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." See also: A bartender by any other name...is still a bartender.
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.
First up: Ryan Layman, who runs the bar at Steuben's and has a mastery of classic cocktails -- and a flair for creating new ones. But more important, he's one of the most hospitable bartenders in town and a leader amongst his peers. In this inaugural list, Layman reveals his gang affiliations, his prowess with imaginary instruments and how he served beers to one of his high school teachers.
Herewith, 25 things you never knew about Ryan Layman
1. I have a double BFA in sculpture and photography from CU Denver.
2. My original goal was to teach high school art, but I realized I'd probably drink more if I had to teach sixteen-year-old slackers about art history than I would if I were a bartender.
3. As far as drinking goes, I didn't imbibe alcohol until I was 25, because I was straight-edge until then. My twin brother Randy and I grew up playing music in hardcore, straight-edge bands.
4. The last band Randy and I played in was called Brainhammer. We had a frozen margarita bong on stage. We were definitely not a straight-edge band.
5. I was in a straight-edge gang/crew when I was 21. That lasted about six months until I realized that I wasn't a fighter, nor did I want to be in a gang. I have a huge cover-up on my shin hiding the gang tattoo.
6. I have a sunglasses tattoo of on my arm, which covers up my high school sweetheart's initials. She and I are still great friends, but she definitely gave me hell when I covered her initials up...even though it was years after we broke up.
7. I had a long-haired chihuahua named Emma for twelve years. She weighed four pounds and was the best dog/friend ever. If you want your life to become ten times greater, adopt a long-haired chihuahua and call her "Emma."
8. Randy and I have identical twin sisters who are seven years older than us. My grandmother on my mother's was a fraternal twin.
9. As twins, Randy and I have been active twin study participants with CU Boulder since we were about three years old. We still contribute to this day, and if you've studied anything over the past thirty years or so that's tied to twin psychology, I bet our information has been a very tiny part of it.
10. I love antique and thrift stores. Finding an amazing treasure full of unknown stories makes me happy.
11. I'm a bit of a recluse. Working in the service industry for the past nineteen years has taught me everything I know about socializing and how to comfortably relate to people.
12. I've always thought that Jeremiah Johnson had it all figured out.
13. I've never been outside of the country, save for some family road trips to the Mexican border or on silly Caribbean cruises with my mother.
14. My mother is addicted to Caribbean cruises.
15. For a kid who grew up playing baseball and basketball, I know virtually nothing about what's happening in sports right now, except that a Rockies game is great for a bratwurst and overpriced beer. I have an ESPN app on my phone for sports just in case something sports-related comes up with a guest at the bar -- because, you know, a bartender should know everything.
16. I'm in the US Air Guitar Hall of Fame. As "Dreamcatcher" -- my air guitar persona -- I took second place at the 2010 Nationals in New York after a heated battle against Romeo Dance Cheetah.
17. The people from US Air Guitar flew me out to Seattle to judge a battle of the bands for Virgin Airlines once. Aside from me and Hot Lixx Hulahan (fellow air guitarist and gentleman), the judging panel consisted of some MTV veejays, the rock band The Donnas and Jerry Harrison of Modern Lovers/Talking Heads fame. In the three hours I spent across the table from Jerry Harrison, neither Hot Lixx or I could summon the courage to tell him how much of an influence he had on our lives. I spent the rest of the night drinking free Heineken and trying to make out with one of the member of The Donnas.
18. From the ages of twelve to 26, my name was Ryan Anthony Strecker, not Ryan Alva Layman. Though I was born Ryan Alva Layman, my stepfather adopted my brother and me and changed our names. When Randy had his first daughter, Lucy, at the age of 26, he and I decided to change our names back to our birth names. This was one of the best things I've ever decided to do.
19. Changing your name is a total pain in the ass. I really feel for anyone who gets married and has to jump through all of those hoops.
20. I wrote a paper for Randy when he was in college. He had to read a book called King Leopold's Ghost, but he didn't want to read it, so I did. I'm pretty sure he got an "A" on the paper. Have I mentioned that my brother is a slacker?
21. Okay, so Randy isn't a slacker at all. If there's one person I look up to more than anyone else, it's my brother. He's a great man.
22. I write in all capital letters because of Mr. Bruno, my middle school drama teacher. He was writing on the chalkboard at school one day (in all caps, of course) and went on a tirade about how the school thought he was instilling poor habits in his students.
23. Mr. Bruno would come into the Red Robin I worked at when I was in high school and drink a lot of 32-ounce beers.
24. I love to play craps. I have a craps felt at home and have taught a few friends how to play. I'm such a great professor of the game that the last time I had friends over, they took over $100 in quarters from me.
25. Though I don't believe in a heaven, I firmly believe that Sassy's Bar in Portland is possibly the closest thing to it. P.S. Layman wants us to know 25 things about Melissa Durant of the forthcoming Acorn.