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The Drink Slingers: Three Local Mixologists Offer a Glimpse Behind the Bar

Counselor, confidant, craftsperson, composer.

If the stage or the DJ booth provides the beating pulse at any local nightspot, then the bar is the nerve center where the evening is carefully choreographed under the guidance of masterful mixologists who orchestrate the flow and energy like a conductor ensuring that every note and flavor are hit with symphonic precision.

More than popping corks and pulling taps, bartending is serious business that requires a vast skill set that can take years to perfect in order to be performed with any measure of success. Not only do you need encyclopedic knowledge and recall prowess to handle any request served your way, but an innate psychological sensibility and expansive interpersonal skills are also prerequisites.

The 3 bartenders featured

“Patience is No. 1,” said Jordan Sinclair, a longtime bartender who honed his craft out west before returning to the Lansing area and who currently works at Zap Zone XL and Bobcat Bonnie’s. “I think you also have to be a bit diverse in just knowing what kind of crowd you have at your bar, because there’s so many different patrons who come in from different walks of life. Just being able to adapt to those conversations and those different people is something you need.”

Memory is also key, especially in the realm of craft cocktails. If you miss a few steps, the regulars are going to notice, Sinclair said. However, beyond just memory, the right chemistry comes into play, according to Manuel Macias, a bartender at Toscana in Lansing.

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