Scraping Vanilla Beans with Mellow Mushroom's Jenna Cacciamani

Scraping Vanilla Beans with Mellow Mushroom's Jenna Cacciamani
Zach Fowle

The tender: Jenna Cacciamani
The bar: Mellow Mushroom (740 S.
Mill Ave. 480-967-6355)
The pedigree: When Cacciamani's manager at Applebee's needed a bartender about 8 years ago, she was originally opposed-- she was working tables, was fine with the money she was earning and liked her regulars. But she eventually ended up moving to the bar as a favor and, as it turns out, loved the job. After Applebees, she took her skills to the Mellow Mushroom in Happy Valley, where she hung out for a little over a year before moving to the Mill Avenue location, where she's been since the place opened in March.

The other Mushroom location is way up there in Happy Valley. How's the drive?
I still live up there, but I drive here now. It's rough. Driving home at 3:30 in the morning is rough. I sleep a couple hours a night, but you know. It's fun here.

What's kept you in it for eight years?
Well, it's good money, obviously. It's easy to get sucked into that. But I love it. It's exciting, and you get to play with alcohol. Who doesn't grow up wanting to mess with alcohol?

What do you like most about bartending?
You get to meet new people every day. Every walk of life comes in here. You never know who you're going to deal with. It's also high-motion, which works for me as well, since I'm ... maybe ADD is a good word. Also, I'm a silly person. There are some boundaries, but a lot of them can be stepped over as well. At a normal job, you might have to wear heels and a skirt -- that would be cute back here, but not too effective. You get to come into work in jeans, learn new things, and this company actually gives you a lot of opportunity to move up.

You guys have a pretty impressive tap list. Do you know a lot about beer?
All I knew was liquor when I started working at Mellow. They had 36 taps at the other location, and we have 48. It's intimidating, but one of the owners helped me learn a lot about beer, and now I'm the one who orders it all and tastes it all and pours it all.

So you're the one who orders the kegs? You must be a big fan of Rogue -- you've got 12 of their beers on tap. 
I do like Rogue beer, though I think it takes a certain kind of drinker to drink it. They do cram a lot of ingredients into their beers. The owners are also from Oregon, so that might have something to do with it.

When you go out, what do you drink?
My favorite beer is Modus Hoperandi, from Ska Brewing. At Happy Valley, we used to serve it in the can, but everybody liked it so much we put it on tap here. If we're talking alcohol, I like tequila.

Do you get a lot of opportunities to taste and play with new liquors?
We do. Distributors come in every week a bring something else to try. It's interesting -- another perk of the job.

I noticed one of the other bartenders making a White Russian earlier, and he scraped a vanilla bean and threw it in the drink. You don't often see something like that in a bar on Mill. 
Yeah, that's a recipe from one of our owners. We use fresh vanilla beans, and those things are pricy. You could probably buy a car for less than a package of them. But it's a great recipe.

What's the wildest thing you've seen while behind the bar?
The Undie Run was a good one. The kids came in here after it was over, and a lot of our actual employees were wearing their undies too. I've also see body shots from every area possible. There's really no end to what somebody will do when they've been drinking. Mill's definitely different. I'm from the New York/New Jersey area, and there people are always fighting. Here, at two in the morning, the strip outside our door turns into clown fest. We'll close down the bar and take five minutes to go outside and view the festivities, then go back inside and clean up.

If you weren't bartending, what would you be doing?
I don't know! A lot of people ask me if I want to be a bartender anymore and if I want to do something else. I know there's an opportunity in this company to move up into management, but I really can't see leaving bartending anytime soon. I'm having fun, I'm still of age. I've got a couple more years, come on!

If you could choose anyone to have a drink with, who would it be?
Can I choose my mom? I hardly ever get to see her; she's all the way in New Jersey, and I miss her. 

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