Ken Kodys won the Mix Master competition, but he's also a champ behind the bar at Bacaro, 921 Pearl Street, where he's worked almost five years. Here's the second round of his Behind the Bar interview:
How many times do you have to see someone to consider them a regular? I think there are three types of regulars: 1) the people I recognize, who probably come in about once a month; 2) the people whose names I know and have quick conversations with, who probably come in three to four times a month; 3) the real regulars, the crew from Cheers, the people whose first and last names I know and tell stories about kids, best friends, wives, husbands, mistresses. These are the people who come in three times a week. Anything more than that, and we might ask you to work for us.
How do you feel about cutting people off? Well, I'm 6'6" and about 245 pounds, so I don't mind letting people know they should switch to water. I don't get much lip, but I still try to be as cordial as possible. I am trying to make customers happy, and up to a certain point, I think manners should be used. If someone starts to get lippy, however, I have really good cab drivers in Boulder who will gladly drive someone home.
What's your worst cutting-off story? The first Boulder bar where I worked, whose name will go untold, had some interesting ways of dealing with people in an intoxicated state. One night we were three or four deep at the bar and there was some sort of special event (I believe a CU football game). The crowd was riled up and getting pretty out of control. I was working with another guy and a female bartender. In the madness, the female bartender came up to me and said there was a guy who was really rude and drunk trying to get a round of tequila shots. She had put down the shot glasses but had second thoughts about serving him. I told her not to serve him; she went and told him and then came back to grab something near me. As I looked up, I saw a shot glass fly by her head and smash the back mirror next to us. The other bartender grabbed the guy, who grabbed a wax candle and got wax all over his pants and shirt. The police were soon there, and even though the guy left our bar, they were able to track him down at another bar because of the wax stain. The funniest part was, a few days later he tried to come in and charge us for his ruined clothes.
What's the most fun you've ever had while working? Come see my bar staff on any given night and you'll know we always have a good time. But the most fun was definitely a wedding reception a few summers ago, in which a beautiful young couple not only wanted to celebrate at our bar, but basically forced me and the rest of the staff to partake in the celebration. As the night wound down and the older guests started to leave, Tad (the groom), cousin Donnie and I took shot after shot of Tezón Blanco Tequila. My cocktail waitress and the bride danced to '80s rock and we closed down the bar. The sarcasm flowed with the tequila, and we all sat and opened the wedding presents. Courtney the cocktail waitress kept a log of who had given what. I helped carry all the presents about three blocks to their hotel and then said goodnight to the newlyweds. I had been through a horrible breakup about a year before and had basically sworn off the idea of love, but those two were def in love.
If your employer gave you the keys and let you change anything about your bar, what would you change? Where to start? I love my bar. I've been working here almost five years and managing the bar most of that time; however, it's a very unique place since we're a very nice, traditional Northern Italian restaurant during dinner hours and then, at 10 p.m. when the kitchen closes, we become a young professional and college student hangout/nightclub. The owners and I have worked for years on ways to make this transition as smooth as possible, but sometimes you get a table that will stay until 11 or 11:30 p.m., or sometimes you get the rowdy crowd that comes in at 8 p.m. and wants to celebrate a CU win with loud rounds of shots.... Both of these kinds of customers are welcome in our business, but they are surprised to see the varying scenes we support. If I could change anything, I would add a third bar in the space next door to us and make it a more sports-friendly atmosphere with a hip music scene during dinner time -- and then, once we crossed over to the late scene, I would turn it into a VIP room.
What is your favorite alcohol? Red wine, specifically Barolo, and tequila, specifically Tezón Blanco.
What is your drink of choice? Negroni, with a little extra sweet vermouth and the juice from half an orange. Britt Henzie makes the best I have ever had!
One alcohol you despise? Vodka. Sorry, world, I just don't get it. I like different flavors.
Who's the best bartender in the area? This is a tough one, because I have so many amazing friends who bartend, but it's Chris Dressler at Radda! He's the nicest guy in the world but has the sarcasm I enjoy. He is super-respectful and attentive, and comes out from behind the bar to shake hands or hug his friends and good customers. Chris knows good people and good customers are important to his life and job. And he makes a goddamn amazing Negroni, too.
Tell us something about bartending that we might not know: There really is no such thing as the best bartender in an area. And I think this is amazing. People always ask, "Who is the best bartender at your bar/ in Boulder/in Denver?," but there are so many styles of bars and clubs and restaurants, and each has a specific need for a different type of bartender. There are high-volume club tenders, tenders who flip the shit out of triple sec bottles, mixologists who need fifteen minutes per magnificent cocktail, sports bar tenders, therapists, friends, intimate one-on-one bartenders at slow bars.... None are the best; we just try to do the best at what we do best.
Bacaro aside, what's the best bar in Colorado? My number one is the Attic in Boulder. The next three are Oskar Blues in Lyons, First Street in Nederland and Johnny's Cigar Bar in Boulder.
Other than your own bar, where do you drink most regularly? My hot tub, with a cigar and good friends!
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What do you do in your spare time? I climb mountains and up rocks! Keeps me young. I quote lots of movies. I used to write novels. but I can barely find time these days.
Favorite bar scene in a movie? Tombstone, when Doc Holiday and Johnny Ringo have a quick-draw competition."You look like you're about to die." "Me? I'm in my prime!"
Best tip you've ever received, either monetary or insight: The first time I stepped behind a bar, the Beacon Hill Tavern in Boston, the owner, Murph, stopped me and tried to explain the beauty of bartending. I don't remember the exact quote -- Murph is a fast talker -- but the gist of it was something like this: "Every time you step behind the bar, you get to put on a mask. It does not matter what is going on in your personal life; you are in front of a crowd. These people who are coming in are looking for something more than just a drink. They can make a drink at their house, and it would be a lot cheaper if they did. They come in looking for love, looking for advice, looking for a friend, looking for someone to just listen to their thoughts and insight. Back here, behind the bar, people listen to you, and it can be a little bit of responsibility, because if you do or say something they don't like, you can't just walk away. Use your head!"