Memphis Bartenders

​Some of Memphis' best ambassadors and tour guides are hiding in plain sight. On your next visit, pull up a stool and get to know one of these great bartenders.

Stacey Greenberg | July, 2017

Vincent & Morgan

Bari Ristorante 

Although technically a fine dining restaurant, Bari is a great place to go for drinks and snacks at the bar. Located on the edge of Overton Square, they have a huge cheese selection, amazing small plates like Frutti di Mare Fritti, and life changing carbonara. All of the bartenders are top notch and enthusiastic, and Thursday-Saturday you can go upstairs to the super secret Dodici bar, which only seats twelve.

Vincent typically mans the bar at Dodici on weekends, but can be found at the downstairs bar on Tuesdays from 5-10p. Each of his cocktails is a work of art, and he’s happy to talk shop about his creations. His House Amaro Sour has just hit the menu and features the house aquavit, which is a high proof Scandinavian spirit steeped in fresh dill, caraway, cardamom, star anise and citrus peel for 10-12 days. You can’t buy it in Tennessee, so Vincent makes a batch every week or two. (He even grows the dill.) He says making it in-house results in an aquavit that is fresher and has more nuance.

But back to the drink. It also has two different amaros--Braulio and Nardini, orange blossom water, honey syrup, a pinch of rosemary and maldon salt.

When it comes to sightseeing, Vincent says he loves the old buildings in Memphis, especially downtown. He recommends just walking around, but suggests a stop at the Jack Robinson Gallery. Robinson wasn’t born in Memphis, but lived the last years of his life here. The gallery has some amazing photographs of famous rock stars and the like, but Vincent especially likes his documentation of the gay community in New Orleans in the sixties and seventies.

Have dinner and drinks downstairs at Bari and a nightcap at the super secret Dodeci

Morgan tends bar in Dodici on Thursdays and can be found at the downstairs bar on Sundays and Mondays. She’s equally enthusiastic about cocktails and loves creating drinks based on things she’s eaten around town. “I go out to eat a lot and I keep a notebook of flavors that strike me,” she says.

Her latest cocktail, Father Mulcahy's R & R, was inspired by an Iced Vanilla Latte she had at the newly opened French Truck at Crosstown Concourse. (Have you placed Father Mulcahey yet? He was the clergyman on M.A.S.H. Morgan didn’t have a TV growing up, but she did get to watch M.A.S.H. with her dad.)

The R&R is a year round kind of thing and is made with traditional Jamaican rum, Campari, Averna amaro, Cocchi rosa aperitivo, an espresso vanilla syrup Morgan made, a twist of grapefruit, nutmeg, and rosemary.

If Morgan was going take someone around town she’d definitely go to the National Civil Rights Museum. She also likes to take visitors on progressive dinners to places like Gus’s Fried ChickenCharlie Vergo's RendezvousThe PeabodyEarnestine & Hazel’s, Catherine & Mary’s, and Slider Inn. Don’t even get her started on the Memphis Grizzlies NBA basketball team. 

Adam Petrofsky

The Cove

Nestled in the Broad Avenue Arts District, the Cove is a great place to have a drink in the back patio, eat oysters at the bar, or listen to live music on the weekends. This pirate themed dive bar is warm and welcoming. 

Adam has been manning the bar for nearly seven years. While the menu is full of hand-crafted cocktails, he rejects the mixologist label--he says he’s just pouring drinks. Adam wears flannel year-round, though he pairs it with flip flops in the summer. He remembers names, faces, and drinks. Loved by many, his favorite customers are the four-legged friends that come in with regulars. Don’t take it personally if he fills the black lab named Ruby’s water bowl before he tops you off.

His personal drink of choice is a shot of Jameson, but for those looking for something a little more refreshing, he recommends the Mojito Germain. Adam starts by crushing the ice himself, then adds rum, lime, sugar, mint from the back patio, and a splash of St. Germain. 

As far as sightseeing, Adam says not to miss Sun Studio to witness the birth of rock-n-roll.

Adam with the Mojito Germain

Aaron & Lauren

Hog & Hominy

East Memphis’s Hog & Hominy is “Italian dining with a southern drawl” which basically means pork is featured prominently as it is in all of the restaurants started by James Beard award winning chefs, Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman. Vegetarians should have no fear, the classic margherita pizza is hard to beat. The vibe is casual, the bar is lively, and there’s even a bocce ball court.

The cocktail game is strong at Hog & Hominy. Aaron, who is the current bar manager, got his start at the old Hi-Tone live music venue. He says he had a different mindset coming from a dive bar. When he heard they were going to have to start wearing aprons, he threatened to quit. Instead, he added some heavy metal patches and resewed the straps to be more like suspenders. Now he enjoys filling his apron pockets with his personal bar tools, including scissors. (“Everyone else has scissors so I figured I'd get some too.”) He says that his bar staff cooks and preps and holds to the same standards as the restaurant.

Aaron & Lauren will craft you the perfect cocktail

Aaron’s current cocktail of choice is the Box Elder. It’s made with Weller Special Reserve, which is a blended Kentucky bourbon from the fine folks who make Pappy Van Winkle; aqua di cedro, which is a grappa based citron liqueur; and sfumato, an Italian rhubarb bitter liqueur. It’s a take on a Manhattan.

When asked about his favorite tourist attraction, Aaron gets real serious. “The Stax Museum. I'm very much into music. There's a lot of heavy stuff to think about at Stax. It’s where black folks and white folks came together to make music. A lot of cities don't have that.”  Lauren has been working at H&H for four years, but just started training behind the bar seven months ago. She was happy to try something new and sees bartending as craft. “I like getting to create something,” she says.

Biased towards bourbon, Lauren is also a fan of the Box Elder. “It’s incredible,” she says.

As far as tourist attractions, she suggests Sun Studio because it’s the coolest.

Shea

The Beauty Shop

The Beauty Shop, located in the heart of Cooper-Young, is a labor of love for chef/owner Karen Carrier. Having just celebrated its 15 year anniversary, the restaurant is known for its décor, which pays homage to its former incarnation as a 50’s style beauty parlor. (It was formerly Priscilla Presley’s curl-and-dye spot.) The food offers flavors from around the globe, but with a Southern touch. Sit beneath an old hooded Belvedere hair dryer while enjoying one of Carrier’s signature dishes like Watermelon & Wings, or sidle up to the bar for cocktails and snacks.

Shea has worked for Karen for 14 years, and he loves working for Karen. “This is the only time I ever worked anywhere this long.”

A fan of all of the cocktails, Shea shies away from recommending any one over the other. “I'll make anything you want and I'll make it with a smile,” he says.

When given some parameters, in this case bourbon, he recommends the Solstice State of Mind. It’s a mixture of Bulleit bourbon, blueberry syrup, lemon, and thyme.

As far as what to do in Memphis, Shea is equally open-minded. “Oh man, listen to music at DKDC, shoot over to The Bar-B-Q ShopStax Museum--do that, drive by and get a picture at Elvis’s house--the first one (on Audubon Drive) and the second one (Graceland). If you wanna wait in line, Jerry's Sno ConesTwilight Sky Terrace on The Madison Hotel rooftop has no crowds and the best view of the river. Oh and don’t forget the Shelby Forest General Store!”

The Beauty Shop and Earnestine & Hazel's are some of the most unique bars in Memphis

Karen & Nate

Earnestine & Hazel’s

Located downtown, Ernestine & Hazel’s is Memphis’s most famous dive bar for a reason. It represents the soul, jazz, and blues that echoed into streets in the seventies when legends like B.B. King, Tina Turner, and Aretha Franklin went there for a meal after playing at nearby Club Paradise. These days, Ernestine & Hazel’s boasts a killer jukebox, delicious soul burgers, free pool, late hours, and live music. Oh and maybe a ghost or two.

Karen has worked behind the downstairs bar for sixteen years. She works Wednesday through Saturday and says, “I don't do nothing here except serve burgers and beer.” Karen runs a tight ship, so you best mind your manners. When asked about things she’s witnessed over the years, she just smiles and says, “Every time I think I've seen it all, something else happens.”

Her picks for visitors are Sun Studios, The Rock 'n' Soul Museum and Gus's Fried Chicken.

On Friday and Saturday nights be sure and go upstairs to Nate’s bar, especially if hard liquor is what you’re after. Nate, 73, has been tending the piano bar for twenty five years. Retired from Budweiser, he hasn’t had a drink since 1985, but he’s more than happy to make you one.

Nate loves to visit, so take a seat and stay awhile. When asked what visitors should do, he says, “Well, they can start on Beale Street...”