Darek Betz has worn every hat in a bar. Back in his native Arizona, the Brave Horse Tavern bartender says he once “went from kitchen, to DJing, to barbacking all in one week.” After that rapid series of promotions, the next step seemed obvious—manager, a position he now both misses, and doesn’t. "I was able to keep myself busy managing,” he says, “but I also learned that most [people in] management wished they started bartending."
Now a resident of Lower Queen Anne and a full-time bartender at the Tom Douglas favorite in South Lake Union, Betz serves handcrafted specials, including the Spring Sour, made with bourbon, honey, and Tuaca. With 13-plus years in the industry under his belt—and a well-rounded resume—Betz brings more to the table than delicious cocktails. “I’m hoping that the next place I manage will be my own spot,” Betz says. “I’ve got hundreds of ideas.”
Here are five questions we asked Darek Betz:
What is the most underrated spirit?
Tequila. Most people are afraid to revisit the stuff ever since they last hugged the toilet. A nice Anjeo can be sipped just like a fine bourbon, or mixed into my favorite: the Paloma (tequila, squirt, lime).
What do you order when on the other side of the bar?
I'm a craft beer kind of guy. Lately my palate has allowed me to love sours, so if you have a delicious sour on tap I'll take it!
What's one of the craziest things you've seen (or seen someone do) in a bar?
Thirteen years working in the bar scene, you see a lot of shenanigans. Anything from sex being had in any spot you can think of (yes the dance floor too), to a snifter being smashed into someone's forehead. One of my favorite shenanigans, though, would be when one of the managers I was working with back in Arizona conned 16 people throughout the night into doing a “gin sniffer.” Gin sniffer is when you flip over a shot glass, fill the little half bubble with gin, grab a straw, and—you guessed it—start sniffing till it's gone! The reactions to this were priceless!
What are people ordering from you lately?
Ever since I started working in SLU I have been receiving orders for a Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger beer, lime juice). I had never even heard of this drink until 2 years ago, but everybody wants one. Unfortunately we haven't carried ginger beer since we opened.
What would you say that you do differently than other bartenders?
I would say that the difference between myself and most other bartenders is that I keep the bar clean. I started off as a barback when I got into this business, and have never lost the sense of urgency to keep the bar around me presentable for the public at all times. I can't seem to overlook untidiness!