I have always felt bartenders are very underrated for many reasons, but one of the main ones is they have many jobs rolled into one. They not only have to serve beverages to their customers, but they also have to be, at times, management, food server, referee, bouncer, therapist, tour guide, liquor/brand representative, storyteller, and probably many more.
One key, however, to being a good bartender is you have to be a great salesman. You have to sell yourself, your establishment and your cocktails to customers. And, of course, the more drinks or high-end cocktails you serve, the bigger & higher your tips tend to be.
One of the best salesmen behind the bar, in addition to being an excellent mixologist, is Jonathan Necaise at Good Friends Bar and Queens Head Pub.
Jonathan is a force behind the bar. He is funny, professional and the epitome of Southern charm. He is a true Southerner, growing up in Hancock County, Mississippi, and then going to college in Atlanta. After school, he spent a decade in New York City. When he decided to move out of Brooklyn three years ago, New Orleans was at the top of mind because he grew up so adjacent to it yet had never gotten to experience living in our city.
Jonathan has worked at Good Friends for about the same length of time he has lived in the Crescent City. He said he knew Good Friends was the bar he wanted to work at. And why not? It is centrally located in the Gay area of the French Quarter, open & inviting, and one of those great places to have a few cocktails and watch the world go by from either the first floor or the balcony.
The venue always has a lively crowd, but it strikes the right balance of being a popular watering hole for tourists and locals’ hangout. Jonathan is perfectly at home behind this bar, always greeting a customer with his fabulous smile and ingratiating hospitality. He has extensive cocktail knowledge and knows how to make a very good drink. Confused about what to drink? No problem, Jonathan is a great guide for your cocktail drinking experience, especially if you want to have a shot.
“I try to have as much fun with shots as I can. Sugar disguising alcohol and getting you drunk quick should be fun! I made one yesterday that was Bananas Foster inspired — Creme de banana, vanilla vodka, butterscotch schnapps, and Bailey’s. It was phenomenal. But when I’m out drinking, I stick to tequila,” he says.
He goes on to explain his favorite part of bartending is getting to meet so many people. Good Friends is perfect for that because it attracts many types of people, not just gay, and it appeals to locals and tourists alike. “I feel like I get to meet everybody who ever lives in or visits New Orleans.”
When asked what he feels is his best asset behind the bar, Jonathan gave a brilliant answer. “I think a bartender’s most important skill is setting the environment in the bar and I think the most important tool for that is music. Especially in a gay bar! So I try to see who is in my bar at all times and play music appealing to whoever that may be. The fun part is when it’s two different types of crowds in the bar, there is always a musical overlap!”
In a city where hospitality is key, providing a warm and welcoming environment is crucial. I always ask what is the most unusual or weird thing that has happened to you behind the bar. “I work in the Quarter so almost every customer is weird! But I’d say the strangest thing was an item left behind — a glass eye. I don’t understand how you forget that.” Now that is hysterical.
Since COVID took so much from so many in our industry, I asked Jonathan “How have you dealt with it and what do you see as the future of the industry?” He replied, “I think the biggest takeaway the service industry gained from COVID and its restrictions is the loss of the ‘customer is always right’ attitude. Setting boundaries as a business is important and can even be political.”
So if you are in the French Quarter and want to have fun with a fabulous bartender, check Jonathan out at Good Friends located at 740 Dauphine Street. His normal shifts are 1 to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Tuesdays.