Connecticut’s Top Bartenders of 2016
At the end of last year (2016) we scoured the state, looking for the bartenders that Connecticut residents think are the absolute best.
A study published by eater.com a few years back says that the Nutmeg State has been listed as having a whole bunch of drinking establishments per capita — one bar for every 11,225 people. That’s a lot of places to throw ’em back, so naturally, the responses were tremendous, resulting in over 10,000 submissions.
We've narrowed the submissions down to the people who received the most votes, and now it's time to meet the top five bartenders according to the people of Connecticut. These five drink-slingers are at the top of their game, and the patrons agree.
Congrats to all who've were nominated, and each of the top five bartenders will receive a commemorative plaque courtesy of i95rock.com and Crown Trophies in Brookfield
Bobby KnudsenAge 26 - Square One Bar & Grill - Danbury
I've been working in the bar/restaurant industry for 7 years. I've worked as a bartender and also a bouncer at a wide array of establishments.
I earned the nickname "Big Shot" from my basketball heroics and off the court debauchery. I'm a retired party animal, but I've clearly come out of retirement as still find myself partying until 8 in the morning 2-3 times a week.
Every summer I take a week-long hiatus to work for Joe Namath as a senior quarterback instructor, which as you could imagine, is the coolest boss one could be privileged enough to work for.
After making it to the final round of auditions for MTV's The Real World I grew tired of working 9-5 and signed with Citizen Talent and Modeling Agency in NYC in 2014. I've scored some wild acting roles recently, working alongside Louie CK, who's beyond hilarious all together and a livewire to party with behind the scenes. I've also worked with Matthew McConaughey in the upcoming movie Gold, who, as imagined, was as laid back as I am, and his ubiquitous colloquialisms had me cracking up the whole time.
I received my bachelors degree in Communications attending Ole Miss in Oxford, MS and am finishing up at Western Connecticut State. I've been blessed with hundreds of great friends, incredible resilience and the vivacious aura of a champion, yet many times I've woken up with wild yet fortunately tasteful tattoos; so stay on the straight and narrow and give your self the occasional night off to binge watch Ray Donovan on Showtime. I love driving nice cars, living a lavish lifestyle 8 days a week and hitting up concerts. Some of my favorites bands being the Stones, Tom Petty, Ozzy Osborne and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Thoughts and tips from your bartender: Seeing as I've hit it as hard as Keith Richards and Johnny Manziel combined I lick my milder hangovers at the gym but if it comes to dire straits a few stiff drinks and a multi vitamin can usually stave off the worst of the worst. If you're fresh off a bender, buy Milk Thistle at your local GNC to revitalize that liver of yours, and a Pedialyte to get those electrolytes tearing the roof off again. Whiskey can make you well when you're sick, and sick when you're well.
I've enjoyed chillin' with unique and awesome people from all over the world. You've got one mouth and two ears, use them in that proportion. Being a hell raiser yet a well-spoken young man, it feels rewarding to offer a unique and eloquent perspective when dishing advice to someone having a rough or stressful time in their lives. As Tom Petty poetically orated, "You never slow down, you never grow old."
When all you have in this world is a buzz, it's a terrible thing to lose, come through to Square One I'll be behind the mahogany with the black t-shirt ready to rock with a stiff pour!
Kristen MixterAge 26 - Little River Restoratives - Hartford
Kristen has been very fortunate in her entry into the bartending profession. After working for five years at CT Beverage Mart, she took a position as a bartender at McLadden's Simsbury. After just over a year of learning the trade there, she had the opportunity to bartend at Millwright's -- one of her all-time favorite restaurants. Within the four months she was there, she learned the building blocks of creating a great drink and found a mentor in Chris Parrott. He brought her on board to his new and challenging concept, Little River Restoratives.
Being a part of building a prevalent cocktail culture in Hartford, and getting to know the community has been her most rewarding endeavor.
Thoughts on bartending: I was always drawn to the integration of creativity and social interaction. I quickly found a passion for learning about wine at CT Beverage Mart, and that transformed into a mission to understand flavor combinations. Now, I am challenged every day by my guests and peers to develop my creativity and understanding of the ingredients I work with. That part of bartending is natural for me. The social side is far more multifarious. It can be easy to get caught up in the flash of being behind the bar, but it has become clear to me that the most valuable part of this career is creating a delightful and welcoming environment for your guests."
Lizz CortinhasAge 40-ish - Lancers Cafe - Bridgeport
Hi Everyone! I'm currently tending bar at Lancers Café in Brigeport. It's funny how I got into bartending. I purchased a vehicle from a friend, and we had a minor issue with paperwork, so I showed up at the bar he owned. I walk in, and he asks me to watch the bar for him while he picked up his kids from school, because the day person recently quit. I had never poured a drink in my life, but it was a great start, and I've tended bar on/off ever since.
Thoughts on bartending: It's a good gig provided that you have a thick skin. You have to know when to be deaf and when to be blind. Oh, the stories we could tell!
Jim PurdyAge 31 - O'Connor's Public House - Brookfield
I have been working in the bar and restaurant industry for about 14 years. I have worked both the front and back of the house, but found being behind the bar is the best for myself and my customers.
I started in an Applebee's in NY, where I met my wife, and brought her with me to where we work now at O'Connors Public House in Brookfield. We have been there for a little over eight years now, since the doors there opened.
Thoughts on bartending: I love working behind the bar and developing relationships with my customers on all different levels. Through the years, I have witnessed such an array of events within the bar, as well as outside the bar, with the friends who became family thanks to the relationships forged at O'Connors -- especially with my regulars and coworkers who have been involved in events such as my wedding and announcement of our first child.
The best part is just knowing that on any given day, anything can happen, and not being afraid to just roll with it. I want to thank all of my great regulars who helped make this possible, I wouldn't do it if it wasn't for all of you.
Kevin "Cowboy" IrelandAge 37 - O'Neill's Pub & Restaurant - Norwalk
What takes me away from the stresses of being a Dad of 5? Being a friend to hundreds.
I am on year twelve -- 70 if you are counting doggy years -- behind the bar at O'neill’s Pub & Restaurant in South Norwalk (Sono), an oasis of Guinness to some, and therapy to others.
Pouring spirits is a quarter of my job, and giving a dedicated ear makes up the remaining 75 cents. I have served drinks to families that celebrate their newborns and offered my shoulders to those who lost their loved ones.
Behind the bar I have heard 1000s of stories -- some sober, but mostly knee-deep in the pint, and you know what? I believe them all. I never doubt the sincerity of the person across from me and they will always feel that they have a friend in me. I truly believe that’s the only reason you are reading this. The energy I give is the energy I get, and if that's why I am being recognized, then allow me to first thank you for thanking me.