How long have you been bartending?
I have been bartending for only about three years, but my mentors are some of the best, most knowledgeable, and professional bartenders I could possibly imagine knowing.
What do you love most about your job?
The ability to greet a person who has only been at my bar once before with the memory of their exact drink and food order from the first time they came in. I also have to mention how much I love getting my friends and other service-industry cats drunk!
What qualities make a good bar-tender?
The most important quality in a good bartender is attentiveness and the ability to multitask. You need to be able to see everything that goes on at your bar simultaneously while being able to crank out 10 drinks at the same time. Knowing how to juggle your guests so that everyone has either water, menu, food, or cocktail in front of them while you are in the process of making drinks or getting the other steps of service done. The guest shouldn't ever have to flag me down to ask for another cocktail or more water, even if I'm flying solo with a full restaurant and all 19 of my bar seats are full.
Favorite drink to make, or the drink you make best?I have a couple signature drinks, including one on the menu at the Nook [Italy Meets Mexico, made with Milagro silver tequila, Antica Formula vermouth, amaro, orange, and aromatic bitters], but my favorite drink to make is the Black Manhattan. There are so many different whiskeys and amaros I can combine to make it taste so totally different. It's the perfect drink.
Least favorite drink to make?
All bartenders are annoyed by the mojito. It is annoying to make and very generic. The worst drink to make is a Long Island iced tea. Any person ordering that garbage has no flavor profile built up for any spirit or classic cocktail and just wants to get drunk as fast as possible off wells without tasting them.
Worst thing someone has said to you while you're bartending?
One of the most frustrating questions is being asked what I plan to do next with my life. Like bartending isn't a real job. Like I should be going to school so I can come out with student-loan debt and work in a field I hate. My peers and I strive to master our trade and treat it as an art. We love what we do, make a good living, and are constantly learning and stimulating ourselves to be better. As one of my mentors always says, "Keep changing lives!"
Favorite place to drink?
Il Bistro in the Pike Place Market. It's dark, romantic, and quiet. It has the most amazing house cocktails and some of the best bartenders I have ever met. Murray Stenson on Monday nights has won best bartender in the country twice, and his protégé Dan is one of the most charismatic, knowledgeable guys I have ever met.
What do you do when you're not slinging drinks?
When I am not hustling or eating Asian food, I will either be sleeping, on an adventure, or at the gym. My adventure could be exploring my city for new places to learn about food and drinks, or flying to another city entirely to do basically the same thing.
You can find Marcus at the Nook near Admiral Junction (2206 California Ave SW) and the Matador in Alaska Junction (4546 California Ave SW), both in West Seattle. If he's not at the Nook on Fridays, he's closing the Matador, where he works Tuesday to Thursday every week.