Ken Kodys took top honors with a drink named Amnesia, appropriately enough, in the DeKuyper Mix Master Bartender Contest at last month's Denver Food & Wine Festival.
For anyone who could remember it after drinking one of his cocktails, it was an impressive showing for Kodys, who moved to Boulder from Boston in 2003, when he was just 21. But then, he mixes up impressive drinks whenever he's on duty at Bacaro, 921 Pearl Street in Boulder, where he's worked for almost five years and talks about everything from the best pick-up line he's ever heard to what pisses him off at work.
Now serving: Ken Kodys.
Bartending competitions: Love them? Hate them? I think they're great for meeting new people with similar passions. The results are not that important; I just love to try new ideas out and watch other people's styles. I won that comp in Denver with a drink that I think has a certain purpose in the market; it was super-tasty, but it's not a drink that I would consider the best cocktail I have ever made. The next day I was in a contest with much more mellow rules, and I didn't even place in the top three. So day to day, I think it comes down to judges and rules. We all have our personal skills and taste preference, and there are lots of politics in most contests.
Do you have rules when you are tending bar? No matter how cute the girl, I will not give out kisses over the bar (my ex-girlfriend didn't like this one). I don't dance in my bar while I am working; it has gotten me in trouble for a few different reasons.
What is your favorite drink to make? The Hot Regret! I enjoy making drinks with ingredients people are not used to, and especially when people watch me and think, "There is no way this will be good." The Hot Regret is one of those drinks that is sweet, spicy and well-balanced with ginger and cayenne. It makes people smile after the first sip.
What is your least favorite drink to make? SoCo and Lime shots...douchebags only! I don't really know why I hate them so much, but I do. I don't even mind how they taste; I just hate the sound of "SoCo and Lime."
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What's the weirdest drink someone has asked you to make? The first time I made a "Jamaican 10 Speed," I was a little concerned. I am in awe when people order half a draft beer and add cola, but I drink some strange shit at times, so I can't knock anyone's personal taste. We all march to the beat of a different drum.
What do customers do that pisses you off most? I am a very tolerant person, but two things do piss me off, and they happen on a pretty regular basis. 1) The guy who orders round after round of a single bottle of beer, and every time, he says he is just about to leave so he has to close out his tab, but he stays there all night. 2) The asshole who yells at you to get your attention or cuts off your conversation with another customer, then when you get to him, he turns to his buddies and says the classic, "So whaddaya you guys want?" and it takes like another five minutes for them to decide.
What do your co-workers do that pisses you off? It really pisses me off when I go somewhere with co-workers and they introduce me to their friends as their boss. Introduce me as Ken, Kenny, Kenneth, The Bull -- but please, don't introduce me as your BOSS!
Got it, Ken. We'll serve up another round of this interview later today -- in which Kodys reveals the best line he's ever gotten for a free drink.