Hugging it out with Tammy Abney at Mastro's City Hall
The tender: Tammy Abney
The bar: Mastro's City Hall Steakhouse (6991 E. Camelback Rd., 480-941-4700)
The pedigree: Abney never went to bartending school -- she started her career as a cocktail waitress at DJ's Bar & Grill and worked her way up. She joined up with the Mastro Group in 1994 at Marco Polo and has been at City Hall for eight years.
Was it always a plan to end up behind the bar?
I think so, though it kind of just happened that way. I enjoyed it so much because I'm a people person, and I just never went back. I also have two kids, and it's worked out great for me to work nights and be able to hang out with them during the day.
I saw you say hi to a few customers when you came in. Regulars?
Yes. I have a lot of regulars. I usually just work two or three night a week, so they'll all come in on those nights. That's another thing that's kept me here -- I have a lot of great regulars who are just nice people. I learn some fun things from them.
How does a bartender get regulars like that? How do you get people to come to a bar just to see you?
I think personality and the way you treat them are big parts of it. The way you pay attention to detail and their needs, the ability to read a person and adapt to their personality are also important. It's the way they're treated when they come in, making them feel comfortable and at home. If you're always in a good mood, that helps. You have to You have to take care of them from the minute they walk in and treat them the way you would want to be treated if you were out.
Is great bartending something you can learn, or is it imbued only in certain people?
I think there's something in you, a specific personality trait that's in every bartender. I really do. Every person is different, and especially here it's amazing how different the bartenders are. But we all gel together. It just works.
How would you describe yourself as a bartender?
I'm very friendly and outgoing, with a big heart. I care. When people walk in and they've had a bad day, I like to know why. I don't feel like I'm just a bartender. I like to get to know people, and I can tell the people who want to talk and the people who don't. With regulars, we'll have a cocktail waiting for them as soon as they walk in. People love to be greeted with a handshake, but I'm notorious for giving hugs. I'm a hugger; that's just the way I am. It's just providing a comfortable, warm feeling.
If you weren't bartending, what would you be doing?
I'd probably be teaching elementary. I went to school to teach, but I never finished. I got married and had two kids. But bartending has been great for me. I don't have a stressful job, and I love what I do. There aren't too many people who can say that anymore. The people here sometimes laugh at me because I'm always in a great mood, but you have to be. This is what you're here for.
Do you find that you use a lot of the teaching techniques you learned when dealing with customers?
I do. Even techniques I use with my kids, I find myself using on customers. I had a baseball player from the Diamondbacks come in the other night and he had a cast on his hand, so I had to cut his steak for him. I felt like he was my son.
What do you drink?
I'm a big wine drinker. I also do beer and margaritas. Every now and then, I'll have a fun martini -- usually when I come here.
If you could have a drink with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Oprah. I think she's very inspiring.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.