Five Questions for the Bartender: The Sexton's Connor O'Brien
"You’re not a bartender if you can’t crank out vodka tonics for a thirsty crowd. Not a good one, anyway."
Coming from Fife, (which was “like a million percent farmland”), Connor O’Brien was working in a print shop when he realized his love for chatting with people might combine well with his love of booze. He’s been tending bar since, from The Hi-Life to The Tin Table and, previously, at Rumba. You can catch him at his new gig at The Sexton, or doing a weekly “victory lap” at Vito’s his old stomping grounds.
Here, five questions for Connor.
How do you stay inspired? I have a running club with a bunch of other bartenders…We train for marathons together and run marathons together and push each other...I can’t show up hung over to a Sunday run and huff and puff behind those guys for two and a half hours. I did that once, and I felt like I’d let my tribe down. Also: Saying “yes” to new experiences. Having a thirst for knowledge. Playing rock and roll with my band, French Letters. Cranking the Cock Sparrer Pandora station at full volume.
What's the most underrated spirit? Easy: the spirit of service. I am there to laugh at your jokes, to facilitate social interaction, to make your Manhattan the way you like it, to track down a spare barstool to put under your butt, to crank out vodka tonics for a thirsty crowd, and to hold myself personally responsible for your happiness. You cannot excel at this job if you are misanthropic. This is a people business. Also: you’re not a bartender if you can’t crank out vodka tonics for a thirsty crowd. Not a good one, anyway.
What are three things you love about living in Seattle? The International District: amazing food, culture, history, cool old buildings; the Seattle Pinball Museum. Noodles. Running Club. Summer. It turns me upside down. Summer, summer, summer. It’s like a merry-go-round. Wait, that’s four more things right there.
Our favorite question: What is the craziest thing you've ever seen happen in a bar? I’ve jumped in the middle of a rumble between some angry military dudes and some mouthy crusty punks to break it up, had customers lunge across the bar to kiss me on the mouth. Late one night at Hank’s in Tacoma a relatively normal-looking dude strolled up to and several feet inside of the front door pushing a lawnmower he was looking to sell to the highest bidder. Lots of stuff happens in bars.
If the bar and restaurant world suddenly disappeared, what would you do? Wander the earth like Caine from Kung Fu? Host legendary parties with overflowing bowls of punch? Make tracks to a third world country where a man might be able to get himself lost? Who knows.