A good bartender often arrives with his own built-in crowd, which is what the owners of Liquid Zoo recently discovered when they hired Craig Quiñonez. The veteran drink slinger was hired to take over the bar’s happy hour shift, and each day his throng seems to be gaining momentum. “Craig has definitely increased our afternoon bar rings,” says owner Don Scarborough. “Not to mention what he sells in food alone.” All in a day’s work for Quiñonez, who’s learned a few tricks about bartending in his 21 years behind the bar. One of them is showing thanks to the community that supports him; his annual barbecues are raucous occasions, evenings of camaraderie devoted to his friends and regulars. “I fire up the grill and treat everyone to fajitas and cocktails,” Quiñonez says. “It’s no big deal.” He says this as if entertaining 100 people on your off day were no small task. Actually, Quiñonez is the epitome of humility, and his demeanor seems perfectly suited to the kitschy cool of the Cedar Springs sports bar. With its dusty pool tables, and the not-unpleasant smell of cooking burgers wafting through, there isn’t any room for snobbery at Liquid Zoo. Besides, Quiñonez wouldn’t allow any pretentiousness. Just ask one of his customers. “Craig is such a good human being,” says Diane, taking a break from her cocktail. “He’s the kind of guy who will do anything for you, and is always trying to make you laugh.” But don’t take our word for it. Drop by Liquid Zoo in the afternoons and find out for yourself.
Describe your ideal customer.
Someone that gets along with everybody, someone with patience. Someone that doesn’t complain every time it gets too hot, or when music gets too loud. Someone who is loyal, whom you can count on during the slow times. And of course someone who’s a good tipper.
What’s your worst bartending habit?
Not wearing my glasses. I hate them. When I was wearing them as a kid, somebody called me a librarian and it really bothered me. So I choose not to war them. You want me to put on glasses again? Good luck. It was easier for me to quit smoking.
What’s the silliest thing a drunk customer has ever done?
It’s a tie between two events. I used to have this customer, who was… let’s just say, very large. One time he started complaining he had a pain in his side, so we called an ambulance. But before they got there, we searched him over and found he had a fork sticking in his side. And one time I had another customer try to make cash withdrawal from the cigarette machine. I can still see him standing there saying, “It’s not taking my card.”
Tell me something about you most people don’t know.
If I don’t know you, I’m pretty shy. Somehow, I overcome my shyness to be a bartender. Once you’re behind the bar it becomes your domain.
You feel like you’re in control.
Tell me how you’ve grown as a bartender.
My first day behind the bar, I didn’t know how to make anything. I couldn’t tell a Cape Cod from screwdriver. Plus, I was really shy and it was hard to talk to people. I didn’t know my customers or what they wanted. Now, I see somebody coming in and can have their drinks ready for them, and I can talk to just about anybody.
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For more info: Liquid Zoo is located at 3851 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas, Texas, 75219; (214) 221-3004.