January 9, 2019

HEY, BARTENDER

He’s a mixologist, craftsman, showman, and depending on the day, a pseudo therapist

There are few relationships as significant as the ones sharedwith a good bartender. Just ask Alex Penny, bartender at Forty Five Ten’s penthouse lounge Mirador. The 26-year-old has been tending bar most of his adult life and approaches work with a sense of gravitas not always seen in the service industry.

“Making people happy is the best part of the job,” he says. “It’s fun to introduce them to something new or make something they’ve had, but better.”

Four days a week, Penny cruises into work via skateboard, shaking off the stresses of the day before walking in. (Rule number one, Penny says, is to “check it at the door.”) First comes prep work, namely slicing, dicing, juicing, and otherwise unsexy chores unfit for guest eyes. Then, it’s curtain call. For Penny, the bar is a stage, and he’s in the starring role. “People are always watching,” says Penny. “If you’re having a bad day, it shows. The bartender should be contagiously fun.”

Contagiously fun and proficient in making incredible cocktails, of course. Penny checks both boxes. He approaches mixology with creativity, making art of mixing and muddling. He starts with bar standards and ups the ante. Take his French Intervention, for instance. Featuring mezcal, pineapple, and spicy agave, it’s a margarita at its core—but better. “To me, a cocktail menu has to be diverse,” says Penny. “Different types of citrus, but nothing too complex. One ingredient has to be homemade or creative. There should be a special element to it.”

From figs to snap peas to housemade agave syrup, Mirador’s cocktail menu is a study in the unexpected. But of course, Penny is all but happy to create a custom drink to your liking. One patron’s order is so popular it’s become a house favorite. Art collector Cindy Rachofsky favors Dragones Tequila with a bit of Cointreau and lime, hold the sugar. Ask for “Cindy’s Margarita” to try it for yourself, or leave it to Penny to steer you in the right direction.

“I just like making good drinks,” says Penny. “I don’t even feel like I’m working. I feel like I’m at home. That’s a privilege.” —Nicole Jordan

The Details: Mirador, 1608 Elm Street. Complimentary valet.