Bartenders are performers. I believe they make the best actors since they go through a range of emotions on a daily basis dealing with their patrons. Like actors, bartenders are chameleons turning into a different character to suit the situation or customer. They can be the understanding father figure, the bitchy next door neighbor, the gossip girl or the protective bodyguard.
Some bars also give way to a theatrical atmosphere and our next bartender works in such a place. The AllWays Lounge & Cabaret presents the finest acts in the city from drag and burlesque to theater, cabaret and comedy. So working in a location like this, you cannot help but be a true showman and that best describes my bartender of the month – Joel House.
Joel is originally from the small city of Decatur, Illinois. He moved to NOLA in 2014 to finish his bachelors in Business Administration at the University of New Orleans. That is when he realized his dislike of corporate culture and decided to remain bartending. He has worked at the AllWays Lounge since September 2021. Before that, he did a brief stint at Crossing, and prior to that, he worked for Creole Cuisine Restaurant Group. So he is no stranger to the hospitality community.
His previous jobs and his wonderful personality prepared him well to be a topnotch bartender. He is professional, courteous and can make a lovely cocktail. He has created a unique drink which everyone should try. After hearing from so many people to make them “something sweet,” he answered their call. His go-to sweet libation is 1 1/4 Stoli blueberry, 3/4 Stoli raspberry, lemonade and soda. Sounds refreshing.
One of Joel’s strongest assets behind the bar is his wit. He says, “I may not have an amazing amount of charisma, but I have some quick quips that people seem to get a good giggle from.” This is all part of being an entertainer behind the bar. That charm mixed with his mixology skills is a winning combination.
I love asking people what’s the funniest or craziest thing they’ve seen as a bartender. And as a true showman, Joel told a compelling tale of the dark side of romance. “Working in the French Quarter for so many years it’s hard to pick just one. Things get wild as most of us know. I think my favorite is when I first started tending bar around the Quarter, a man and his (I assumed) wife came in and sat at the bar for a date. The man was overcompensating. A LOT. Ordered a bunch of expensive food and drink, and was also kind of arrogant. After he paid, they stayed around for a bit and another woman appeared. SCREAMING, she found him, called him a cheater and pretty much every name in the book and drug him off his stool and out of the bar by his ear. I felt bad for the other lady, I don’t think she knew what was going on. I bought her a shot because I felt so bad. Definitely a memory that sticks with you.”
You can tell Joel loves his job, just by the enthusiasm he displays behind the bar. He says, “I love bartending because of the different people you meet. Almost everyone has a story to tell and they really make up for the weirdos you get now and again. Working at the AllWays specifically brings joy to my soul. So many different shows, artists, and just all around amazing people really makes it a joy to work at, and I never go into work with a negative attitude because of it.” Meeting new people must be very easy at the AllWays, because of the different shows that cater to a wide range of audiences.
So when he relaxes, Joel normally drinks a shot of Espolon or Jameson with a pineapple back and nurses a Soda with Bitters in between shots, or he jokes he gets crazy now and again with a hard seltzer. But his favorite drinks to make are Old Fashioneds. Muddling really helps him get out those repressed feelings of rage he may have.
My favorite question is what is his pet peeve that customers do. “Easy, LEAVING YOUR GARNISHES ON THE BAR. Like not even in a napkin. Just straight up on the bar. Just tell me no garnishes. Or ask me to throw it away. Or wrap it up in a napkin!” I believe some people are raised in a barn.
Check Joel out at the AllWays Lounge & Cabaret for a show and a libation. His normal shifts are Sunday and Tuesday nights, and alternate Thursdays and Saturdays. AllWays Lounge is located at 2240 St. Claude Avenue.