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Crafting Cocktails with Roberto Prego

On November 15, 2012

  • Roberto Prego, physics senior, mixing drinks at the Columns Hotel. ERIC BURAS

With mixing late nights at work, early morning classes, schoolwork and social lives, student bartenders have a lot on their shelves. Physics senior Roberto Prego is a bartender at the Columns Hotel. Prego enjoys the social interactions that come with his job but admits it's easy to get shaken up by the responsibilities. Prego sits down with Carl Harrison to share his tips of the trade.
W: How did you end up in bartending?
RP: A mix between networking and persistence: I made buddy-buddies with most of the bartenders at The Columns, and after, they put in a good word for me. I dedicated an entire month to showing the manager my commitment to being part of the staff.
W: What sets you apart from the men and women who pour whiskey and pull a tap?
RP: I pour into glass instead of plastic. No, I'm just kidding. I have a good memory, and I'm a firm believer that a regular customer should feel like they're walking into their living room when they're walking into their favorite bar. Once I know your name or face, you can bet I'll be pouring your go-to drink as soon as I see you walk in.
W: Define the perfect cocktail.                                                                        RP: A balance between all ingredients - everybody loves a stiff drink, but a cocktail should keep true to the original intentions of the creator.

W: Favorite thing about working behind a bar?
RP: Meeting a wide gambit of individuals and hearing their stories. People interest me and it's been a great way to experience how unique everyone really is.
W: Least favorite thing about working behind a bar?
RP: Dealing with people who don't understand that I make a living off of tips, not wage. Learn to have to some courtesy to your waiter or bartender. They're people, too.
W: Most unusual drink request?
RP: "Can I get something that's really girlie but will also get me super drunk?"
W: The one thing you wish more people understood about bartending?
RP: Just like any trade, it can also be an art. A lot of thought and attention to detail goes into crafting that "perfect cocktail". And that fancy "mixology" word people have been throwing around lately? Talk about the authentic blend of science and art ‑- shaken and poured over ice to make an incredible alcoholic delicacy.
W: What's the most difficult part about your job?
RP: Well, let's be real. When you have an entire bar at your disposal, temptation is tough to beat.
W: Favorite drink to mix?
RP: The Sazerac. Anybody who lives in New Orleans - student, local or self-proclaimed local - should know how to make a Sazerac. It's the drink that's put a taste to New Orleans for over 80 years.
W: How do you balance your work schedule with your class schedule?
RP: Trial and error. First couple of weeks of each semester are always rough, but once you get into the groove of your work schedule and you've figured out what classes have the most work load, the rest is being responsible.
W: What's it like when your friends or classmates come to the bar?
RP: For the most part, it's very enjoyable. Everybody has a different persona when they're drunk and I like to get to know my friend's alter-egos on a more personal basis.
W: Where and what do you like to drink when you're not working?
RP: I'm a big fan of St. Joe's on Magazine. It's quaint and has a staff that knows what they're doing. As for my drink? Shot of Jameson with a cold Budweiser please.
W: What's the one thing you think the New Orleans bar scene lacks?
RP: House brews. Every bar having their own house-brewed beer on tap would give you the opportunity to not only experience what the bar is all about, but taste it too. It's bringing an already original bar scene to a whole 'nother level.
W: I'd like to buy you a drink. What'll it be? And it doesn't have to be a cocktail.                                                                          RP: Take a shot of Jameson with me, I promise it tastes better than it sounds.  

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