Welcome to Girl Walks into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week Alissa Nelson profiles Silver Ballroom bartender Justin Deming. Below is a Q&A with Deming, followed by a video of him mixing his Slutbucket cocktail.
If you're going to celebrate your nuptials at the Silver Ballroom, you may as well do it with the $3 shot special of the day: the A.P.P.L.E. The tattooed bride asks what it stands for. "All Punks Please Leave Early," explains bartender Justin Deming. Naturally, she goes for it.
"It smells like Christmas!" she exclaims, as a bouquet of Fireball cinnamon whiskey and apple pucker waft across the bar.
The maid of honor wrinkles her nose. "I'll take a hefeweizen." Deming rolls the unfiltered wheat beer bottle on the bar a few times, blowing her mind. "I'd never thought of that! What a good idea!"
"I'm glad you appreciate the sediment," he says as he hands over the bottle with a half-grin.
Puns abound at the Bevo hot spot, from the menu of custom cocktails -- which features such delights as the Rumones Runner -- to the sleek "Retox Center" sign above the bar to Deming's repartee.
Deming helped owners Steve and Shelly Dachroeden open the bar in April. He has been in the starting lineup at several area restaurants, most notably Racanelli's Cucina in the Delmar Loop and the renovated Central West End Racanelli's location. The Dachroedens lured him away from his first bartending gig, at the Waiting Room, a bar on St. Charles Rock Road in north county that Deming characterizes as "a piece of south city away from the city."
Click through for a Q&A with Deming and a video of him mixing a Slutbucket...
Down in the real-deal south city, Deming has helped to make the Silver Ballroom a welcoming watering hole for a steady stream of new customers. A vegan, he has ensured that the small menu of sandwiches includes a Match "beef" option, and the weekly Taco Tuesday includes a Match "chorizo." It's not surprising that he has an innate understanding of how to keep people entertained, having cut his teeth booking punk and hardcore shows at the tender age of fifteen. He moved on to launch Dark Front Records, releasing albums from the likes of Not Waving but Drowning, Nineteen and Lye by Mistake.
But Deming is clearly in his element slinging drinks at the Silver Ballroom. "I'm much happier now than I think I've ever been," he sums up. "It's pretty much the best job in the world."
In three words, how would you describe your bartending style? Friendly. Efficient. Zany.
Favorite drink to drink? Every Wednesday I go to the Bleeding Deacon, and I treat myself to a draft of half Schlafly APA and half O'Fallon 5-Day IPA. It's my little St. Louis brew, share the love.
Favorite drink to make? The Slutbucket.
Drink you hate making? You know, I'm not a diva. If I have the liquor and there's a drink you want, I'll make it. I make drinks for bricklayers. I'm not going to whine about the drink I haven't made somebody. That being said, there are the shots with bizarre names that people order, then get their nose all bent out of shape that I don't know what they're talking about. They're not something that exists in the world. Sorry I don't know about the Brazilian Scat Job, but I think that was just invented at the party you were at. If you don't know either, drop the attitude.
What makes you ignore a customer at the bar? Only being ignored. It's funny, because invariably it's those people who are having a full-on crisis when they are ready to order. But do I ignore those customers? No, I just notice them.
Can you spot trouble as soon as it walks through the door? Usually. Most trouble is trouble when it walks through the door. Very rarely does trouble happen. Most people bring their trouble with them.
Best/worst song on the jukebox? There are so many best songs on this jukebox. One that I've really been having fun sneaking in is the song "Homo" by Wretch Like Me. It's a nice little ditty. There's not a worst song, but there are songs that people shouldn't hear every day of their lives. "Ace of Spaces" by Motörhead: There's not a day where I don't hear that song once, if not four or five times. "Bitchin' Camaro": really hilarious the first 47 times.
Worst thing you've ever seen happen in your bar? This is the saddest thing I've ever seen in my life, and it happened just the other day: We have the new Iron Man pinball machine, I think the only one in Missouri. There was a family from Florida staying in Belleville, and they really liked pinball and comic books. The son was online and saw that there was an Iron Man machine here, and the next closest one is in Michigan. So by some stroke of luck, they're by one of the Iron Man pinball machines. That morning a coil blows and the left flipper goes out and we had to turn it off. Not an hour or two later, the family comes in. From Florida. Their one chance to play the new Iron Man pinball machine. But it gets better! The son comes in...in his wheelchair. In an Iron Man T-shirt. And I get to tell them that the machine has stopped working.
How do you keep yourself occupied on a slow night? I get to do fun stuff like inventory, rotate stock, clean stuff. That's what I like to think I do. I also typically drop some quarters into Dr. Dude and try to beat my high score.
Who would you most like to have a drink with? I'd probably have a beer with the president. I'm not sure what good it would do.
Where are you most likely to be found when you're not in this bar? The Waiting Room.
Best hangover cure? The best plan is to drink a lot of water and maybe some Tylenol before you pass out. If you make it to the morning, I'm a big fan of hair of the dog. And you can never go wrong with some chili. Actually, you can go very wrong with chili, but if you're willing to risk it, it could turn out well for you.
Worst pickup line you've ever heard? There have been some head-scratchers.
Most unusual liquor you've ever seen? For a while infused vodka was a big thing, and I think I've seen people infuse everything but their car keys. We have a bacon-flavored vodka that we use to make bloody marys. It's probably the most American thing you can think of -- until they figure out a way to make ranch-flavored vodka.
If you could start a band, what kind of band would you start? I would like to be the vocalist for a crusty hardcore band and make speaches about how to fix the world. Play a song for a minute, talk for three minutes.
Best/worst drinking holiday? I always have a spot in my heart for drinking on Christmas, ever since my brother got wasted on Evan Williams whiskey one special Christmas morning. Worst drinking holiday is Cinco de Mayo. I think Cinco de Mayo is just an example of how white people ruin everything. We did Cinco Denial, and I made my Tequila Mockingbird shots. It's tequila with a little lime vodka, Malibu rum, and lime juice.
Biggest tab you've ever seen? We sell a lot of $2 and $3 beers. The largest tab I've seen is $139, and they had to involve some friends and really go at it to get that high. They were really reaching for the stars.
Drunk food of choice? As a vegan, it's pretty hard to get good drunk food. I've definitely visited the Del Taco on McCausland more than I'd like to admit. It's the cycle of shame, I'll tell you.
Three adjectives that describe your bar: Entertaining. Engaging. Enlightening.
My bar is the only bar in St. Louis where... You can drink a 24-ounce can of PBR while playing pinball and listening to classic punk on the jukebox. If this isn't Heaven, I don't want to go!
The Silver Ballroom 4701 Morganford Road; 314-832-9223
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