1 of 10
2 of 10
3 of 10
4 of 10
5 of 10
6 of 10
7 of 10
8 of 10
9 of 10
10 of 10
Favorite Drink: Jameson and Ginger Ale
“It was a really easy way to have fun at work and make money without interfering with my classes,” Kelly Wells says of how she began bartending four years ago while taking classes at Kent State. “Now I’m graduated and it’s nice to be able to come in at night and meet people in the community, and have time during the day to work on my art.”
Wells has even found a way to incorporate art with her bartending job. In her down time, she likes to experiment with stuffing olives with different things—wasabi, cheese, spinach and artichokes. “Garnishing drinks is what I enjoy,” she explains, “making them visually pleasing.”
Another fun part of her job? Serving up warm libations like cognac. “It’s so fun to put hot water on the bottom and then balance the cup on top so the heat comes up and warms the liquor,” she says, admitting “sometimes it’s a disaster ’cause it doesn’t stay.”
Though Wells loves her job, it does come with a few pet peeves. For instance, she gets frustrated when customers ask if she has any sweet red wines. “They don’t exist,” she explains. She also doesn’t like when customers won’t tell her when they don’t like something. She says she can see it in their eyes when they’re unhappy, and if there’s a problem she’d be happy to fix it.
Wells is currently saving up to one day move to New Haven, Conn. “I have a couple little bells that I got there,” she says, “and every time I get a really good tip I ring them to remind me of my goal.”
Favorite Drink: Mojito
In keeping with the bar’s friendly atmosphere, Kimberly Blouir likes it when people address her by name to request another drink, rather than bang an empty beer bottle or glass on the bar to get her attention. “I tell everyone my name,” she says. “They can call me when they’re ready (for more).” However, Blouir jokes that if you don’t want to use her name “Beer Goddess” or “Bar Bitch” will also do.
If that bottle or glass is empty and you’re not sure what to order next, Blouir will be happy to give you recommendations. With 10 years of experience behind the bar, she knows her stuff and has created a few signature drinks. One such creation is the Prickly Pear Martini, which features Voodoo Tiki Desert Rose tequila, triple sec, sour and lime. The tequila is made from the prickly pear plant, and is an ingredient Blouir discovered years ago when working in Florida. Thankfully, she was able to convince her local distributor to begin carrying it.
However, Blouir’s favorite drink to make is a mojito, regardless of the type. “I’m very picky about my mojitos,” she says. To make a good mojito, it’s important to have fresh ingredients (especially mint) and to avoid using too much sugar, she adds. Spring and summer are prime seasons for mojitos because that’s when you get the freshest mint. Pre-packaged ingredients just won’t do.
Like the restaurant, the bar at VegiTerranean is also vegan. This means you’ll find less variety when it comes to scotch, whiskey and other liquors that are sometimes cured in a pork-lined barrel, and you won’t find any Bailey’s or port. Don’t let that stop you from coming down and letting Blouir make you a drink, though. “Come in with an open mind,” she says.
Favorite Drink: Changes frequently. Margarita has been his drink of choice recently. “I’ve been on a tequila kick lately,” he says.
Raised in Northeast Ohio, Alexander White spent several years working as a bartender in New York before returning to Akron where he started work at Crave a few months ago. “The nice thing about Akron is you get to be a little more personal with your customers,” he says of the contrast between busy Manhattan night clubs and Akron’s low-key bar scene. “There’s more interaction here.”
Though he had an opportunity to go to bartending school, White declined. Instead, he felt he’d learn best “in the heat of the moment.” He has come up with a few of his own concoctions over the years. One of his personal favorites is Raspberry Lemonade, made with raspberry Stoli, Bacardi Limón, sour and seven, with a splash of Chambord that floats along the bottom. “It’s a good summer cocktail,” White explains, adding that “you always have to taste it with a little straw here, to make sure it’s just right.”
So what does your drink order say about you? According to White, young drinkers have a tendency to order something really sweet or really strong. Seasoned drinkers tend to order more traditional drinks that are strong and have a kick. “You can kind of tell the maturity level in somebody by what they’re drinking,” he says.
Favorite Drink: Jack Daniels
“I serve booze to my former Boy Scout leader. It’s funny how the world comes full circle,” says Bricco bartender Gabriel Riazi. “People who used to take me to soccer practice I now make Bombay Sapphire martinis for.”
Born and raised in the Rubber City, Riazi is a self-described “product of Akron.” You may have even seen the Kent State theater grad over the years in local productions at Porthouse Theatre, Weathervane Playhouse or the Canton Players Guild. But even if you don’t know Riazi personally, he’ll still give you great service. “The nicer your are to me, the nicer I am to you,” he says. “I always tell people I work for smiles, not tips.” Of course tips don’t hurt either.
Although Riazi hasn’t developed his own signature drink, he feels he makes “a pretty mean margarita,” and notes that all bartenders have their own flare when it comes to making drinks from Bricco’s martini list. One such concoction is the Hip Smurf, made with Hpnotiq, Smirnoff cranberry vodka, Skyy citrus, triple sec, lemon-lime soda and blue curaco. “It’s pretty potent,” he says. “It kicks your ass.”
So does the quality of liquor you drink have any bearing on how you’ll feel the next day? According to Riazi, there’s probably a bit of truth to that. And although he wouldn’t personally drink well liquors, he can see why some people do. “It’s like the concept of drinking a $10 bottle of wine or a $300 bottle of wine,” he explains. “At the end of the bottle, you’re gonna be in the same place.”