Bar Beat

A Chat with Norman Daughtery of Bailey's American Grille

To watch Norman Daughtery make a martini is a beautiful thing. The head bartender at Bailey's American Grille in Seabrook, he pours his ingredients slowly and precisely before furiously going to town with the cocktail shaker, whipping the ingredients until the strong drinks have the thinnest layer of ice on top and the sweet drinks have a hint of foam. It's not hard to tell he's a martini drinker himself. "I have to make you a chocolate martini," he says. "I have a couple that come in all the time and order them, and they told me, 'Your chocolate martinis, they make you go home and get naked and jump in the pool!'" It's clearly a compliment.

Get him started, and Daughtery can't help but show off his favorite on- and off-menu creations, from a frothy white key lime martini to a sweet-but-not-too sweet-drink inspired by banana nut bread. "I just come up with a flavor I want to recreate, and then I experiment," says Daughtery. It's obviously working, because the key lime martini tastes just like the pie. Norman smiles. "Scary, isn't it?" The dangerous ingredient is the Firefly Sweet Tea vodka, a liquor so remarkable Daughtery insists we taste it. Filling a Collins glass with half tea vodka, half water and a slice of lemon, the result looks and tastes just like sweet tea. "That's actually 70 proof," says Daughtery, "I don't keep it in my house -- it's too easy to drink the whole glass before you even realize it."

Daughtery spent nine years working for Outback Steakhouse before jumping ship to Bailey's. "You get pulled in by the power and the respect you get as a managing partner, but I never thought I would be there so long. I could never work at a corporate chain again. I've done everything, but bartending is my favorite. Bartending is interesting. We have a lot of regulars in here, and they're almost like family. I have their phone numbers, I text them when I'm bored, and I'm like, 'Get in here!' When you see them it always makes your day. Sometimes they come in on a good day; sometimes they walk in and say, 'Thank God you're here.' That's nice. That's the best part of my job."

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Sarah Rufka