Bartenders Bible

Michael Ojeda of Pub & Kitchen Promises His Drinks Will Transport You to a Fantastical World Full of Unicorns

Photo: Kirsten Henri

Bartenders spend most of their time, well, tending to you. They make you drinks, make you laugh and convince you that your drunken babble is nothing short of genius. Or at least the good ones do. In our weekly series, Bartenders Bible, we let the folks manning the speedrails and taps around town have their say. This week we hear from Pub & Kitchen’s Michael Ojeda, who pours sweet nectar from his taps that will make you see gnomes and cotton candy clouds, shares a handy technique for remembering names and refuses to love any bar more than another.

Name: Michael Antonio Ojeda

Coordinates: Pub & Kitchen

Bartender or mixologist?: I prefer bartender I guess. I don’t know why you have to label me. A mixologist sounds like a scientist and they wear lab coats. I would love to wear a lab coat behind the bar, but I don’t have Dr. Emmett Brown’s hair and I prefer a t-shirt. I do like to create a good drink though… it’s like food, sometimes simple is best and things can be over-thought.

Tenure at Pub & Kitchen: I was wearing a lab coat when we successfully bred a pig and a rabbit to make the Pabbit, so I have been here since we opened.

Total years behind the bar: I started nine years ago, but didn’t just bartend over those years. One must be well-rounded in life, so I worked in other areas of the business - served a bit, managed a bit.

Favorite beer: I have always been a big fan of Stone Arrogant Bastard. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout is an eye opener. My all-time favorite Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. It gives you all the nutrients you need to get through the day.

Favorite liquor: Brown.

Favorite cocktail: I love a good Manhattan, no maraschino cherries though! High fructose corn syrup is evil! I guess I really just love a well-made cocktail.

Your best customer in five words or less: A drinker.

Your worst customer five words or less: A non-drinker. No, they are okay, I guess. I’m not sure what they do though.

All bartenders should know a good joke. What’s yours?: This might have actually happened to me, I’m not sure…. So a priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk walk into a bar, the bartender says “What is this, a fucking joke?”

Have you ever had to break up a fight at your bar? What was it about?: No, never have. I generally tend to make sure things don’t get to that level before one breaks out. As a wise man Dalton once said “All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.”

What’s your patented drunk-handling technique?: Once again, Dalton’s rule is “be nice.” I’ll throw in Coughlin’s law: “Never show surprise, never lose your cool.” Oh and Coughlin’s other Law: “Bury the dead, they stink up the place.”

It’s okay to sleep with customers. Yes or no?: This is tricky. Customers are people, bartenders are people too. Many people have met their partners from behind a bar, although it is hard to make it work with the schedule and such. So I guess yes, it is ok, just do not make it a common occurrence.

The best tip you ever got?: There was this time when I was a bartender in Jamaica and my old bartending buddy just happened up to my bar and dared me to sleep with this older woman at the bar. Of course I did. She ended up taking me to New York and introducing me to all kinds of people. In the end I got drunk and realized that I had screwed up a good thing with a young Elizabeth Shue and tried to get her back. Now I have a son and a bar called “Flanigan’s Cocktails and Dreams”… then I wake up and I remember a gentleman gave me some advice to help remember someone’s name. Simply look them in the eye and say their name at least three times while speaking with them. It’s great advice, because I meet so many people and earnestly want to know who they are the next time they come in. That is a good tip.

What’s the best part of the job?: Yes, I do enjoy whiskey.

What’s the worst part of the job?: Yes, I do enjoy whiskey.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen at your bar?: Nothing bad, really. It’s a bar and people get drunk and act like… well they are drunk. It happens.

Give us one of your bartending tips-of-the-trade: Wear comfortable shoes and stretch. I like to do calisthenics before shifts and pre-shift keg stands as well, gets the blood flowing. It will save your back.

Why should people get a drink from you rather than the bartender down the block?: The drinks I make and the beers I pour are sweet nectars that were sent down from the gods and will send you reeling into a fantastical world of gnomes, unicorns, clouds made of cotton candy, oompa loompas and such.

Where do you like to go for a drink when you’re on the other side of the bar? I often ask myself that very question. I might walk for blocks and happen into a place I haven’t been to in years, or I have never been. I love all bars equally.

What’s the secret to being a great bartender?: I can’t tell you. The penalty for giving that information is too cruel. The Order, as it is called, will not have it.

Jeremy Thomson of The Khyber
Papi Hurtado of Savona
Leo Eisenstein of Grace
Colin Shearn of The Franklin

Know a bartender who should be part of the Bartenders Bible? Tips gladly accepted here.

Michael Ojeda of Pub & Kitchen Promises His Drinks Will Transport You to a