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Bartender Chat: J. Hal Brock of Hearsay Gastro Lounge

"It's pronounced 'Hal' apeno," Hal Brock corrected me with a smile as I attempt to order his namesake cocktail. Not like "hall," but like the name "Hal" or "Al." Honestly, after taking a few sips of this zesty, yet refreshing, cocktail while chatting with Hal at Hearsay Gastro Lounge, I couldn't care less what it's called. I just wanted another.

The "Hal"-apeno, a blend of freshly muddled jalapeno, lemon, vodka and sugar, is Hal's first cocktail to make it to Hearsay's illustrious drink menu, though certainly not his last. "I didn't name it after myself,'" he laughed. "I'm not that narcissistic. Although I do have my own signature tattooed on my body like I'm a piece of art." Come to think of it, he promised to show me that tattoo, but after a few more of his delicious drinks, we had both completely forgotten.

Hal came up with this peppery libation at his last job, at an Indian/ Latin American Fusion restaurant in Chicago. "We had all these interesting ingredients lying around, so I would just throw things together to see what worked." He began by making jalapeno into water, which turned into jalapeno lemonade, which naturally led to adding vodka to the mix.

Hal loves bartending. "I've always been a creative person, like ridiculous creative," he explained. "I've made bookshelves for Christmas presents, I made shorts that I wear, purses, I've painted." And that's not all. Hal has done everything from write for the American Psychological Society (ask him about monkey prostitution) to valet-park cars. He's most comfortable in a situation where he can talk to people and make them happy, which is why he is a perfect, welcoming fit to the staff at Hearsay. Stop by Tuesdays through Saturdays when he is tending bar and ask him to whip up something special for you.

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