In this interview, Courtney Wilson, bar manager at Williams & Graham and president-elect of the board of the Colorado Bartenders Guild, weighs in on what she'd like to see next for the guild, the drink that makes her forget her aversion to vodka and what she drank when she partied with Radiohead.
Westword: How long have you been a bartender? What made you get into the profession?
Courtney Wilson: I've been bartending for ten years. I got into it because I dated this guy in Georgia. He got weeded one night and was like, "Can you help me?" I fell in love with it.
When I moved to Denver, I was 21, and I sent out a bunch of resumes. I met Sean [Kenyon] at Steuben's; I was a hostess over there, and he put me behind the bar. I've been working with him for the last five years, and now I'm the bar manager at Williams & Graham.
I ran for president of the COBG board because I was looking for more ways to become involved in the community. This is an opportunity to bring all the bars together, and I'm going to try to have fun with it.
Bartending rule to live by: I have so many. How about: Don't drink green chartreuse while you're working - it'll end poorly.
Five words to describe your drink list: Extensive, accessible, booze-y, fun and educational.
Favorite drink on your list: Probably the old old-fashioned, honestly. It's easy and one of the original cocktails. It's made with rye, and it has a lemon twist, sugar cube and bitters. We serve ours with big rocks.
Favorite item on your back bar: Del Maguey Chichicapa. It's my go-to for a bartenders' choice drink.
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What was your craziest night behind the stick? I have a few. Maybe some I shouldn't even say out loud because I don't want Sean to know about them. Recently, though, Radiohead came into the bar. It was our other bartender's first night behind the bar. It was slow, so me, her and Radiohead drank green chartreuse and whiskey all night -- and then we closed the bar down with Radiohead. It was pretty fun.
Favorite Denver venue for a drink that's not your own and what you order when you're there: Linger. Carrie [Scroggins] always makes me a Spring44 honey flip. I don't usually go for vodka or honey -- and it's made with honey vodka -- but it's really good.
What's next for the Denver bartending scene? I hope more community. On the whole, I'd like to see a rise of more cocktail bars, especially places that are making good drinks but are fun and easy and you don't have to worry about being judged for ordering vodka tonics. For the COBG, I'd like to see the Guild doing more with charity. We should be using our resources to help the community.