Photography by Justin Tsucalas
Wit & Wisdom, and owner of the female-only bartending service, http://www.bartendHER.com
Signature drink: The Vicar of Winkfield (Hangar One spiced pear vodka, agave nectar, lime, St-Germain, fresh-grated cinnamon)
I’m the only female bartender at Wit & Wisdom, and sometimes people will choose to order with a man first. They want to test your knowledge, and you have to show that you’re skilled. But that’s OK cause I can go with the best of them. Yeah, I can talk whiskey with you.
I started BartendHER two years ago. I have 12 bartenders who work for me, and we do all sorts of private parties and events. People like female bartenders because it’s a look—a certain sex appeal that people associate with bartending. People like a pretty face and a nice personality, and that goes a long way at events.
I worked the D.C. club scene before Wit. That’s totally different, it’s speed bartending—people want their shots and beers, not too many mixed drinks. But you meet a lot of people working at clubs.
People always ask me, ‘How do you deal with not having your nights and a social life?’ But I feel like I’m in the social scene—and I’m making money at it. It’s the best of both worlds. —J.S.
Landmark Theatre, Harbor East
Signature drink: The Liberator (created for “Lincoln”). Pig’s Nose Scotch Whiskey, Yellow Chartreuse, yuzu juice and ginger ale with candied ginger and fresh lime
When I won my first bartending award in Baltimore, some people made a fuss—saying things like, ‘But she bartends in a movie theater.’ To me, that’s the best part of my job. I love the culture of film and the culture of craft cocktails. They’re both escapism.
I’ve served everyone from Renée Zellweger to Derek Jeter at the Landmark, but 90 percent of my guests are couples. I have a few gender-related pet peeves, like women who feel the need to ask permission to get a drink or the ones who hold up the line saying, ‘My husband will be back to pay for this in a minute.’
One gentleman actually used my Valentine’s Day menu to ditch his girlfriend. He ordered her The Break-Up Martini and said, ‘This is happening. Right now.’ Based on her behavior at the bar, she deserved it.
Since most of the men I serve are on dates, I generally don’t have any issues with male patrons. But I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say there are a few guys out there who consider me their imaginary movie geek girlfriend. —J.B.
Signature drink: Grapefruit crush
I’ve been bartending since I was 23. I was thrown into the bar at Michael’s Pub in Columbia when a bartender didn’t show. All the regulars told me how to make their drinks and told me to overpour. They were very happy.
I’m blond so I’m automatically assumed to be incapable. Some men are like, ‘Sweetie, why didn’t you go to college?’ There’s a general, ‘Why are you doing this with your life?’ I have a college education. I’ve been a personal trainer, an art director, seven different careers. I’ve learned that I don’t have a mind where I can sit behind a desk. With bartending, there’s always something to do. I love the thrill of the rush, the constant motion.
I meet all kinds of people and have great conversations. I think women tell me more emotional stuff. My best advice is: ‘If he’s not calling you, don’t text him.’ —L.W.
Signature drink: Manhattan
I’m a third-generation bartender. My grandmother was the first bartender at Long John’s on 29th Street in the 1940s. I know my grandfather didn’t like it. My mother bartended at Long John’s when she was 19 in the 1970s and then at Dizzy’s, which was called Buckley’s back then. I’ve been here 10 years. I was an at-home mom before I started, and I was really shy at first. But to be a bartender, you’ve got to be strong and a little outspoken. You’ve got to control your bar.
Yes, I’ve had to throw people out. But being a woman, I get treated with respect. I handle things differently than a guy bartender would. I’ll get guys to calm down and leave on their own. With a guy bartender, that testosterone gets going.
We get all kinds in here—from punk rock kids to CEOs. We used to have this S&M couple that would come in and she would dominate him right in the bar. It flipped me out. One time they came in full leather and she had him on a leash. She asked me, ‘Is there anything you want him to do?’ I said, ‘No, I’ll just get you a beer.’ Back then it was pretty dead, and they were my only two customers.
[The owner] Elaine and I would eat pizza and watch ‘American Idol.’ Things have changed a lot at The Dizz. —J.S.
Blue Hill Tavern
Signature drink: une Baby
(grapefruit-infused vodka, agave nectar, lime juice and lime soda)
I grew up around bar people. My parents are Irish and my aunts and uncles owned a couple of bars in Cape Cod. I love the social aspect of bartending, and I enjoy talking to people.
I think as a female bartender, people are more open with you. It’s almost a maternal thing. Men feel like they can open up. Sometimes we’ll get some old school customers in here, and they’ll only want a guy to get their drinks. But I feel like, c’mon, it’s 2013. I’ve got a great attitude and a smile, anybody could get used to that. [Bar owners] sometimes wonder about the physical part, too. Can I lift a keg? Absolutely.
I do get hit on quite a lot. I used to be married and wore a wedding ring, which was a great way to handle it. I continued to wear it even after I wasn’t married, but my hands would get wet and it would fall off all the time—and that was the end of that. —J.S.
Fleet Street Kitchen
Signature drink: The McNulty
I can make double the amount of money bartending than waitressing. I think the reason is I remember regulars’ names, their children and parents’ names, what they like to drink, their birthdays and anniversaries. People are shocked I can do it, but I can. Even if I’m not working, I’ll still text a regular to say, ‘I know you have a special day coming up.’
I always tell people who want to be a bartender that it’s 90 percent personality and being able to get along with people, and 10 percent making drinks. People can get the same Ketel One anywhere. You want them to spend their money with you.
When I worked at a nightclub, guys would throw drinks at me when I refused to serve them 15 shots at once. Or they would try to come behind the bar and pour their own drinks. Other than the occasional unruly customer, nothing bad has happened at Fleet Street Kitchen. And I’m home by 12:30 a.m. and in bed! —L.W.