Vince Martinez of Maloney's Tavern nabbed first place at the Hpnotiq bartender competition at Suite Two Hundred in September, beating out eight other local bartenders. Each had to create a drink that featured Hpnotiq, a liqueur made from a blend of vodka, cognac and tropical fruit juices. Martinez got top scores in creativity, presentation, technique and overall taste with his Notiq Rupture concoction. But as he proves in this Q&A, he's not just a one-liquor guy.
Now serving: Vince Martinez.
Bartending competitions: Like them? Loathe them? I love bartending competitions; I don't know any real bartender who could hate them. I've done competitive flair bartending competitions and mixology competitions. At my first flair competition, I noticed one of the judges having a hard time sitting still. Turns out she was drunk, and at the end, she came up on stage and drunkenly kissed almost every guy and then fell -- and when she got up, she wet herself.
How did you get into bartending? I worked at a Safeway in high school; they opened a Starbucks, and I was promoted to run the department. When I went to college, I worked for a Holiday Inn. They hired me thinking that my Starbucks experience would make me a great wedding bartender. They were wrong! I had a very tough time learning what the heck to do. On the other hand, weddings are a blast, and the movie The Wedding Crashers is 100 percent true. I ended up leaving the Holiday Inn to work for Dave & Buster's to make more money while going to school. I trained myself to be a better bartender.
How do you feel about cutting people off? Cutting people off is part of the job, and I take it seriously. If you do something stupid while drunk and I haven't cut you off, it's my responsibility -- and I don't feel like paying fines or going to jail because you thought you "needed" that last Jäger bomb.
What's your worst cutting-someone-off story? At Dave & Buster's, there was a regular who just drank iced tea and played games. Well, a manager thought he looked intoxicated and tried to make him leave. I had to inform the manager that the guest did not drink and that he was disabled, not intoxicated. Yep, we all were super-embarrassed.
How often does someone have to come to your bar to be considered a regular? A regular is someone who comes in at least two or three times a month, someone who enjoys the place and usually gets to know everyone working there.
What's the best line you've ever heard for a free drink? Someone said she needed free drinks because we'd removed her nineteen-year-old boyfriend from the bar. She was at least 35.
What's the best pick-up line you've ever heard? A guy who still comes in says he's a retired Australian rugby player. He has a very thick accent, and the girls eat it up -- but as the night goes on, he loses his accent and forgets his cover.
What's the weirdest thing you've seen while working? A girl on her first date with some guy made out with two other guys while she went to smoke. He kind of ignored her the rest of the night and offered to pay for a cab to take her home. Well, she got upset and wanted to go home with him. When he refused, she stole his coat and said she was going to put a voodoo curse on him and ran out the door. The scene was hilarious. That guy still comes to Maloney's, and we laugh about it.
What would you do if the owners gave you the keys to your bar? I would have karaoke, because I love watching karaoke.
What's your favorite drink to make? A Sexy Alligator. It's a shot with three layers of liquor: Jäger, Midori and Razzmatazz. I just love everyone thinking it's amazing that I can make the liquors layer.
What's your least favorite drink to make? For some reason, it just bothers me when someone asks for a "Blue" Long Island.
What's the weirdest drink someone has asked you to make? A Wet Willy. It was just a quarter-ounce of vodka that he snorted up his nose.
What's your favorite alcohol? Tequila. I enjoy the different flavors of tequila.
What's your favorite drink? A caipirinha made with muddled lime and sugar and Brazilian rum.
What's your least-favorite alcohol? I despise X-Rated. Because Hpnotiq is way better, quite incredible.
Who's the best bartender in town? That's a toss-up between my good friend Kevin Schmid or Josh Jacobs. They both work at Maloney's.
Aside from your own place, what's the best bar in town? Lime. It has a great atmosphere and even better drinks and food. It's always a lot of fun.
When you're not at your place, where do you drink? I like to frequent the Ginn Mill on Larimer. Very friendly staff and great drink specials.
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SHOW ME HOW
Do you have any rules for bartending? Always take care of the guest first. Be accurate with making drinks. Use bar flair and speed to make it fun. Always, always serve safe and ID. And the most important rule: Give good effort to entertain and make everybody happy.
What's the best tip you've ever gotten, either monetary or insight? A lawyer who had a big group with him said he had just been promoted. He wanted the most expensive stuff, and at the end of the night, his bill was $300-ish. He said he used to be a bartender and wanted to help me out, so he offered to give me $5,000. The only catch was he wanted me to write it on the bill. I said no, I couldn't do it without him writing the tip, so I'd write $60 for a 20 percent tip and call it even. He said he was testing me, and ended up putting a zero next to $60 to make $600 -- and then gave $500 in cash, too. Weird, but nice.
What's your advice for someone who wants to get into bartending? Don't expect anything to be handed to you. And whatever you do, don't be a "Chad" and go to bartending college. Your best bet is to go to a full-service restaurant and work your way up. Learn every position possible and become as well-rounded as possible. And never burn bridges: The industry is too small, and people won't forget you. Build a good reputation and eventually move up to where you want to be.
What's one thing we might not know about bartending? It's not all fun and games. Too many people see us as super-party guys who just drink at work. But most of the guys I've worked with are super-intelligent and very motivated. A lot of times, we're very involved in the business as far as cost control and ordering and tracking the liquor. There are a lot of stresses and behind-the-scenes problems in creating the atmosphere that so many people love to be around. Still, I love what I do because I can have a great time at work and enjoy it with so many new people every week.