My Bartender for the Spotlight this month has made quite a name for himself in the LGBTQ+ Community of New Orleans in a very short time since he moved to the city.
Jimmy Gale is the Capacity Building Community Mobilization Manager for the Louisiana Department of Health, STD/HIV/Hepatitis Program. In his role, he helped organize one of the largest vaccinations for the Monkey Pox virus last year in our community., which ultimately helped stop a situation that could have been very bad. He also holds the titles of Miss Louisiana Leatherette 2022, Gambit’s 40 Under 40 2021 and Saint of Hexed, Healthy and Humble for the Big Easy Sisters and most recently Southern Decadence Grand Marshal XLVII. But in case you are not aware, he is a bartender at The Phoenix Bar.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Jimmy has had a fascination (or “obsession” as he puts it) with New Orleans. His favorite books, movies and music all talked about the history and unique culture of our city. And being a self-proclaimed obnoxious “Disney Gay” when Princess and the Frog was released, he was determined to experience the Crescent City.
So about six years ago, he had the opportunity to attend an HIV conference here and immediately fell in love with everything. He visited every other month for two years before his dear friend Sister Prim looked at him and said, “B*tch, it’s time to move here.”
“It was one of the scariest things I ever did, but I have zero regrets. This is my home. Princess Tiana was right, ‘Dreams do come true in New Orleans’!,” he relayed to me so eloquently.
Jimmy has been working at the Phoenix for almost two years. He used to host trivia nights and random events at the bar, “and one day Eric Johnson mentioned how I should bartend there.” That had always been one of his dreams since he moved to the city. He started the next day, right before Hurricane Ida. Talk about a rough first week! But he says, bartending by candlelight is still one of his favorite Phoenix memories.
When I asked him if he has created any craft cocktails for the Phoenix, he joked. “When folks try to order something complicated, I look at them and explain that this is a neighborhood dive bar: ‘You get three ingredients and one of them is ice.’”
He is not wrong. There is a tradition upstairs at the Eagle, however, called midnight mass. At the stroke of midnight, they play the song from Sister Act and serve all the patrons a shot. Jimmy’s go-to shot is a raspberry kamikaze – 1.5 oz vodka, .5 oz triple sec, lime juice – shake well with ice. Add a splash of Chambord into the shot glass before straining your shaker in; it gives that kick of raspberry at the end. And having had them a few times, I can attest they are delicious.
Jimmy has many assets behind the bar. He is funny, friendly and always professional. But his PG answer about his best trait as a bartender would be that “I’m obnoxiously positive, and get along with most everyone. I really love chatting with our regulars and being the welcoming committee for first timers and tourists. The not-so-PG answer would give my 93-year-old grandmother a heart attack; guess you’ll just have to visit next time I work the Eagle.”
One of the things I always ask bartenders is what is the most unique or craziest thing they have seen working behind the bar. “Oh the tales I could tell… but I’m saving that for my tell-all book, Poppers Made Me Do It. But folks should know that your bartender can hear every conversation up in the Eagle… even when we don’t want to. It takes a lot to make me blush, but y’all succeed frequently!”
It is easy to see why Jimmy is so good at his job; bartenders tend to be creative people. They are extroverts usually. Among his many talents behind the bar, Jimmy has been known to glitter a dildo or a hundred for the Dildo Gras at the Phoenix, as well as a few rubber ducks for the Gay Easter parade.
He has a wonderful answer when asked what he likes about working at the Phoenix. “I love what I do at the Phoenix. I love our staff, our regulars…and I absolutely adore Clint. Every time I have asked to do something new or crazy, he immediately throws all of his support behind me and lets me run with it. With the support of the Phoenix staff and community, we vaccinated thousands of people, raised awareness about sexual health and reproductive justice, mourned community members lost to violence and bigotry, and we’re even mobilizing folks to get out and vote. Not bad for a dark, seedy bar in the Marigny! We have the strongest, cheapest drinks in the city… and plenty of heart too.”
Being around lots of alcohol, I am always curious what bartenders enjoy to drink. “I always say that ‘I’m a vodka and poppers kinda gal’ (not together, obviously). But my go-to drink is usually Deep Eddy Lemon and soda. But when it comes to making drinks, I love a Bloody Mary! I can’t hold a candle to Princess Stephaney’s creative concoctions or Wilhamina’s wild veggie arrangements… but I still try! I love to add a splash of TexasCraft Sour Pickle vodka to mine before loading it up with as many veggies and olives as our cups can hold! A good Bloody Mary isn’t just a cocktail, it’s a meal!”
Jimmy’s biggest pet peeve pertaining to customers is easy. “Consent is not only sexy AF, it’s also mandatory. You can pay, tip and thank your bartender without touching them…unless we give you permission! Trust me, if you ask…you get way better service!”
Jimmy works different shifts both downstairs at the Phoenix and upstairs at the Eagle. The Phoenix is located at 941 Elysian Fields Avenue.