"A good bartender is someone who genuinely tries to put the right drink in the right hand."
Bartender Paul Borntraeger of The Grey Goose couldn't have said it better.
The trade also is about much more: inspiring a good time, mixing flavorful drinks, saving those who have had too much to drink from themselves.
Here are four Lexington bartenders who we think do their jobs exceptionally well.
Aaron Holmes Jr., DeVassa Bar and Lounge
Concocting everyone's favorite elixir isn't the only skill Aaron Holmes Jr., 23, has. The Eastern Kentucky University music marketing major also is a working music producer and a cartoonist.
How long have you been bartending? Two years. I've bartended at the Hyatt Regency, weddings, etc.
What's your ideal bar atmosphere? I like being able to serve my friends and be personable. I don't like it when it's too busy. I want to be able to talk and have fun.
What's the best thing about being behind the bar? It's the best seat in the house; you see everything.
What's your favorite drink to drink? To make? Water (laughs). I like making our special mojitos because a lot goes into those, and, for me, it's about the craftsmanship behind it all. And any kind of top-shelf bourbon with orange juice.
How did you get signed as a music producer? MC Lyte tweeted that she was looking for producers for background music for TV. I got together five tracks and I emailed them to her. She hit me back the same day and said she liked what she heard. I am actually signed now as a background music producer to DuBose Music Group out of New York City. (Holmes' music can be heard on the first season of Tiny and Toya, which airs on BET.)
What did it feel like when she returned your email? Relief. As a producer, that's the thing that worries you: Do people like your music? And for a pioneer of hip-hop to be like, "I like your sound and I want to use it," that was very gratifying. Music's been a part of me forever. I've been producing for 11 years.
Is Kuntry Noiz your group? We started out as two producers and one rapper at Kentucky State University, where I attended for a year. We would sneak into the music building and use the soundproof practice rooms in the basement. We went to a N.E.R.D. concert in Louisville in 2008, and that was the turning point — seeing a hip-hop band with live instruments. So we found a drummer, a keyboard player, a bass player, and we just kind of pieced a band together.
Lanie Mossing, Nick Ryan's Saloon
When you're a roller girl named Rascal and you have a good tattoo collection, being a bartender just tops off the "bad girl" image. But you wouldn't know that Lanie Mossing, 25, is a tomboy by just listening to her. Hailing from Milwaukee, Mossing has tended bar for four years. She made her way to Lexington through an internship with the Natural Resources Conservation Services. Bad girl or timid environmentalist? Find her at Nick Ryan's Saloon to figure out for yourself.
What's your favorite drink to make? Favorite drink to drink? I invented a drink called the Pink Lanie. It's gin, St. Germain, sloe gin and lemon juice. My favorite drink to drink? Wine. I like wine.
So you have a hobby outside of bartending? I'm a roller girl through the Roller Girls of Central Kentucky. I got into it because I had a roommate that was into roller derby.
How many tattoos do you have? Five.
What's your ideal customer? I prefer someone who's friendly and can carry on a good conversation, and I like it when it's evenly paced.
Your favorite bar atmosphere? Busy, but you can still talk to people.
Jody Shelton, Blue Agave Tequila Bar and Cantina
Jody Shelton, 27, from Irvine, has been bartending since he was old enough to drink. What's unique about Shelton is that he followed the rules and waited until he was 21 to have his first drink. Now as a veteran bartender who has a lot of bars under his belt, including hot spots along the beach in Tampa, Fla., he would prefer to party with his favorite customer base here in Lexington.
What is it about Lexington? I graduated from Eastern Kentucky University, so I was already in Lexington so much because there's not much to do there. I moved back from Tampa in March. There were so many bars and bartenders there, it was impersonal. I didn't like it. It was fun living on the beach, but Lexington is my home.
How long have you been bartending? Six years. I was 21 when I got my first bartending job: Bananas on the River, on the Kentucky River in Winchester.
What do you enjoy most about bartending? The people I get to meet every day. I have my regulars that come in, but you never know who's going to come through the door next. It's different every day. If I had to sit in an office all day, I would scream.
What makes a good bartender? Someone that has the personality to get along with everyone and at the same time they can still cut up and have a good time. I like being out in the public, talking to everyone. I like to serve people the way I would want to be served. If you can take care of someone and hold a conversation with them at the same time, then you're good. And a little "heavy pour" never hurt anything.
What's your favorite drink to make? Favorite drink to drink? El jefé margarita. I like it because it's a really smooth drink to have as much alcohol as it has in it. With the lime floater shot in it makes it fun. People just go crazy. It's the wow factor of getting a whole shot with it. I'm just a beer drinker, and I like Vegas bombs: Crown Royal and peach schnapps and a splash of Malibu rum and Red Bull. It is so good. It gives you enough energy to keep going.
What do you say when someone's obviously had too much to drink and you have to cut them off? You're done!"
Colonel" Paul Borntraeger, The Grey Goose
Paul Borntraeger, 25, a Kentucky Colonel and a history major at the University of Kentucky, has been behind the bar longer than most bartenders his age. At 16, he landed a barback job at Churchill Downs in his hometown, Louisville, and he has been at home behind the bar ever since. This Lexington bartender has a handlebar mustache that has caused accidents inside and outside of Grey Goose, but he's also responsible for a lot of positive experiences at your favorite bar.
How long have you been bartending? Five years. I was working at Churchill Downs from 16 on as a barback. Been bartending since 20 and a day.
What's your favorite drink to make? To drink? Favorite to make is probably a cosmo because it's almost always for a woman. I put care into my cosmos. My favorite drink to drink is probably a good ol' bourbon in a shot glass.
What's with the handlebar mustache? Is it a gimmick? I wanted to give people something to remember me by rather than just being "that bartender over there that just makes good drinks." Now, I can be "that bartender with the handlebar mustache."
What's the most outrageous thing you've ever experienced surrounding your 'stache? Once I almost caused a traffic accident, but last night we had the first drink drop. Last night, this guy saw it for the first time and forgot he was holding his beer, and that was funny because he admitted it.
What is your ideal bar atmosphere? I like it when it's really busy. When I'm pressured to make good drinks for a lot of people, when I know everybody's waiting on drinks, I do my best to get them out to them. I think that's when it's the most fun, when you have to be on your A game. ... I'm there to make money.
What makes a good bartender? A good bartender is someone who genuinely tries to put the right drink in the right hand. No matter how hard it is to make that drink or how slammed you are. Being able to read your customers. Anticipating. Knowing what they're looking for. My goal is getting you what you want initially, and then the next step is getting you something different you've never tried that you would like just as much.
What is the best thing about being behind the bar? It's really nice to get to know people and to teach them a little something about what they're drinking. Bartending crosses all special mediums of getting to know everyone. Everybody wants to know the bartender.