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).
— by Kajal Singh
Today we're pulling up a bar stool at Michael’s Uptown Café in Bloomington to chat with bar manager Andrew Wind and bartender Micky Leonard. (Fun fact about Andrew: he used to tend bar at Cardinal Spirits!)
Uptown is a comfortable bar that has a neighborhood feel, and in addition to classic and modern cocktails, it serves Cajun and Creole-inspired food and a killer weekend brunch. It's one of the wonderful Bloomington establishments that serves Cardinal Spirits, namely our Songbird Craft Coffee Liqueur. You'll find it in the brunch cocktail called Caffe Uccello, made with Cardinal Spirits Songbird Craft Coffee Liqueur, ginger liqueur, Amaro Averna and a shot of espresso.
Tell us about the very first time you had a cocktail.
Andrew: The first time I had a proper cocktail was in Pittsburgh at a bar called Tender. I had the Don Lockwood: Laphroaig Scotch, maple syrup and chocolate bitters. It’s named after a character in Singin’ in the Rain.
Micky: My first cocktail was a Sex on the Beach at a club in Spain. I was at this club and I was like, I’m going to get a Sex on the Beach for sure. It was real weird and gross. I guess my first proper cocktail was the Last Word at Uptown.
What’s your story? How’d you get to be a bartender?
Andrew: I’m an actor, both on stage and screen. I went to college for acting. After graduating college, I moved down to Florida. Had some TV gigs down in Miami. I wasn’t feeling the vibe in Florida though, so I moved to Pittsburgh and I started working at a beer bar to pay the bills while I was acting. I wanted to do something a bit more creative so I started looking into cocktail bartending. Fast forward a bit, and I met Logan Hunter (general manager at Cardinal Spirits and former Uptown bartender) and he gave me a couple of books to read. I love the fact that bartending is always new and you can interact with different people. It’s a great way to do character studies, in terms of acting. You can also be very creative and tap into something quite historical.
Micky: I am originally from Carmel, Indiana. I lived there until I was 17 and then moved to the Netherlands with my family. I finished up high school in the Netherlands and I came back to Indiana University for college and grad school. I started working at the Uptown during grad school. I started a band in 2012 with my brother; we’ve been rocking pretty hard. I really love bartending; it’s a really fun, creative and high paced job. I am done with school now but I decided to continue bartending for a while.
If you could have a drink with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you drink?
Micky: Kurt Cobain. Coffee and cigarettes.
Andrew: This is going to sound super pretentious but there’s this theatre practitioner named Antonin Artaud. His specialty is the theater of cruelty – which is not letting the audience rest on their laurels when they’re in the show. There’s this sense of comfort when you watch theater and he believed theater wasn’t really theater under that guise. I would like to drink with him. He was a really crazy guy and I’d love to pick his brain over a few drinks. It would be in Paris, France, and drinking absinthe. Maybe having a couple cigarettes.
What is your go-to hangover cure?
Andrew: Club soda and bitters, it works every time.
Micky: My magic hangover cure is ginger ale.
If you walked into Cardinal Spirits right now, what would you order?
Andrew: I really am a fan of the Red Bird Elixir (Cardinal's house-made riff on Campari that is typically used a negroni). So, a little bit of that with club soda and lemon. But my favorite spirit is your Standard Dry Gin.
Micky: Gin and tonic with the Standard Dry Gin.
What makes Cardinal Spirits different than other craft distilleries?
Andrew: They are really interested in giving the public what they want and listening to their feedback. They aren’t just in it for the money; they’ve really created a local business that families in Bloomington can be proud to bring their family to. Considering that Cardinal Spirits can’t purchase spirits from outside of the distillery, the fact the people keep coming back is saying something.
Micky: Cardinal molds new tastes, ideas and flavors with a classic retelling. It’s fun and interesting.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Andrew: For behind the bar: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. For life: keep moving forward.
Micky: My Dad always said, “Let it roll off, like water off of a duck’s back.” It’s a good image that’s very peaceful and it helps me collect myself.