Vino Nadoz's Alex Ettinger: Featured Bartender of the Week

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Kaitlin Steinberg
We challenge you to introduce us to a nicer, more modest and gentlemanly bartender than this guy.

When we told Alex Ettinger of Vino Nadoz (16 The Boulevard, Richmond Heights; 314-726-0400) that we wanted to interview him for this column, he was so honored. He began to worry if he was dressed nicely enough. He apologized for giving answers that he thought weren't interesting enough. He laughed genuinely at our stupid jokes.

It's refreshing to meet a guy like Ettinger in a field where being cocky sometimes seems like a prerequisite. Not that we mind cockiness either. We just want a good drink, and Ettinger delivers.

He's been bartending for three years, but he actually started out as a chef. He even went to culinary school and worked at a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, for a while. Eventually, he wants to open his own restaurant, but for now, he's pretty content to serve up taste drinks to thirsty patrons.

"I like dealing with people, and I like making people happy," Ettinger says. "In the kitchen, you're back there away from everyone. Out here behind the bar, you get to actually see everyone who's happy."

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Milagro Modern Mexican's Craig Bielke: Featured Bartender of the Week

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Bielke gestures to the insane array of tequila available at Miagro | Kaitlin Steinberg

The agave has been juiced, the limes have been purchased and the tequila has been stocked. Milagro Modern Mexican (20 Allen Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-962-4300) is ready to make hundreds of margaritas in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. Milagro isn't hosting a garish Cinco party, but as the winner of RFT's "Best Margarita" in 2012 and one of the bars with the best tequila selections in town, Milagro is bound to attract a tequila-loving crowd.

If you stop by the Webster Groves Mexican restaurant during lunch, you'll be greeted by Craig Bielke, general manager and lunchtime bartender. He claims he's not really a bartender, but his lack of bartender title belies his skills.

Though he's been working for Milagro for the last few years, Bielke got his start as a sushi chef in Texas. He credits his sushi training with helping him understand the subtleties of crafting a stellar cocktail.

"There are so many little ingredients that make a roll really good," Bielke says. "When you become a sushi chef, you don't get to touch rice for five years. The tiniest variation can make sushi rice good or bad. It's the same thing when you're crafting a cocktail. The ingredients might be pretty simple, but if you put too much of one thing, it's not balanced."

Bielke's boss was a sushi chef from Korea who had trained for ten years in Japan to become a master. He wanted to send Bielke to Japan to continue his training, but Bielke decided sushi was no longer his thing. He moved to Missouri to attend Eden Theological Seminary. The seminary may not seem like the obvious choice after studying to be a sushi chef, but the move from seminary to bartending is even more surprising.

"I decided that bartending could be a type of ministry," Bielke says. "I get to talk to a lot of people. I get to do what I love to do. I love business. I love the challenges that business presents. And I get to host a party with 150 to 300 guests every night. How cool is that?"

Hey, no arguments here.

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Craig Bielke of Milagro Modern Mexican. Below is a Q&A with Bielke, followed by the recipe for a "Carpe Dia."

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Hendricks BBQ's Keyan Still: Featured Bartender of the Week

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Keyan Still of Hendricks BBQ. Below is a Q&A with Still, followed by his recipe for a "Hendricks' House Bloody Mary."

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Keyan Still is intent upon talking to everyone who sits at his bar. It doesn't get in the way of his service. In fact, it adds to it.

If you don't immediately know what you want, Still will ask you three questions: What's your favorite wine? What's your favorite beer? What's your favorite cocktail?

Based on your answers, he will mix you the perfect drink. Seriously. Go challenge him.

Still started running the bar program at Hendricks BBQ (1200 S. Main Street, St Charles; 636-724-8600) when it opened in September 2012, and he's been the driving force behind putting the small bar in the giant barbecue restaurant on the map.

Still was originally in marketing, but he grew tired of the cubicle life. While on a trip to Spain when he was 22, he tried alcohol for the first time in the form of a flaming shot. If ever there was a way to start a life devoted to alcohol, that has got to be it. Now, at 28, Still feels like he's finally caught up to his peers who started drinking at a much younger age. And he also feels like he's found his passion.


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Three Sixty's Neil Minger: Featured Bartender of the Week

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Neil Minger of Three Sixty. Below is a Q&A with Minger, followed by his recipe for a "Detour Ahead."

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Kaitlin Steinberg
Ah, the rooftop bar at Three Sixty (1 South Broadway; 314-241-8439). It's swanky, it's sexy and, despite its club atmosphere, the bartenders actually know how to mix a mean cocktail.

Enter Neil Minger: bartender, conversationalist and witness to all sorts of crazy St. Louis shenanigans. Minger has been at Three Sixty since it opened two years ago, and he's seen it all from his perch high above the city -- downtown renovations, electrical storms around the Arch, Cards games and oodles of drunken high jinks. But don't worry. Your secrets are safe with him.

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Salt's Tim Rabior: Featured Bartender of the Week

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Tim Rabior of Salt. Below is a Q&A with Rabior, followed by the recipe for a "Green Goddess."

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Kaitlin Steinberg

Tim Rabior has blond highlights and sunglasses that never leave the top of his head, but don't let this casual exterior fool you. This guy is serious about cocktails.

The bar manager at Salt (4356 Lindell Boulevard; 314-932-5787) started his bartending career at a high-volume "turn-and-burn" bar, but once he learned about mixology, there was no turning back.

"At one time, the extent of my craft was a shaken vodka martini," Rabior says. "There was a bit of flair, but as far as crafting drinks for a certain flavor profile, that just didn't exist. I heard some of my friends talking about mixology, but I didn't even know St. Louis was doing anything like mixology."

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Taste's Kyle Mathis: Winner of Iron Fork's Mixology Competition and Featured Bartender of the Week

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Kyle Mathis of Taste. Below is a Q&A with Mathis, followed by the recipe for "Another Hop Pun."

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Kyle Mathis gets in the zone while shaking cocktails | Kaitlin Steinberg
We know, we know. We just interviewed a bartender from Taste (4584 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-1200) back in February. Normally we don't like to double dip, but we just had to sit down with Kyle Mathis and ask him about bartending and crafting cocktails.

Last Thursday, Mathis competed against eleven other top bartenders from around St. Louis at Iron Fork and won the mixology competition (and $500), making Taste the champ for the second year in a row. He made his winning cocktail, which he calls "Another Hop Pun," for us while we chatted, and he was nice enough to provide the recipe for this new creation.

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Coffee Cartel's Julia Mager: Featured Barista of the Week

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Julia Mager of Coffee Cartel. Below is a Q&A with Mager, followed by her recipe for a white-chocolate mocha.

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Kaitlin Steinberg
This week, we took the word "bar" in Girl Walks Into a Bar somewhat loosely. Your intrepid female bargoer needed a pick-me-up before last night's Iron Fork event, so she wandered into Coffee Cartel (2 Maryland Plaza; 314-454-0000) in the Central West End for something a little different. Don't worry though. There's still alcohol involved.

Coffee Cartel has an extensive food and coffee menu, and it also has a liquor license, which means boozy smoothies and coffee drinks galore! Julia Mager is a bartender-turned-barista and general manager at Coffee Cartel, so she knows just what to mix to get customers warm, caffeinated and maybe a little buzzed.

Mager started out working at Coffee Cartel years ago, then moved to Florida where she bartended. When she came back to St. Louis, she took up her old job at Coffee Cartel, now with the skill set of a bartender to help her make drinks quickly, efficiently and alcoholicly. (That is now a word 'cause we've decreed it so.)

"It's a little bit different," says Mager of making the switch from bartender to barista, "but honestly, we get so many drunks in here at night that it's kind of the same."

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The Ritz-Carlton's Monica Schepis Couldn't Stand Her "Big Girl" Job -- Bartending Is Her True Calling

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Monica Schepis of the the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton. Below is a Q&A with Schepis, followed by her own recipe for a Gooey Butter Cake Martini.

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Monica Schepis behind the bar at the Ritz-Carlton | Kaitlin Steinberg


















The Lobby Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton (100 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton; 314-863-6300) is more than just a bar in a hotel lobby. It's a destination in itself.

A recent $1 million renovation has the lobby looking better than ever -- and guests are noticing the improvement. According to Elaine Gamer, director of sales and marketing, the theme for the lobby lounge was "martinis and rhythm."

The "rhythm" part of that notion is expressed through the bright, dynamic artwork that has taken the place of the stuffy oil paintings that once hung in the lobby. The old carpeting was torn out and replaced with a lush blue-and-gold patterned carpet, and the ceilings were paneled with gold fabric to add a lightness to the area. The stiff, maroon, faux leather chairs are gone, and swanky velvet seats now give a club-like atmosphere to the lobby.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, a jazz band plays in an alcove in the lobby lounge, and visitors are encouraged to hit the dance floor to show off some moves. And after downing a few of the Ritz's 200-plus martinis, guests are more than eager to oblige.

That ample martini list is where bartender Monica Schepis comes in.

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The Dubliner's Bob Dolan: Featured Bartender of the Week

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Bob Dolan of The Dubliner. Below is a Q&A with Dolan, followed by his recipe for a Bee Tea.

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Kaitlin Steinberg
Bob Dolan is a man of simple tastes and few words.

He loves vodka, but he appreciates anything Irish. He's polite to customers even when they're rude to him. He'll listen to your conversations at the bar, but he won't butt in. He just likes to listen.

Dolan has been bartending since 1985, and he's been at the Dubliner (1025 Washington Avenue; 314-421-4300) since 2007, a year after it opened. He worked at Krueger's Bar in University City for a while, in addition to holding court at the Forest Park golf course and the Dubliner.

These days, he's mainly at the Dubliner, a large Irish pub-style bar downtown. The Dubliner is more open and airy than the typical Irish pub, but Dolan brings an air of familiarity to it that makes you feel like you're at the local corner bar being served by your regular bartender, even if you've never been there before.

As the Dubliner prepares for the crowds that are sure to come on St. Paddy's Day, Dolan goes about his business around the bar slowly and methodically, fixing drinks and greeting new customers like old friends.

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Sub Zero's Eric Weis: Featured Bartender of the Week

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Eric Weis of Sub Zero Vodka Bar. Below is a Q&A with Weis and his recipe for a "Double Trouble."

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Kaitlin Steinberg
To say that Sub Zero Vodka Bar (308 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-1200) carries a lot of vodka is like saying that Missouri has a lot of meth. But while the sheer variety of vodkas at the Central West End bar might seem daunting to some bartenders, Eric Weis views it a challenge. He's a master at mixing creative flavor combinations, and with so many vodkas to choose from, his possibilities are nearly endless.

Weis has been working at Sub Zero since August of last year, but in that time, the self-proclaimed whiskey drinker has learned a lot about vodka. From bacon-flavored vodka to espresso-infused vodka, Weis can mix it all. And vodka-haters out there, beware: He just might convert you.


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