Welcome to Girl Walks into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week Alissa Nelson profiles Chez Marilyn bartender Jacob Scarborough. Below is a Q&A with Scarborough, followed by a video of him mixing an Almond Joy martini.
Getting a haircut is a stressful experience, particularly if you suffered from the indignities of a curly-haired adolescence in the early '90s. A stout dose of liquid courage, it stands to reason, is a logical prelude to a grown-up date with a pair of scissors. Therein lies the genius of Chez Marilyn, a cute little mashup of bar and salon in Alton's quaint downtown. (Anyway, after a few drinks, the distinction between "saloon" and "salon" begins to blur.) The salon has been a fixture for 30 years, and while the bar has only been in operation for 10 of those, it has the vibe of a cozy neighborhood haunt, a place where regulars stop by to unwind after a tough day on the job.
Bartender Jacob Scarborough has been kicking around Chez Marilyn since the early days of the bar, where his mother tended before him. "I came down to help stock and make sure she got home safely," he recounts. "Then they had an opening right after I turned 21, and they asked if I wanted to be a bartender."
Conveniently, Scarborough had been mixing a cocktail here and there at the restaurant where he'd been working. But that was no preparation for his first night Chez Marilyn. His first order was for a manhattan, a trial by fire for a new bartender. "I'd never made a martini prior to that night," he adds.
He has made plenty since.
In three words, describe your bartending style. Entertaining, creative and confident.
Favorite drink to drink? It's a simple drink, but a Red Stag Sweet Press [Jim Beam's cherry-flavored whiskey] or a good IPA in a pint glass.
Favorite drink to make? The Almond Joy martini -- this is a nice dessert cocktail. Since women usually order it, I like to draw a heart on top with chocolate syrup. If they're with a guy, I draw a broken heart instead.
Drink you hate making? I really love making all drinks, but one that sometimes gets on my nerves is a mojito. It's fun to make, but for some reason people always ask for it when I'm extremely busy, like at our summer block parties. And it's never just one -- more like eight in a row.
Favorite drink you created yourself? The Snickers martini. I'm sure there are other Snickers martinis out there, but this is my favorite candy bar, so I decided to make my own version. It's vanilla vodka, Frangelico, white Godiva liqueur and butter schnapps. Then I use chocolate and caramel to decorate the glass before I put it in.
What is the worst drink you've ever had? My best friend Steve Case was bartending one night, and the waitress asked for "a 43 and half and half." He wasn't sure what that was, so he asked me, and all I could think of was 1843 whiskey. The waitress immediately came back up to the bar and said the customer took one look at it and knew it wasn't the right drink. Steve and I did as any good bartender would do, decided there wasn't any reason to waste the alcohol, and drank the drink as shots. It was the worst drink, even worse than a Concrete Mixer.
Favorite nonalcoholic drink? Coffee, for sure. I think I started drinking it in the womb. Dad didn't know about this, but Mom let us have coffee at a young age. This is probably why I'm only five-nine. Thanks, Mom.
Favorite drinking ritual? Doing shots with good friends: Hold the shot up high, make a toast with everybody's glasses touching, banging the drink on the bar and then shooting it. There's always somebody who ends up drinking before the ritual is complete, though -- not cool.
What do you drink when you're...On a plane? Vodka-tonic, to calm the nerves.
...At a wedding? Keg beer. It's free but I hate the hangover.
...At your parents' house? Whatever is in the fridge -- usually Keystone Light in a wine glass. It's Mom's favorite -- classy!
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