Welcome back to Another Round, a new column here on The Social dedicated to learning about the drinks we all love and the people who so thoughtfully shake, stir and pour them for us. With their expert cocktail-making and conversation-carrying skills, our friends behind the bar play a key role in making sure a good time is had by all and are the unsung heroes of any party.
Like Megan Jay, the badass Beverage Director at Urban Cowboy who we met at our unforgettable Nashville dinner during The "After" Party Tour. Megan's humor and hospitality put everyone at ease and I was thrilled to catch up with her after the event to talk drinks and life as a bartender. And be sure to stay till the end for a special cocktail recipe she invented.
Q: When did you start bartending?
I started bartending full time in 2017. I parted ways with a kitchen job and found myself at a fork in the road—so to speak – with my cooking career. If I took another kitchen job it’d be time to commit to back of house for the rest of my service industry career, or, I could do a 180 and try something in front of house. I got a job as a barback, bought some cocktail books, and annoyed the fuck out of every bartender I worked with… watching them and asking questions until I eventually started getting bartending shifts.
Q: If you were a drink, what drink would you be and why?
I want to say a nice glass of scotch, but since we’re being honest, probably a shot of well tequila. Kinda rude but also fun.
Q: What is the most memorable experience you’ve had bartending?
Oh god, one year for Repeal Day, the bar I was working at threw a service industry party that was sponsored by Hendrick's. If you worked in the industry you got to drink for free, period. Repeal Day landed mid-week that year so we weren’t really expecting a huge crowd but apparently word travels fast when there’s free alcohol, and we just got absolutely annihilated. In the 2+ years I bartended there, I’d never seen so many people crammed into that bar, ever.
Previous O.G. employees who came to the party just walked in and immediately jumped behind the bar, trying to bail us out. The owner missed a gala she was supposed to go to and instead ended up barbacking in an all-white dress and heels and all the guests who came were just eating it up. It was a complete shitshow, but since everyone in the room was service industry, they all knew what it was like getting your ass kicked like that and there was nothing but love and support (and hundreds of shots of gin) going around. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Same with the hangover the next day.
Q: What’s the most unusual drink request you’ve ever received?
One of my whiskey reps brought in this Tabasco-flavored whiskey and wanted to mess around with making an Old Fashioned out of it. I happened to have some hot fries on hand as a snack (it’s a guilty pleasure, please don’t judge me) and he asked me to crush up some hot fries and rim the Old Fashioned glass with the hot fry dust. Obviously I obliged.
Q: Favorite drink you like to make for your guests when entertaining at home?
If you come to my house, I hope you like beer. Not craft beer, either, like… Modelo. If I’m feeling extra hospitable I might make you a michelada, but couldn’t tell you last time I made a cocktail at home.
Q: What do you love most about bartending?
I love pretty much everything about bartending, but if I had to narrow it down, the creative aspect is the most rewarding for me. I love taking a few minutes to talk to someone about what flavors they like and creating something off the cuff, just for that person. It’s definitely a bonding moment between you and your guest.
Q: And what do you loathe?
For god’s sake give me your group’s drink order at once. Promise I’ll remember it and the people behind you will really appreciate me making 5 vodka sodas (with a lime) at once instead of you ordering one at a time. That and guys commenting on a drink being pink or served in a “girly” glass. Guys; don’t ever do this, it’s so old.
Q: Last but not least, who is your dream happy hour companion?
Every time someone brings a dog into the bar I think about how sick it would be if we got to serve them drinks. I can’t imagine a more fun shift. Think about it.
Make Megan's White Horse at home or serve it at the next party you host — click here to download the recipe!