One of the most honored bartenders of all time is Ada "Coley" Coleman, who began tending bar at The Claridge in New York City back in 1899 at the age of 24. She must have been good. In 1903 she moved to the American Bar at The Savoy Hotel, where she invented the Hanky-Panky cocktail and held the post of head bartender until retiring — a rarity during pre-Prohibition times, when women were seldom tolerated in bars, much less allowed to run them. In today's revival of cocktail culture, men seem to still receive most of the attention. But now, as back in the day, there are ladies packing a lot of talent behind the bar. In an attempt to rectify matters, we present to you six of our local favorites.
Christine Hill is the bar manager at the Pearl's first bar, the Blue Box. She contends that many drinkers believe women in the biz are hired just for their looks, but counters, "I tell you what — anyone looks good when they have a wall of liquor behind them." Not only does Hill run the bar, she does some heavy lifting, too. "I'm the 'beer guy' at Blue Box," she says. "Clean my own lines, haul kegs, the whole shebang. I love every minute of it." Polly Cox has been tending bar at The Mix for 15 years. "I started coming in when they first opened," she explains, "and just never left. The people that come in really do fit the name of the bar, and that makes for an interesting crowd. And, there is always music." Cox is opening her own bar soon. Asked what it will be like, she responded simply, "Wait and see." Up the street on the St. Mary's Strip is War Room, where Krystal Little tends bar. Her worst bartending horror story? "Showing Longhorn network football games when only a couple businesses are showing it … enough said." The Esquire's Karah Carmack has a few bar stories, too. "I've had people arrested, I've broken up fights (and suffered a few black eyes because of it), I've cut off men three-times my size. But nothing is as horrible as being 15 tickets deep on service well, and having people yelling drink orders at you. But I suppose stress builds character." Dakotah Brown tends bar at Coco Beach, a kitschy local joint with a shark hanging from the ceiling and a neighborhood legend. Asked if true love could be found in a bar, she replied in the affirmative, "Ha! I found my true love in a bar, so yes!" What's missing from the local night life? "Good tippers." Vikki Buchanan holds court at Heat Nightclub, named "Best Gay Bar" by Current readers in 2012. Known for sporting a "Wonder Woman" tattoo, she has a different take on what's wrong with the SA bar scene: "Manners, self respect and basic common sense. Girls — put your boobs away, have some respect for yourself. It isn't worth trying to get a free drink or shot by having everyone around you (including the bartenders) laugh at your complete lack of self-respect. Guys — stop acting like douche bags and thinking you're something you're not. … It's pretty simple, act like a human and you will be treated like one."
Dakotah Brown, Coco Beach
Fave cocktail to make? Bloody Mary. I put a lot of love in mine.
Fave bar? Coco Beach! Not just because I work there — it's always a great time and the patrons are awesome.
Christine Hill, Blue Box
What do you do when you're not bartending? I play bass in a band called the Dixie Hammers. Playing rock 'n' roll is a great release.
Can true love be found in a bar? Absolutely.
Polly Cox, The Mix
Fave place for cocktails? The Esquire. The bartenders are great and the place is a bit like walking back in time.
What's the biggest misconception about female bartenders? That we are impressed when someone waves money in front of us.
Krystal Little, War Room
Personal style? Big hair, black leather, and a lot of gold!
Can true love be found in a bar? It's sketchy but it can happen. My parents met in one and they're still happily married.
Vikki Buchanan, Heat Nightclub
Personal style? Rocker chick with a bitch attitude. In a nice way, of course.
What's the worst pick-up line you've ever heard? Dude: "I'm young, rich, and hung. Wanna hook up?" Me: (laughing) "I'm old enough to be your mother. Try again."
Karah Carmack, Esquire Tavern
Fave cocktail to make? The Last Word. It's complex, delicious, and after a couple you're sure to have an awesome story to tell.
What's the biggest misconception about female bartenders? That we aren't capable, or that our skin simply is not thick enough.