Bartenders hear our stories all the time. So let's hear theirs for a change. This is Behind the Bar: interviews with bartenders over a drink (or two).
Today we're having Negronis with Cardinal's own general manager and Bloomington native Logan Hunter.
— by Kajal Singh
Why are you a bartender?
I was working in the entertainment industry (in New York City), so I needed a part-time job to make more money. That’s why I started bartending. Getting bartending jobs in New York is a very serious and competitive business. I went to the Columbia University Bartending School. They took a lot of my money and taught me nothing. I worked up and down the Upper West Side.
Finally, I ended up taking a job for about two years at New Leaf. I had an apprenticeship at New Leaf Cafe with Neal Coleman. Neal is an Irish guy whose father tended bar during the Prohibition era. We used to take trips down to Death & Co., which is probably my favorite bar. We would go down there and he would quiz me on the different cocktails the bartenders were making. He really made me start focusing and paying attention. He moved back to Ireland; we don’t really talk anymore but we had a really great connection. In a place like New York City, it’s hard to make friends and trust people. I’m not that well traveled but there’s nothing really like New York City.
You’re a familiar face to a lot of people in Bloomington. Where else have you tended bar in town?
My first job back in Bloomington (after New York City) was at the Irish Lion. I actually received some really amazing training from the late Dennis Cheng at the Irish Lion. He was my mentor as far as Scotch and whiskey go. He was really a Scotch genius. He taught me most of what he knew. After that, I went to Uptown Cafe. Uptown was a really interesting and a phenomenal place to work. Michael Cassidy, who owns the place, is just a rock star in all of the ways. I left Uptown and came here to work at Cardinal Spirits.
Tell us about the first time you had your very first cocktail.
The first cocktail I ever made was a margarita. I remember sipping it and it tasting like really nasty lemonade.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you drink?
Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was a big influence on how my brother and I grew up. I would be drinking Scotch on the rocks.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Do everything with integrity.
Do you have a magical hangover cure?
It’s called water. Just stay really hydrated. Liverite and Pedialyte also work really well.
What’s your favorite toast?
I like the very classy, “Cheers.” “Skål,” which is cheers in Swedish, is also really great.
What makes Cardinal Spirits different than the other craft distilleries in Indiana?
We have a very unique still that makes very unique products. There’s not a craft distillery that has better bartenders than us. The ways the owners have set up Cardinal, everyone loves being here and there is so much creativity going on here.
What’s your favorite spirit that Cardinal makes?
My favorite spirit is the aged Single Malt Whiskey. I am really excited for our brandy that’s in the barrel right now. Oh, also, the Songbird Craft Coffee Liqueur.
And favorite drink?
My favorite drink is a Negroni. You can’t go wrong.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you while bartending?
When I lit myself on fire. I caught on fire while trying to take a flaming shot of Chartreuse. Both a customer and bartender threw beer on me to extinguish the flames on my body.
What’s next for you?
I’m opening up my own bar called Alchemy. It’s supposed to open up in April or May on the Square. I want to make a super classic and classy cocktail bar for adults.
Photos by Anna Powell Teeter