I started bartending at the Applebee’s in Aiken when I turned 21. Back then, South Carolina bars still served liquor in mini or “airplane” bottles, so I was a part of the class of South Carolina bartenders that transitioned to free pouring large bottles.
I tended bars for various Aiken establishments over the years, including the legendary Whiskey Junction, Sage Valley, and Soiree in the Alley. I became general manager at Soiree in the Alley before buying it out to start the short-lived Tank’d Moose with my best friend Kyle “Tank” Hayes.
I was the bar manager at three different restaurants owned by Hotel Aiken; the Polo Lounge, the Tiki Bar, and the 100 at Laurens. Eventually, I took a break from the bar business to concentrate on photography until I joined Brian “Chunky” Clark, the man who taught me to tend bar, to help open Whiskey Alley. More of a general manager now, I oversee parts of our different locations, including Whiskey Alley, Taproom, and Draft Society.
For our drink menus, I get input from all of the bartenders and outside sources including our fabulous wine/liquor rep., Heather Clark. Pairing creativity with high-quality products and fresh ingredients, I strive to consistently have a unique and innovative cocktail menu. Chef Chad helps us take our drinks to the next level by making in-house tinctures, bitters, and shrubs.
Part of that creativity includes naming the drinks. One of our most popular is the Waluigi, named after the Mario character. Like Waluigi, the cocktail is purple and a delicious combination of Daufuskie Island Blueberry Lavender Vodka, fresh squeezed lemon juice, sugar, and Prosecco.
Next time you’re in the Alley, ask me why our take on the Moscow Mule is named Donkey Stables.
I’ve been tending bar for over 15 years now, and every year I am more certain that bartending is 90% people, and only 10% drinks.