Bartender Chat: Aaron Harris of Samba Grille
When Aaron Harris was introduced to me as "The Superstar," I was intrigued. I envisioned him flashily flinging bottles around Brian Flanagan-style, but couldn't imagine that kind of hoopla in the refined space of Samba Grille.
But Aaron's bartending superstardom does not stem from dramatic displays, but likely from the easy way he interacts with people and blends concoctions. Aaron's skill behind the bar started in an unlikely place: Amy's Ice Cream. But, as he says, "If you've ever been to an Amy's Ice Cream, you know that it's kind of got the same style as bartending except you use ice cream instead of booze. You've got to do the tricks, you've got to talk to people, you've got to be funny and personable."
Surprisingly, Aaron does not drink. When I point out that this is unusual, he says, "It's like a pilot that's scared of heights, you know. It's like, what the hell do you think you're doing? Who do you think you are?"
But Aaron is clearly a student of the bar, relying on his precise measurements and feedback from patrons to ensure perfect beverages. He mixed me up a Samba Grille signature drink, the Pineapple Mint Caipirinha. This unique twist on the popular Brazilian beverage is a dangerous concoction due to the ease with which you can suck one, or many, down.
According to Aaron, the cachaça (sugarcane liquor) is infused, in house, with pineapple, resulting in a more mellow alcohol taste. Combine this with tart lime and a hint of mint, and you've got a drink that is as tasty and refreshing as it is beautiful. Prior to indulging in this yummy treat, I talked to Aaron about tending bar.
What the best part of bartending? I don't have to kiss anybody's ass back here. It's not like waiting tables where somebody can just yell at you if the food comes out slow. People that sit at the bar are usually pretty cool. They understand.
In three words, describe your bartending style. Heavy on fun.
If you could ban any drink from bars, what would it be? Anything with Red Bull. For one, we don't have Red Bull here, and two, I don't think people realize what it does to you, the Red Bull mixing with booze. I mean, first of all, it excites you. It puts thoughts into your head that shouldn't be there. And, second of all, it drains you. It gives you a massive hangover the next day if you're not pounding water. I think it benefits everyone, bartenders and patrons alike -- just cut out the Red Bull. Stick with the Cokes or Sprites and go on your merry way.
Someone walks in and orders a ___________. You think, _________. If you and seven of your closest friends walk in and order Washington Apples, I think, at one point you probably seriously bought an Ed Hardy T-shirt. That's only the guys. If you're a lady, you can order whatever you want, and I'm never going to think about it. I think there are certain drinks that guys just shouldn't drink.
Is there a recipe you'd like to share? This one's for the ladies...
Sparkling Berry Cosmo
- 1 shot Cîroc Red Berry
- ½ shot Cointreau
- Squeeze of lime juice
- Splash of cranberry
Shake over ice. Pour into martini glass and top with sparkling wine or champagne.
Don't feel like making this, or any other cocktail, yourself? Go visit Aaron. He may not kiss your ass, but he'll make you a damn fine drink.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.