What one thing would you change about
bartending in the U.S. today?
I would change the way we stand behind
the bar. We should always be facing to-
ward our guest when we are discussing
something. Our patrons should never
have to call out to us for something. If we
are facing them we can anticipate their
needs better.
What makes you a good bartender?
I think I offer my guests understanding.
The people who love you don’t always
understand you, so I think that it is the
greatest gift a bartender can give. I listen,
without judgment, and find a way to un-
derstand my patron’s point of view. Some-
times all it takes is a little bit of kindness
to help someone make it through the day.
Recent drink innovation that excites you
the most?
Cocktails have been such fun this past
year. Sno-cones and push-pops and
alco-pops have made me feel like a kid
What’s particularly interesting about the
drinks in Los Angeles?
I happen to have a huge crush on the
cocktail community in LA. People are
taking risks; sometimes we fail, but
when we succeed it is spectacular. This
is a city that isn’t afraid to have a point
of view when it comes to drink mak-
ing and we have a group of people who
encourage one another to keep trying.
I am so very proud to work with these
people that I find it hard not to gush
about their collective awesomeness.
Who do you most admire in the restaurant/
bar business?
The bartender I am most in awe of
would be Julio Cabrera. Watching him
work is like seeing someone control
time itself. If it is someone who can in-
spire a city to change the way it makes
drinks it would be Vincenzo Marianel-
la. LA has a lot to thank that man for,
and I am grateful beyond measure that
I get to call him a friend.
“Sometimes all it takes is a
little bit of kindness to
help someone make it
through the day.”
What are your career goals?
I wouldn’t want to do anything that
would take me out of Indianapolis per-
manently. I love it here and I believe
in what we’re doing here. I would love
to spend more time educating young
bartenders who are just venturing into
the field and being a mentor. If I can
do something to impact my market in a
positive way I will. I’ve always loved to
write and have often thought about be-
ing a cocktail writer.
Who do you most admire in the restaurant/
bar business?
People like Dale DeGroff, who brought
bartending back from the dark ages and
carried the torch forward; David Won-
drich, who taught us the history of our
craft and found many of the recipes once
thought lost to the ages; and Charles Joly,
who has shown us that humility and hos-
pitality can still go hand and hand even
with one the most intricate beverage
programs in the world. But at the end of
the day, the answer to that question is my
owner and close friend, Nicole Harlan-
Oprisu. If it wasn’t for the support she’s
given me in my career, I wouldn’t be an-
swering this question right now.
Recent drink innovation that excites you
the most?
Quality syrups right now are pretty excit-
ing and a great time saver. My friends at
Indianapolis-based Wilks & Wilson are
doing a great job producing great-quality,
fresh syrups that really work well in a lot
of cocktails.
If you weren’t tending bar, what would
you be doing?
I would probably be working for some eco-
nomic think tank or in academia. I went
to school for economics and unlike most
people actually enjoyed it. My friends say
I must have had a depressing childhood
when I tell them
The Wealth of Nations
one of my favorite books of all time.
“It puzzles me that
obscurity seems to be an
indication of quality to some
folks. There are some hidden
gems out there, and there are
also some things that should
just remain hidden.”
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