Each week, we dive into the world of NYC bars and meet the drink-shaking players behind them. From the latest cocktailing trends to crazy stories on the job, these are the Bartender Tales of New York City.
Kenneth Vanhooser, bar manager, Syndicated
What’s your signature drink?
The Redrum, which is a play on a Jungle Bird with a mixture of three rums, Aperol, Cynar and lemon. It’s very tiki-esque, but it’s so booze-forward that it almost falls into the Negroni family. I’ve created a few versions of it over time, and this is the one I keep going back to because it’s such a crowd-pleaser. It’s not overly fruity, and the flavors are very harmonious.
How did you get into bartending?
The first gig I worked was about nine years ago in Nashville at a barbecue joint called Rippy’s Bar & Grill. During busy times, the barbacks would act as bartenders. I ended up managing the place but never lost touch with the bar side.
What’s your favorite part of being a bartender?
There’s instant gratification when a customer enjoys something—you get to experience it with them.
What’s your biggest customer pet peeve?
When people ask for the check and then don’t even look at it and just give you their credit card. Why don’t you just give me the credit card and ask me to close you out?!
Have any crazy bar stories?
I was bartending one night, and Dan Aykroyd came in. I’m a big fan, and I had just seen him the night before at a blues show. He started giving me this long speech, like an SNL-style skit, about his vodka, Crystal Head. I was so confused because I had no idea he was the owner of the brand, and he kept talking about vodka like a chemist would. I just went along with it.
Photograph: Liz Clayman