Joseph Wasneski at AZ88

The Tender: Joseph Wasneski
The Bar: AZ88 - 7353 E. Scottsdale Mall, 480-994-5576
The Pedigree: Five years ago, Wasneski stumbled upon AZ88 during a night of drinking. He fell in love with the place but had zero experience, so he spent a couple weeks at Tempe's Bartending Academy to build up his skills. After the requisite time spent playing with fake ice and bottles filled with colored water, he returned to AZ88, was given the job, and has been mixing up classic martinis ever since.

What's kept you around for five years?
It's really just the atmosphere of this place. The people who come in here are cool -- I even like my bosses. Everyone here is pretty relaxed. I hang out here more than anywhere else. I'll stay here when I get off work or come in on my days off.

What's the most important lesson an aspiring bartender can learn?
A lot of what you pick up as a bartender is during your first job, but I'd say it's all about the interview. If you have that confidence, that's what everyone's looking for. After that, learning drink recipes is easy. It starts with your personality. You have to be confident. You have to be able to read people -- that's a lot of it, too. You have to make sure they're having a good time.

What's been your most memorable night here?
AZ88's 21st birthday party. They did a whole thing here. They had a stage with models walking up and down the bar. Crazy; lots of free drinks running around. It was a great night.

As a bartender, what do you drink when you go out?
I know it sounds kind of boring, but whiskey coke. For "out there" drinks, I like a mojito or a mint julep. Four-ingredient drinks are what I'm looking for. Maybe some muddled fruit, like an old-fashioned or something. You get talking with a bartender when it's quieter, then I start elaborating on what I want to drink. But it's really more about the experience when you go out -- talking to people, talking to the bartender. That's why a whiskey coke will do me just fine.

What's your favorite kind of customer?
Service industry, definitely. They tip really well, they're understanding if it's busy. They get it.

If you could choose any person to have a drink with, who would it be?
Bill Clinton. He seems like a cool guy, he's world-renowned. I don't know; he's the first guy who popped in my head.

If you weren't bartending, what would you be doing?
I'm in school right now, so I guess something in the medical field. The goal is to become a naturopathic physician, but I'm still about six years out. Naturopathy is really just a broader spectrum of medicine. An M.D. is pretty much prescribing pills; a naturopathic physician is all ecompassing. There's med school, but there's also chiropractic stuff, acupuncture -- it's a bit of everything.

Are most bartenders heavy drinkers?
They like to drink, I'll say that. It's just like anything else: if you're around it all the time, you're going to indulge every now and then. I don't want to say we're all heavy drinkers, but we like to drink.

What's something people would be surprised to know about you?
The biggest surprise to most people who come in is that I'm studying medicine, mostly because it seems like what I'm doing here is the opposite of that. I kind of disagree with that, though. In a way, the drinks I make are kind of like a prescription. I also have a twin brother. He worked here for a while, and people loved that. 

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