Name: Whitney Reynolds
From: Rochester, NY
Lives: Portland, ME
Bartending how long: 15 years in general
Where to find her: Brian Boru in Portland
Why she’s cool: When she was 22, she worked at New York City’s Hogs & Heifers, the girls-dancing-on-the-bar saloon which is argued to have inspired the opening of similar (and famous) spot, Coyote Ugly.
“God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world. ” — Ed McMahon
Have you always tended bar in Portland?
No, this is the first bar I have worked at in Portland. I started bartending in NYC. Basically worked at dive bars in New York for the most part. Worked in Pennsylvania for a couple years
What’s your favorite thing about bartending?
The people. Like I said, I’ve always worked at more dive bars so I always get an eclectic group of people, which is fun. I like working in places where the clientele ranges from basically degenerates to suits and just having conversations with every kind of person.
You’re a fabulous bartender but you also have one hell of an iPod selection.
Oh, thanks! That’s another favorite part of bartending here. I like playing the music. I love gearing up playlists on my iPod and kind of setting the vibe and mood here. People seem to enjoy it.
How many songs are on this iPod? Every time I come in here it’s a different playlist!
I think…3000 maybe, right now. I don’t’ know.
You’re playing a lot of old school stuff and/or some old school inspired stuff. Mayer Hawthorne is on right now. I love this.
I love soul, I love funk. Sam Cooke, Mayer Hawthorne. All of that.
Well great job. Ok, back to bartending. Do you have a favorite drink to make for yourself?
A beer and a shot.
What kind of beer?
Any kind of beer. Shot…whiskey. Working in an Irish pub, I gotta go with Jameson.
Are you Irish?
I’m not. I’m Scottish and Welsh. So almost there.
When can people find you here, at Brian Boru?
Friday, Saturday nights, and Sunday day, where we have the best drink specials in town. And then on Mondays as well.
And what are those best drink specials?
We have $2 Bloody Mary’s, $4 Manmosas [pint glass of mimosa], and $3 Guinness, Harp, and Smithwicks.
Those Manmosas keep me alive on Sunday. Or maybe the opposite…anyway, do you get hit on a lot behind the bar?
[Laughs] Oh, it happens once in a while.
Any funny pick-up lines?
I’m sure but I can’t think of any specifics.
Do people leave their numbers?
Of course. Oh yeah. I love when they leave it on the credit card slip. I mean I use it all the time. I really do. I always call them [laughs].
What happens if fights break out and it’s just you? I’m sure you can hold your own but still, Irish tempers…
Not here so much. We really don’t have too many problems here. I have jumped over the bar once. I think it was New Year’s Eve last year. But yeah, one of my regulars was having a problem so I was helping him out. I used to think that if a girl got in the middle of a fight that it would stop but I discovered pretty early on in my bartending career that that’s not the case. At all. Tried that in New York one time…didn’t go well.
Oh jeesh. Do you have to cut people off?
Yeah, of course.
Is that hard?
Nope. Not so much. I don’t really have a problem telling people when they’re done.
Do people give you attitude?
Sometimes you know but you just can’t really listen. It’s all good. You can come back just not tonight.
As noted, the iPod tunes are always dope, but there’s also some great live acts booked here. Do you book those?
I do. Try to mix it up a little bit. Have something for everyone. I like to keep it local as much as possible. It’s been good so far.
And that’s always upstairs?
Yep. Well, we have Irish sessions from 3-6 on Sunday afternoons downstairs and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday night we have live music upstairs.
So you guys have drinks and music down, but the food is also super noteworthy. I’m thrilled to death about the mac n’ cheese every time I have it. What’s your favorite thing to eat here?
I have a few. The Rueben, which I can’t eat too often, but it’s delicious. We actually have an amazing garden salad here so that’s one of my favorites. And the cheese steak is awesome. Oh, and the pulled pork!
Do you come in and hang out on your nights off?
Yeah. The thing about Boru’s is, it’s like your living room. People that work here come in all the time on their day off. You always see the same people, which is great but you also get a mix of new people, as well. I have some other responsibilities here aside from bartending so I tend to be here generally seven days a week and if it’s not a workday, I like a drink so a beer and shot it is.
Thoughts on the term mixologist?
Well my idea of a mixologist is a little different. To me it’s mixing everything that goes into bartending, which is creating a certain atmosphere. I’ve always worked at places where it’s not so much about making this amazing drink that you’ve never had before that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s more about knowing who’s walking in the door, knowing their name, and having their drink on the bar by the time they get to you. So am I fast bartender? Absolutely. Can I make you a drink that you’ve never had before that might be the best you’ve ever had? Maybe. But that’s probably not my specialty. For me, the whole mixology thing, that’s what it means. Mixing personality and music and conversation and having that drink ready on the bar for them.
Do you think for women specifically in this business, you have to be a “tough broad” to gain respect?
My first six years of bartending I had so many female role models who taught me so much. One of the places I worked was owned by a woman. She was a great role model for me. You know when I started bartending I was this really quiet girl who didn’t really feel so sure of herself and I learned so much from those women. And yeah, I think you do have to have a little big of a tough skin to do it and deal with people that come in to bars. You get so many personalities. I’m not a bitch so to speak but you have to know how to handle different people. And with a smile. You can be tough as nails and sweet as pie at the same time. That’s the kind of balance I try to find. That’s what I was taught.
Do you think that balance goes for both genders?
In a certain way, yeah. You definitely have to have a balance no matter if you’re a man or a woman. They say a customer always comes first. You have to make them fell that way. Even if you don’t think it. It’s definitely finding a balance no matter what gender you are. Women may have to work a little harder to find a place in this business and I think it’s a great place for women, and men. I’ve worked at places where its all women behind the bar or where I was the first female bartender. I think it’s great to have that balance, either way.
Do your friends make you make them drinks when you’re outside of work?
I tell them to f%&@ off. [Laughs] No. I actually went on a family vacation a couple years ago and I was making drinks the entire week. Finally it was like “alright! I’m done!!!” It’s funny I had a conversation with a couple friends the other day and they were telling me about a place that had a Bloody Mary bar and I was like I’m sorry but for a lot of people I’m sure that’s a great thing but if I go out I want my drink served to me. I don’t want to have to go make a drink for myself!
Speaking of making drinks, What did you want to make for me tonight?
Whatever you want? You like gin and rum, right? If you like rum I could do a dark n’ stormy?
Let’s do a dark n’ stormy.