I was tired of working in a skate shop at the mall and found a job at a bowling alley bar. What a job, to work with alcohol! Eventually I left AZ to work in Hollywood (what a time!) and when I returned, the focus had shifted from nightclubs to more cocktail-forward bars. Today, Hula’s is my second home and family, and I’m thankful for a place to hone my craft, learning and growing every day. Plus you can’t beat the hours.”
Matt Minsky, Head Mixologist at Hula’s Modern Tiki

“I started working in restaurants and bars when I was 14, as a busboy, because I wanted to buy a Jeep. I was hooked on the energy and pace of ‘The Industry’ pretty much immediately. Eventually, after having mastered every other front-of-house position, I turned 21 and became a bartender. ‘Mixology,’ however, didn’t find me until about 5 years later, and that skill set is unquestionably what turned bartending from a job that I loved because I could do it everywhere, to a career that drives me because I know that it could take me anywhere. The constant pursuit of operational efficiency, culinary innovation and team leadership continues to motivate and awe me in exactly the same way that the humming engine of restaurant service did that first night, almost 20 years ago.”
Phil Clark, head bartender at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

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