Cocktails

Behind the Bar: Justin Gurian at Pussycat Lounge/Dirty Pretty

Powering this drink-slinging dynamo is often a "shitload of caffeine" (natch) in either pill form or a couple of Red Bulls, which Gurian sometimes guzzles down before his shifts.

"I have a really high tolerance for that kinda stuff and usually take pills on the days that I'm dragging," he says. "But all that stuff doesn't make me manic, it kinda levels me out and makes things normal."

Caffeine also finds its way into a few of his creations, like the powerful "Pablo Escobar" shot, which is guaranteed to wake you up. (Tune into Chow Bella tomorrow morning for the recipe).

He doesn't skimp on quality when mixing up such electrifying concoctions, however, courtesy of his training at Scottsdale Culinary Institute and later in the hectic high-volume fine dining environment of Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine in North Phoenix. Under the tutelage of chef Roy Yamaguchi, Gurian learned "how to be very fast but very precise" with his creations.

"I've really had to use my palate to make sure that stuff tastes good," he says. "When I'm bartending, no matter how busy it is, I always just have in my head what the drink is supposed to taste like."

Owing to his tendency of "getting bored easily" and wanting to learn all aspects of the service industry biz, he left the kitchen and began working the bar at the mom-and-pop restaurant before things got "too corporate" after Roy's was purchased by the Outback Steakhouse chain.

From there, he's gigged at Furio, SIX Lounge, the Crown Room, and at least a half dozen other Scottsdale establishments. In fact, if you've gotten a drink anywhere in Old Town over the past three years, chances are good it was prepared by Gurian. He's also gotten into the promotion end of things as well and currently hosts several nights at both PCL and the nearby American Junkie.

"I've worked at almost every bar and club in Scottsdale in some capacity, either promoting, bartending, or doing both," he says. "And each place that I work at has something's different going on and has its own vibe."

His schizophrenic resume is not unlike his own father's experience of owning and operating a number of restaurants and bars back in their hometown of Atlanta. The younger Gurian's current schedule of working PCL on Fridays, Dirty Pretty on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and American Junkie on Sundays will ultimately aid him in running a place of his own someday, he hopes.

It also keeps life interesting, he says, which is by design.

"I get really tired doing the same things and like finding something different to do, which is better than being trapped sitting in an office doing the same fucking paperwork every day," he says. "The biggest thing is the freedom. I can do anything pretty much anytime I want. I can wake up at one o'clock in the afternoon and still have enough time to get all my stuff done before my shift."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.