tbt* ultimate bar guide: bartenders around the bay

Planning to go out and enjoy a drink? Read up on what these popular bartenders have to say about their trade.
Jess, Leaven Brewing, on Friday, Aug. 02, 2019 in Riverview.  ALLIE GOULDING   |   Times
Jess, Leaven Brewing, on Friday, Aug. 02, 2019 in Riverview. ALLIE GOULDING | Times [ ALLIE GOULDING | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Sept. 14, 2019|Updated Sept. 16, 2019

Jason Lyons, Mr. Dunderbak’s Biergarten and Brewery, Tampa

Jason Lyons, Mr. Dunderbak’s Biergarten and Brewery, Tampa. [Times]
Jason Lyons, Mr. Dunderbak’s Biergarten and Brewery, Tampa. [Times] [ Tampa Bay Times ]

You both brew and bartend at Mr. Dunderbak’s. Which beer’s your favorite at the end of a shift?

As a brewer, I normally drink whatever our most recent beer on tap is, but of the beers we brew on a semi-regular basis (we don't have a “core four”) I would have to say our Smoked Marzen.

You stock quite a few beers at Mr. Dunderbak’s. What’s your recommendation for guests who aren’t sure which beer to try?

The great thing is that with 50+ draft lines, our staff can ask a series of questions (and bring samples) to help our guests pick the right beer for their meal or to enjoy on its own. Personally, I'm a huge fan of flights, as they show off our in-house produced beer but also allow a proper sampling of a variety of products.

What’s a current brewing trend that’s surprised you?

New England/Milkshake IPAs, or the zero/low BU (bittering units) pale ales. I understand the appeal of tons of hop flavor in beer, but hop flavor is not hop bitterness, and without at least a touch of bitterness to offset the sweetness of two-row [malt], you end up with an unbalanced product that eventually just becomes a malt bomb.

What’s the strangest order you’ve taken at the bar?

I never understood Clamato beers. We brew an Oyster Stout at Dunderbrau, but the acidity of tomato always seemed at odds with the medium-low mouthfeel and clean aromas associated with the lagers that Clamato is typically blended with.

Where do you go for beers when you’re not at Mr. Dunderbak’s?

Easiest question! Ty Mathis' Stein & Vine is less than 10 minutes from my house and features an impressive draft and bottle selection along with a constantly evolving menu. Otherwise it's The Wild Rover, a hidden gem near Westchase where you can actually get a proper English Breakfast on the weekends. It's also the only place I know of in the tri-county area that makes an actual dark English mild [ale].

Read more from tbt*'s ultimate bar guide:

Readers’ favorite bars and breweries

Tampa Bay brewery guide

Bartenders around the bay

Women in brewing

Tampa Bay’s most dynamic boutique distilleries

The Flamingo turns 50. Is it the oldest bar in St. Petersburg?

Taste sour beers at these tongue twisting taps

Boozy brunch

Jess London, Leaven Brewing Co., Riverview

Jess, Leaven Brewing, in August in Riverview.  ALLIE GOULDING   |   Times
Jess, Leaven Brewing, in August in Riverview. ALLIE GOULDING | Times [ ALLIE GOULDING | Tampa Bay Times ]

There’s a big variety of house beers on draft in Leaven’s tasting room. Do you have a go-to recommendation when someone has no idea which to order?

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If a guest truly has no idea what to order, I'll typically recommend our Cheeky Blonde. It won a gold medal for best blonde ale in Florida [at the Best Florida Beer Championship] this year and is quite the crowd pleaser here at Leaven.

Which beer do you drink after a shift?

My go-to shift beer is easily our Summertime Pale Ale. Crisp, refreshing and with the perfect hop finish. It's easy to sip on while chatting with a customer or in between rushes.

What’s a beer trend that you’ve noticed lately?

All sour everything! I've noticed an increased interest in sours lately. I love a good berliner and I'm here for this trend! Brewers have a lot of creative freedom with this style which makes for some pretty strange creations.

Have you taken any unusual or noteworthy beer orders?

I recently asked a regular of ours what he'd like to drink. He replied "all of them," so I gave him a splash of all 12 of our beers in one pint glass. To my absolute surprise, he enjoyed it enough to order it again!

What’s your favorite bar to visit when you’re not at Leaven?

Coppertail Brewing is my go-to spot when I'm not at Leaven. I've always said my love for craft beer started at Coppertail Brewing with their Brews Banner Imperial IPA.

Robbie Ruckles, Salty’s, Gulfport

Robbie Ruckles [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]
Robbie Ruckles [ALLIE GOULDING | Times] [ ALLIE GOULDING | Tampa Bay Times ]

Salty’s draws a pretty eclectic crowd. What’s the strangest drink order you’ve received?

A parasiter.

What’s a parasiter?

That’s the key question! I had an older gentleman come up to the bar a few months ago, a tourist with a deep accent. He asked for a “parasiter,” which I thought was some type of mixed drink or shot. I said, “sir, a parasiter?” He said, “yes please.” My exact response was, “what the f**k is a parasiter?!” He was actually asking for a pear cider! I was so embarrassed and apologized. He laughed, I served him a drink and he thanked me with a smile.

What’s your “secret weapon” cocktail ingredient?

By far sarcasm. For an actual ingredient, olive juice.

Olive juice? What do you use it in outside of a dirty martini or bloody mary?

A dash in a margarita if I have an adventurous patron.

What’s your drink at the end of a shift?

Michelob Ultra Pure Gold. I’m rocking the beer gut.

Where’s your favorite spot for a drink when you’re not behind the bar?

Pasadena Bar & Grill. It’s close to home and there’s air conditioning, cold beer, great locals and fun bartenders.

Alyssia Youngblood, Orbit 19 Lounge, Holiday

Alyssia Youngblood [Times]
Alyssia Youngblood [Times] [ Tampa Bay Times ]

Orbit 19 just launched a new cocktail menu. What can guests expect?

Our menu changes quite a bit. We do a new menu for each season, and our summer menu is a compilation of our best selling items and new ones. All of the items on our menu are made behind our bar by our bartenders. We play with stuff constantly and are constantly coming up with new things for people to try. All of our drinks, shots and martinis have been crafted by our bartenders personally.

What’s your “secret weapon” cocktail ingredient?

St-Germain elderflower liqueur. I have yet to have someone not like elderflower. It's sweet but not too sweet and goes with almost anything.

Do you have a favorite drink for the end of your shift?

My shift drink preferences change quite often. Right now it's peach kamikazes or Tito's with a pickle back. Last month I couldn't get away from Darling Nicki shots and our Kentucky Tea. We have a new shot/drink every day, I swear.

What’s a Darling Nicki? Any relation to the Prince song?

Yes, it is a reference to the Prince song and one of our bartenders, Nicki, created the shot. The shot is Stoli Raspberry, Dekuyper Island Punch and sour mix with a splash of Sprite. The Kentucky Tea is Firefly sweet tea vodka, St-Germain elderflower and squeezed lemon.

What’s the strangest drink order you’ve taken?

I recently had a lady asked me for a “cup of whiskey,” which I thought was the funniest way to order anything. I couldn't help but giggle. But the weirdest drink combination was Courvoisier and Disaronno. I tried the drink and was not a fan at all, but this guy really liked it.

Where’s your favorite spot for drinks off the clock?

I’ve been to a lot of places in Florida—restaurants, bars, dives, hotel bars—and still on my day off I end up at Orbit. We are a huge family. You can walk in as a new person, end up in a group of people that you don’t know and walk away with friends that you’ll know for a lifetime. It’s Cheers, it really is.