Jonathan Greschler, who recently landed behind the bar at Fuel Cafe, started bartending right after college. "I was in North Carolina working at a microbrewery," he remembers. "The guys behind the bar were older than me, and they took me under their wing. We had an advantage, because it was a microbrewery so we were already snobby. Cocktails were a natural step."
He made the transition, he says, because it was a calling. But he also enjoyed another side effect of the gig. "I'm notoriously shy," he explains. "You can put me in a room with 100 women, and I won't talk to anyone. Every girlfriend I've ever had I met at work. Working behind the bar was an easy way to be social. Otherwise, it takes me forever to talk to people."
In the late 1990s, Greschler moved out to Colorado with James Lee, today a Playboy top ten bartender and head of the beverage program at Black Belly. But he says his cocktail world really opened up when he started working as the general manager at TAG when that restaurant opened two years ago, and he got to work with Alex Parks, who's currently at Green Russell, and Mike Henderson, who heads the bar program at Root Down. "We kept talking about things and talking about things," he explains. "It's the fun factor for me. Chance to be dorky and social." Since then, Greschler had the chance to work at Blue Hill in New York before he ran the floor at the former Wild Catch (now Roam) and then joined Fuel.
What follows are his thoughts on life behind the stick:
Bartending rule to live by: It's about them, not about you. And do things the same way every time. That's really important. To be creative, you have to have an idea of what you're doing and then build off of it; it's not sneaking into your parents' liquor cabinet and mixing everything together. You're supposed to make something balanced.
Five words to describe your drink list: Classic, creative, fresh, seasonal and changeable - if I have someone who won't drink gin, for instance, I understand the components of the cocktail well enough to switch it out for something they like.
Favorite drink on your list: Right now, we're doing a lot of variations on a classic cocktail called the Moscow mule. We did one called a Mexican Burro where we took out the vodka and put in tequila. Then we did gin, and because we were sticking to a donkey theme, we called it the Dumb Ass. We did one with Peacemaker American Whiskey and called it the Peace of Ass. I'm all about having fun with my drinks.
Also, I really like shrubs, which are cocktails make with gastrique, a vinegar-fruit juice extract. We're doing a blackberry shrub with Leopold blackberry liqueur. I feel like Sean Kenyon would be proud.
Favorite item on your back bar: Chartreuse. I feel like a little old lady drinking my glasses of chartreuse. I love the reaction of putting it in front of people. It's like little kids tasting new food, and you don't get to see that with adults that often. They put their face in it and smell it, push it away and then finally try it. So that's really fun.
What was your craziest night behind the stick? The bar I worked at in Raleigh was open on St. Patrick's Day, and it was always a shit show. People would carry six pints in each hand, and they'd start at 9 a.m. and go until 2 a.m. We'd have enough staff to put everyone on. I can remember being there at 5:30 in the morning and pulling money out of weird places, and the whole restaurant would be soaked with beer.
Favorite Denver venue for a drink that's not your own and what you order when you're there: Right now, it's definitely Williams & Graham. I just love that place. And I drink 50/50s with yellow and green chartreuse.
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