Behind the Bar with Bryan Dayton of Frasca Food & Wine

Frasca bartender Bryan Dayton
Frasca bartender Bryan Dayton

Bryan Dayton has been behind the bar at Frasca, the legendary three-star restaurant, since the eatery was eight months old. But he's been in Boulder a lot longer than that, and is an expert on fake IDs, trail running, the dangers of a "dirty" martini, and how important it is for the hospitality industry to get the respect it deserves.

Now serving: Bryan Dayton.

How did you get into bartending? I started bartending when I turned 21. I wanted to be a bartender long before that, though, when I was running around with my fake IDs in college; thank God I only got caught once. I was working at Juanita's, and they trained me up. A lot of beers and shots. It was so much fun!

What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen while working behind the bar? Too many to count. I am numb to bizarre behavior now. Society is crazy, and being in a bar, it brings out all the imperfections.

Where do you drink most regularly other than your own bar? At home. I have a stellar home bar. If you ever need a drink, let me know.

Do you have any rules when you're tending bar? No drinking, just tasting. Always make the guest feel at home. Make quality and consistent cocktails.

What is your favorite drink to make? Any classic cocktail.

What is your least favorite drink to make? Dirty martinis. If you want a salad, order one.

Weirdest drink someone ever asked you to make: An upside-down tequila hooker! Don't ask. You don't want it, I promise!

How many times do you have to see someone at your bar to considered them a regular? Once. What's your favorite alcohol? Tequila.

What's your drink of choice? Negroni and the Widow's Kiss.

One alcohol you despise: Vodka.

Other than your co-workers, who do you consider the best bartender in Colorado? Sean Kenyon, Mike Henderson, Anika Zappe, James Lee, Mark Stoddard.

Other than your own, what do you consider the best bar in Denver? The best cocktail bar is in Boulder at the Bitter Bar, but there are lots of great restaurants doing a ton of cool things: TAG, Root Down, Steuben's, Duo, Colt & Gray.

With co-workers, what is your bartender pet peeve? Ordering a drink from the computer and turning around and waiting for the cocktail to appear in thirty seconds. If I had that kind of magic, I wouldn't be bartending!

If your employer gave you the keys and let you change anything about your bar, what would you change? I am fortunate to work at a place where my bosses let me basically do what I want so long as it is top quality. I am trying to get them to buy an ice machine right now. I would love to have Kold draft behind the bar.

 

What do customers do that pisses you off? A lot of people haven't worked in the hospitality industry, and they have no idea how hard it is. The hospitality industry is huge, and we all serve a purpose in our society, and it kills me when people don't give it the respect it deserves. What's the most fun you've ever had while working? Being buried in cocktails on a busy night is my favorite. I love walking the line between disaster and perfection. It is such a rush to try to control chaos!

Best tip you've ever received, either monetary or insight: Don't fry bacon in the nude!

What's the worst/best job you've ever had? My dad is a contractor, and I had to work for him for a while, and we did this job where we lifted the foundation of a house. Well, to do that, some skinny guy (me) had to crawl under the house with all the creepy-crawly things in an extremely tight crawl space for a week straight. It was the worst. Working the press box during college was the best. I worked in the cafeteria at the University of Tennessee, so we got to work the press box on game days, and we got a pass to the whole stadium. It was so cool to go down to the field in the third quarter and see Peyton Manning winning games.

Tell us one thing about tending bar that we might not know: Bartending is a lifestyle and a great craft, yet it is extremely hard to master.

What do you think of bartending school? It depends on the school. I learned my basics from my original colleagues, Tim Lucca and Tom Sanders. Over the years I have changed my style and seriousness about my profession. I took the Beverage Alcohol Resource program in New York last year; I was lucky enough to graduate with honors, and I learned so much -- mostly history and spirits tasting. BAR is setting the standard for bartenders across the globe right now. The United States Bartenders Guild has also started a Master Accreditation program that mirrors what the Court of Master Sommeliers is doing. I love that there is so much emphasis on education these days. As far as the little classes you can take, I am not sure they are up to the standards we need in our craft. I am excited about the future of bartending education and hope to teach some classes some day.

What would you tell someone who wanted to get into bartending? Don't do it! Go to law school. Your life will be easier and your wife will be happier. If you are determined and hard-headed, then you have the basics to be a great bartender. Get a job at a good place as a barback and do everything you can to get behind the stick. Just remember that this is a craft and it is tough on the body and mind, yet it is a great feeling to make people happy and to educate and turn them on to new things.


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