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Bartender Chat: Brandon Ricks of Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge

Tattooed and clad in plaid, Brandon Ricks holds down the fort at Bad News Bar.
Tattooed and clad in plaid, Brandon Ricks holds down the fort at Bad News Bar.
Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg

When Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge first opened, there was an ongoing list on the chalkboard of fellow industry professionals who had broken glasses and were being publicly shamed for doing so.

That list has been replaced by a list of hashtags in colorful chalk. There's #CampartiLife and #NotaSpeakeasy. Below that, two instructions for how to enjoy the bar: #Don'ttouchthelamps and #MyNameisn'tHeyBro.

It's a place known for rules and order, as well as bartenders who enforce said rules without being assholes. They're stern, but they make a mean drink.

Bartender Brandon Ricks isn't an outwardly talkative fellow. He likes to make drinks and get his job done without necessarily listening to you chat about your day. Give him a chance to mix up something special for you, though, and he'll be swift, and the result will be delicious.

Pro tip: Order something with Campari.

How long have you been bartending? It's going on five or six years now.

Why did you start? I didn't want to work a day job. I was waking up for construction jobs, and that sucked. I didn't want to be awake at 6 a.m. anymore. I wanted to be going to bed at 6 a.m.

When did you start working here? It's been about a year. I've known Justin [Burrow, the owner] for a while. I knew him from Grand Prize. I came in one day saying how I wish I worked at a bar again. I'd been working at Target for a while. Every now and then you get in those weird things where you're like, I don't want to do this for a while. So Justin said, "Come in Tuesday." So I came in Tuesday and started working here.

If you weren't bartending, what would you be doing? I don't know. Working at Target? That place was legit. I did night stocking and moved heavy objects in the back of the warehouse. I wanted to be involved with as few people as possible.

But you're doing the opposite of that now at a bar where you have to interact with people... Well yeah, but every once in a while you just need a break. People start to piss you off.

What do people do here that pisses you off? Just don't touch the lamps. Justin found them at an antique store, and they mean a lot to him. People are drunk and sometimes kind of not careful. And stuff breaks. And stuff is hard to replace when it's an antique.

This story continues on the next page.

 

The Darth Bitterman at Bad News Bar.
The Darth Bitterman at Bad News Bar.

When you're not here, where do you go to drink? Here. Well, not only here. I go to Clutch City Squire. It's right down the street. And I go to Pastry War a lot cause I live right down the street.

What do you drink when you're out? Campari and soda. Or a shot and a beer. But I drink a lot of Campari.

What's your current favorite ingredient to use? Green chartreuse. It's just really floral and delicious.

What's a drink that you hate making? I don't hate making anything. My least favorite cocktail in the world is a Moscow Mule, though. There's just no thought in it. Vodka, ginger beer and lime. People call for the weirdest things, but we don't have the stuff for some of it. The one thing that pisses me off is when we tell people we don't have flavored vodka and they get upset. We just don't carry it, man. I've got vodka, and I've got orange juice. Here's your mandarin vodka.

A person walks into a bar and orders ________. He or she has just earned your undying admiration. That's a hard question.

Does nothing impress you? Everything impresses me. Life impresses me. I guess a Boulevardier, because I love campari, and bourbon is awesome. And that never gets called.

What's one thing about bartending that people might not understand but you wish they did? That it's not glamorous at all. Everyone's all, "Oh, I've seen that movie Cocktail!" It's not like that. I work like 13-hour shifts on my feet the whole time. People will yell at you. It's not as glamorous as everyone thinks. It's fun, though.

If you could have a drink with anyone, living, dead or fictional, who would it be? I posed this question to Facebook.

What did Facebook say? It said David Duchovny. He's awesome. Agent Fox Mulder. I don't think Facebook knew it was for an interview, but David Duchovny was the winner in that.

OK, then who would you drink with? I'd drink with David Duchovny. That dude's awesome. I mean, I thought about it. Everyone was like Hemingway and this and that. And one of my friends suggested David Duchovny. I could ask what he hated about the X-Files. And he's sober, which is weird. He had a sex addict problem.

What would you drink with him? I'm pretty sure he doesn't drink alcohol. So...tea?

For those who do drink alcohol, here's Ricks's recipe for a Darth Bitterman.

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