As Westword's Ask the Bartender columnist, I've talked with many bartenders for Cafe Society's "Behind the Bar" series, posing numerous questions to Denver's top bartenders...and often receiving the same answers: "I love chartreuse," or "I'm really into smoked cocktails/barrel aging/bottled cocktails."
Some time ago, a Facebook friend posted 25 things about himself that most people weren't aware of -- and then he tagged me in the post, at which point I was supposed to do the same: rattle off 25 little-known facts about myself and ask someone else to follow suit. Instead, I'm asking Denver's bartenders to get up and close with Westword readers and share 25 lesser known tidbits about themselves -- and then name the next bartender that I should interview.
In this week's "25 things you never knew" installment, Brian Smith, bar manager of the Squeaky Bean, is the focus. I first met Smith a few years ago during the time I bartended at Euclid Hall. He sat at the bar, and after striking up a conversation, revealed that he was tapped to be the bar manager at the new Squeaky Bean in LoDo, which was kinda funny, because I was already working on menu development and I, in fact, was tapped for that position. Nonetheless, I smiled and wished him luck. As it turned out, I did end up opening the Squeaky Bean, while Smith ran the acclaimed bar programs at both Pinche Taco locations until just recently, when he became the bar manager at -- guess where? -- the Squeaky Bean, taking over my old position. He has wit and energy, which guests love, and his fellow bartenders are proud to work with him. Smith is a perfect fit for the quirky, eccentric feel at the Squeaky Bean, and I'm betting that he'll take that program to new heights.
In the interview that follows, Brian exposes his mother's talent with explosives and cops to the time he accidentally spit mezcal on fellow bartender Chad Michael George, who tends bar at Williams & Graham.
1. I was born in what was once a small town called Gillette, Wyoming. I visit Northern Wyoming as much as possible, and realize that there's a reason why some call it "God's Country."
2. Despite the fact that she didn't go to college, my mother is one of the most revered explosives engineers in the country. Everything she learned was while proving herself in the field; you gotta respect that.
3. My family moved to Littleton, Colorado when I was ten, and I went to Heritage High School.
4. I graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in history. Some would say you wouldn't need that degree as a bartender, but honestly, you need to know everything you can as a bartender.
5. My father raced flat-track motorcycles in the seventies, saving his earnings from the circuit through the year so he could ski-bum around the west during the winter.
6. My first creative passion was music. I spent my time in Fort Collins hosting open mics, writing songs, singing...and mostly drinking.
7. I can play the banjo, piano, guitar and bass -- though none of them as well as I'd like.
8. I love embroidered pearl-snap shirts. Most that I own were gifts, and most are older than I am.
9. I love Mexico. The last time I went, my girlfriend Laura and I bussed and backpacked coast-to-coast while I researched Mexican spirits and culture.
10. I live with Laura, along with my brother Scott, in an old Victorian house in Five Points.
11. I have a scar across the top of my head from when I was nine and my best friend hit me with a spade shovel.
12. I didn't try growing a beard until I broke up with my college girlfriend. I've been clean shaven only once since then.
13. I didn't even think Ken Kodys knew my name! He's such a rock star.
14. I once broke my ankle in the first half a soccer game and didn't realize it until after the game was over.
15. I rarely drink cocktails when I go out. I'm more of a beer-and-a-shot kind of guy.
16. My nickname in high school was "Smitty." Some of the older soccer players called me "Shitty," and to be honest, they were right.
17. I lived outside of Rochester, in Upstate New York, for three years as a child, near where my father was born.
18. I once did a spit-take on Chad Michael George's face. Accidentally. With mezcal. Don't try to take five-ounce shots all at once, kids.
19. I am very close with my siblings. Scott is my older brother and Lauren is my little sister. She lives in San Francisco and is the coolest person I know.
20. I love folk, bluegrass, honky-tonk and golden country, and I sure miss those Lonesome Whistle nights at Lost Lake, Ryan.
21. I can't wait to go back to the COBG house in New Orleans and get weird by the pool.
22. I love intense old westerns, and just brutal/epic stories in general. Sergio Leone, Cormac McCarthy, John Steinbeck -- they make me want to drop everything, steal a horse and go live a good life in the hills.
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23. In college, I had a Catahoula hound named Kya. She was the best dog ever.
24. I love mint-chocolate chip ice cream...and salted caramel if it's around. When Laura asks me which flavor ice cream we should get, I just say "the good kind."
25. My middle name is Marshall, which is my father's name.
P.S. Smith would like to know more about Dwight Long of My Brother's Bar.