The tender: Miles Buckles
The bar: Hanny's (40 N. 1st St., 602-252-2285)
The pedigree: Buckles has been in the restaurant industry for more than a decade. Once a manager at Oregano's, he started as a server at Hanny's two years ago, and when a bartender position opened up, he went after it.
Was becoming a bartender ever a goal for you?
It was never a long-term goal. When I started here, though, and saw them doing it and having fun I was like, I can do that. I always like to learn, do new things and keep it fresh.
What do you like most about the job?
I'm a drinker, and I love the drinks we make and experimenting with new stuff. That always fails, but every now and then you get something good.
It always fails?
Yeah! You think something sounds good and maybe will mix well, so you do it and it's like, okay, that didn't work.
What's something you've tested out recently that bombed?
I was trying to do a Manhattan with a reduced cabernet instead of sweet vermouth. It just didn't quite work. I thought it would be a great idea, but it didn't blend well.
Do you spend a lot of time trying out new drink combinations?
Off and on. I'll go through my kicks when I get creative and try different things, and other times I just like an even keel: come in, bartend, do my thing.
What do you drink when you're out?
I'm a big whiskey and bourbon fan. Basil Hayden and Knob Creek are my favorites, and Maker's Mark is a great, easy bourbon. I don't get too picky when I'm out because I know I can always just go with some bourbon and I'll be fine.
What drink do you hate to make?
It's not so much the drink as the timing of it. Our mojito is an awesome drink, but it's a process to make, and when you're really busy trying to get a lot of people drinks, it can really slow you down and mess up your timing. The mint julep is probably my favorite drink we make, but a good one has to have crushed ice, so you have to take the time to crush the ice. Luckily, I love that drink so much I can get over the fact that it takes so long, and I can take a lot of pride in making a good one.
What's the wildest thing you've seen in your time behind the bar?
I haven't seen too many wild things back here, though there have been a few shootings. You see people running up the street, hiding in the cove right here. Having it so close by kind of makes you think. It comes with being downtown though.
What would you be doing if you weren't bartending?
I'd be running a restaurant or bar. I have a number of ideas for places. Bar-wise, I'd like to do something like SideBar. What I want is a good location with great guests.
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What's your opinion on the downtown scene, as opposed to other parts of the state?
It's a lot more personal here; everyone seems friendlier. They're not trying to put up an act or be something they're not. They are who they are and they like you for who you are.
What needs to happen to Phoenix's bar scene to make it more respected as a destination?
I think we're doing it. It's a matter of time, and it's all heading in the right direction. I've worked down here ten years ago, and it was nothing like this. Unless there was a game, there wasn't anyone downtown. Now you get people who come here just to hang out and have some drinks. It's headed in the right direction, but it would be nice if they made parking a little easier.
The bathrooms here are pretty unique. Do you know the story behind them?
The owner does that with all his restaurants. The bathrooms are all unique and hard to find. I don't know exactly why he does it, but it's a conversation piece, for sure. It's not often you go to a place and spend half the time talking about the bathrooms, but that happens all the time here.