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Cocktails and Conversations The beginnings of a bartender BY Joel Finsel ● Devour contributor, mixologist and author of ‘Cocktails and Conversations from the Astral Plane’


’ve been a professional bartender-cummixologist for almost 20 years. I’ve won awards and had recipes published, which I tell you not out of pride—it’s a strange craft to take pride in, after all. If it’s true a bartender is the everyman’s therapist, then we’re also the everyman’s enabler. The service industry in general can be melancholy, which is why many do drugs and stay up late, and sleep with each other disastrously, and talk endlessly about quitting but never really quitting. And, no matter how fancy the restaurant, there’s always shit work—even at the A-listiest restaurants. I never worked anywhere that, at some point, I was not handed the mop. I mention it only so readers know I take the craft of drink-making seriously. It’s a rare art—a necessary art. I went to bartending school in 1997 over winter break from college. I was a freshman studying to become an English teacher. I had been a dishwasher and a busboy, which I liked because they didn’t require much talking. Still, neither did much in the way of impressing girls. There were about 20 of us in bartending class. The instructor was tall and kind of dorky. The other prospects and I sat around a pretend bar in an office complex, while our teacher showed us how to make whiskey sours, grasshoppers and Long Island iced teas, using fake ingredients. He explained how the Tanqueray bottle was modeled after British fire-hydrants and how Beefeater gin was named after British royal bodyguards who stand outside Buckingham Palace, while wearing red coats and furry

• Right: Joel Finsel Courtesy photo


Devour Summer/Fall 2017  

Eat and drink across southeastern NC