National Bartender day is Saturday, Dec. 2, and with 100+ bars in Sacramento’s Downtown + Midtown grid, bartenders are definitely some of the unsung heroes of our city’s culture.
You’ve seen these smiling faces behind the bar, probably pouring you a shot or listening to how your day went — this one’s for the mixologists + boozy chemists right here in the City of Trees. You’re the ones keeping us dancing (no matter how badly) the night away.
Editor’s note: These interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Tyler McClendon | The Shady Lady Saloon
He’s a man of many hats — Tyler’s been a bartender with the Shady Lady for nine years. However, he worked in the club and restaurant scene for a while before deciding to pick up work at the Shady Lady as a “side gig,” planning to focus on his background in the cybersecurity industry.
Q: Did you start here as a bartender, or in other positions?
A: When I first started working here, they had a four year waiting list for bartenders because the original bartenders stayed for a long period of time. I came here as a prep guy and busser, and I did door security during the nights. It took me about a year-and-a-half to two years to get to bartending, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Q: What’s the best thing that’s happened for you at your bar?
A: I grew up as a WWE fan, and went to a WWE event at the Sleep Train Arena. I had to leave early to come here and work. So, I’m sitting here minding my business, and then four of my favorite wrestlers just walked up and sat at the bar. I ended up hanging out with them later that night, bar hopping and drinking together.
Noah Pilkington | Juju Kitchen & Cocktails
A bartender for 15 years, Noah’s been crafting cocktails at Juju for 1.5 years. His experience spans the cities of Sacramento, Santa Cruz, and Savannah, GA.
Q: How would you describe the bartender culture in Sacramento?
A: There’s so much more community here. We all hang out with each other. I feel like every bartender in town knows each other. Whenever it’s my day off, I’ll hop over and see my friends at LowBrau or The Grand. We basically make money and then go give it to our friends.
Q: What’s your favorite bartender memory?
A: Probably winning the Patron Competition at LowBrau. It was fun because a lot of my friends were in the competition and we each got to bring a secret ingredient that could be used in any round. I did an oleo saccharum, which is basically orange and lemon peels, and you soak them in sugar overnight. It makes this really rich, citrusy syrup. I made that and a cinnamon simple syrup, and then a cold brew that was double-steeped and double-brewed. I broke it out for the second round (of three) — the Old Fashioned round.
Tony Hicks | The Trophy Club
A born-and-raised Sacramentan, craft cocktails are no joke for bar manager Tony. He originally started as bartender at Trophy Club, then a Wild West-themed speakeasy. Tony is proud parent of his brain baby — Trophy Club’s rebrand + aim to create an upscale, yet accessible speakeasy environment. Even though his cocktails are decadent, he’s still a simple man at heart.
Q: What’s favorite cocktail?
A: My favorite cocktail is one of the most complicated of all time —a beer and a shot. I don’t drink cocktails or enjoy drinking cocktails. Making cocktails scratches every itch in my brain, but normally I just go for a local beer and a shot of bourbon. The higher proof, the better.
Q: What’s your favorite feat with Trophy Club?
A: My favorite memory was our first really good menu, back when I took over and reinstated some semblance of well-made and approachable cocktails. It was our first preview party that we did to show off the menu — we sold three full rooms worth of tickets. We were floored. I remember one of my bartenders presenting her cocktail to the room and everyone going berserk, clapping and whooping. It was a room of people that couldn’t be more f***ing pleased.