New Orleans has a lot of magical qualities that draw people to her (yes, I like to think of our 300+ year-old city as a Grand Dowager full of stories, history and sass) such as our architecture, cuisine and the artistic scene. But we have another huge draw, our cocktail culture. The cocktail may not have been invented in New Orleans but we have been a renowned destination for drinking and partying since the early 18th century.
As a port city, all kinds of spirits have been arriving from all over the world since our inception. New Orleans has been described as “the cradle of civilized drinking.” This also is a good sign that in a city such as ours, a bartender, mixologist or bar chef can make a name for themselves as well as a good living. I believe that is one of the allures that bring people from around the world to our city. This is especially true in the gay community, our bartenders are our friends, our confidants and our protectors at times and have been for decades.
My bartender of the month for December moved here from Charlotte, North Carolina, in March of this year. I am talking about Christopher Holcomb at Oz. He loved Charlotte but was craving a change. Being a regular visitor to the city, it was easy and exciting to make the move here. Chris is new to the Oz family since his hire three months ago. He started his journey in our city behind the bar at American Townhouse. He worked there from April through the summer.
Chris is a powerhouse behind the bar not only in his cocktail skills but in the charming way he interacts with guests. He is cute and funny with a “Boy Next Door” quality. At Oz, he created his own shot made up of Coconut Ciroc and pineapple called the Yellow Brick Road. His affable personality is one of his true assets behind the bar. He finds it very easy to cut up with guests and still be professional.
But he said, he was not always this way. One interesting point he brought up about himself was, “On the surface, most people do not realize I’m actually an introvert. I used to be a very quiet guy, and still am at heart. I had to learn how to be fun.” Well, he definitely accomplished that.
When asked what is the craziest/funniest thing you have seen as a bartender, his answer was comical, albeit a little disgusting, but funny nonetheless. “The ways people can projectile vomit is insane to me. There have been many of those instances that stand out, where I was left in confusion on how that was even possible,” he says. We forget that being a bartender is not all glitz and glamor.
“Bartending is enjoyable to me. It’s always been my favorite job, from the time I was thrown behind a bar after turning 21. It allows me to give back to people naturally. The clientele at Oz is incredibly diverse. I don’t meet the same personality twice there,” he continues.
I am always curious what bartenders drink when they go out, because they know good liquors, so I try to take notes. Chris explains that he is all over the board depending on what’s going on and where he’s drinking, but normally just a basic Bud Light and shot of Espolon Tequila. He also enjoys making flavored margaritas. “You can see people’s smile in their eyes when they enjoy a great margarita,” he says.
As far as pet peeves he has that customers do, his answer was succinct and easy. “I can’t really say I have a pet. peeve. As long as you’re respectful of me, the staff, and the people around you, I’m easy.” That is a great lesson for anyone interacting with the service industry. They are here to make our lives more enjoyable; do not make their lives harder by your attitude. Chris has a fair balance of day and night shifts behind the bar at Oz, so you will find it easy to catch up with him and follow him Down the Yellow Brick Road.
Oz is located at 800 Bourbon Street in the heart of the Fruit Loop.