I cannot express the happiness in my soul to be able to start writing this column again. It has been a year since I was able to sing the praises of some of the hardest working people in the hospitality industry. Whether you call them bartenders, mixologists, bar chefs, or servers of happiness, these people spend their time creating an atmosphere of festivity, inclusion and safety for their patrons, especially in the LGBT+ bars.
They have also been treated the worst by our city since the beginning as they yo-yo’d between being back at work in a limited capacity to having it ripped out from under them regularly and most recently during their usually busiest time at Mardi Gras. But enough on the past, we can only move into the future and celebrate these very essential workers!
I am also excited about introducing my bartender of the month for March. Ruey Tsay is a transplant in NOLA coming from the Silicon Valley/Bay Area of California. He has been in the city about two years and already thinks like a local which is why so many people love him. He has worked at Wood Enterprise bars for about three months now, starting at Good Friends and now landing at his new home, Cafe Lafitte in Exile. He has spent most of his career in the restaurant industry which gives him a well-rounded knowledge of superior service. Before his job at Wood, he worked as security at the Bourbon Pub.
Ruey came to New Orleans to go to school at LSU and was ready to make a change in his life, and our city turned out to be just the place to do it. Armed with a cordial personality, exotic good looks and an award-winning smile, Ruey has easily won over the hearts of locals and visitors quickly.
One of Ruey’s signature cocktails is the Aviation which has lemon juice, Avanchio Liquor, Creme de Violette and Aviation Gin. Now this is what I call a purple drink (which just also happens to be my favorite color). And it uses the spirit created by People’s 2010 Sexiest Man Alive Ryan Reynolds; I am going to drink it all the time now and hashtag Mr. Deadpool until he notices me or takes out a restraining order. (Remember it is just closely keeping tabs on people until the courts say it is stalking.) When asked what he drinks when he goes out, Ruey opts for Sapphire and tonic with a lime or Tullamore Irish Whisky on the rocks.
His professional attitude and skilled customer service make Ruey a wonderful asset. One of the things he likes most about his job is the ability to meet lots of people from all over the world. He has met some amazing customers who have become friends since he started bartending. He especially enjoys bartending in New Orleans. “I believe people here are more authentic; we all become messes sometimes but we do it together in the best way possible. We are a community and the service industry here takes care of each other,” he states.
I asked him how he handled everything during COVID, the quarantine and being unemployed. He admitted he went a little crazy. He did appreciate spending more time with his cat, rediscovering his love of cooking and taking care of his extensive plant family all of which helped get him through these trying times. But he is glad to be back at work on Bourbon Street and ready to make cocktails. Ruey mostly works the day shifts at Cafe Lafitte in Exile located at 901 Bourbon Street. Go say HI to him, get an Aviation drink, and start flying high.