Behind the Bar – Jimmy Madden
219 Restaurant/Bayou Room
219 King Street
Old Town Alexandria
How did you get started in the bartending business?
I got my foot in the industry back when I was in my teens. I started as a dishwasher and made my way to the front of the house one step at a time. As a busser, food runner, and host I admired the serving and bartending staff. I watched them night after night command the room as people cheered them on night after night. I loved the show and only aspired to one day have a place on their stage. So I worked hard and year after year and tried to better myself, meanwhile not forgetting, hey….this is supposed to be fun. Then, one lucky day, I was away in New York when I got the call from an old boss, Georgios. He offered me a job at La Tasca in DC where I started my bartending career and called home for many years. Sure, I ventured out of the industry a few times. I spent time in construction, retail, offices, etc. but I never found anything more fulfilling than being on that stage behind the bar. It’s truly a passion.
What is your biggest bartender pet peeve?
Honestly, it’s very hard to get under my skin, but everyone has a button. I can handle two hours of prep work, the clueless, the drunk, and the weird. I can handle the cheapskates, the creeps, and corporate standards. However, what really pushes my button is apathy and inefficiency. I was raised in this industry to entertain while being fast and accurate. I just can’t understand a lazy bartender. There’s nothing that bothers me more. Sure, we all have our days when we feel beaten and broken, but the show must go on and our fatigue cannot get in the way. More importantly, if you’re not happy with your job, find a new one. There’s no sense in getting burned out and jaded. Really, stop and think about how many options we really have out there. There’s a place out there for you. If not, maybe this industry isn’t for you.
What is the most clever line anyone has used on you to procure a “free” drink?
I don’t know why people ask us for free drinks. It basically lights a beacon that signals you probably can’t afford to be out and you may pose a threat for walking out on your tab. If it’s your birthday, I’ll make an announcement. Believe me, singles on both sides want to know you’re here to party and are more than ready to buy you a drink or two. Asking us is really asking how much we care about our jobs. Not only is it annoying, but it’s theft. Bartenders who rely on this as a tactic really need to step up their game. Try connecting with people and have a decent conversation. It’ll take you so much further.
What is the best/worst pick up line you have heard at your bar?
I don’t think I’ve ever heard an actual decent pick up line, but I have seen good game. Professionals even. These people utilize the room and their surroundings. They don’t have a target. They’re just out to have a good time and happen to bump into you along the way. Somehow one thing leads to another and before you know it they’re tossing back drinks with their newly found friend. It’s really an amazing sight.
As for the worst, spend a night out in Arlington. You won’t believe the things you’ll hear.
Tell us about an interesting account you have had with a customer.
Oh wow! I can only pick one? I would say my most interesting experience to date comes from the Flying Fish – or as we called it, “the land of misfit toys”. I mean between literally dodging crossbow darts, snowballs, and buckets of water, you had to not only be prepared to handle the crowd, but the weird. Most nights, I felt more like a ring master in a circus rather than a bartender. I’ve never enjoyed myself more! To all of you I’ve met along the way, thank you for such an amazing experience! You’re all rock stars and I love you all!
If you could sit down and have a drink with anyone in the world, past or present, who would that be?
Who would I want to have a drink with? Johnny Depp. He’s my favorite actor and I think he’d just be a lot of fun to drink with.
Jimmy just started at 219 when this profile was conducted so he didn’t have a set schedule but we do know he works both upstairs in the Cigar Bar and downstairs in the Bayou Room. Drop in and introduce yourself and tell Jimmy you saw his name here. If you would like to see your favorite mixologist featured in this space, please send contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Lani Gering