Many skills come together to make a good bartender, particularly in New Orleans, a drinking city where the cocktail is king.
Here a bad bartender usually is not employed long. We are more than a party city for tourists; we are a place where locals love to drink and go out frequently. To be a great bartender in the Big Easy you need to have a personality, be service-oriented, a quick study, professional, flexible and a good listener.
Our LGBT+ community loves their bars and are loyal to their bartenders. This is a city where an excellent bartender can prosper and make a fantastic living. My bartender spotlight has all these qualities and many more. I am talking about none other than Nick Lazar at Lafitte’s in Exile.
Originally from Boston, Nick visited New Orleans a few times and fell in love with the place. He made NOLA his permanent residence in 2013. He pretty much settled at Lafitte’s in Exile soon after he moved here in July, 2014; he is coming up on his ninth anniversary there. Before that, he worked at Ochsner Medical Center in the laboratory. He also worked in ICU as a technician when he was in Boston. You can tell he has medical experience because he has a fantastic bedside manner.
Nick is a favorite among the locals and came up with his own shot called his special Nick Juice; it sounds nasty but is delicious (sort of like the forbidden fruit). When asked what is in it, he just smiled and said, “I can’t give away all my secrets, baby.”
In addition to his cocktail-making skills, he also possesses a keen sense of humor. He credits being a reliable co-worker and able to “bust ass” behind the bar as his strongest assets. Speed and accuracy in service is important when you are a bartender, especially in the New Orleans gay community where we have some of the largest holidays such as Southern Decadence, Mardi Gras and Halloween.
Nick also cheekily says besides busting it, his ass is his best feature. And he is not wrong. Speaking of Southern Decadence, Nick says that is the most hysterical time of the year to work as a bartender. “I see so many crazy things during Decadence.”
You can tell Nick loves his job in his approach to dealing with patrons. Beyond being professional, he makes customers feel welcomed and appreciated. “I like working at the oldest gay bar in New Orleans, I like the history and community here, as well as slinging drinks and meeting new people,” he says.
He also enjoys being on the other side of the bar too. When he goes out, he tends to drink “bougie” craft beef and Irish whiskey. His favorite drinks to make are margaritas and cosmopolitans. “But don’t tell anybody—I LOVE making Bud Lights!”
I always want to be a better customer, so I asked him what his biggest pet peeve is as a bartender and he said, “people who talk politics and religion at the bar.”
Go to Lafitte’s in Exile located at 901 Bourbon Street next time you are out and try some Nick Juice, His normal slots are Friday through Tuesday from 1 to 9 p.m.