Bartender Chat: Matt Bradshaw of El Gran Malo

We stopped into El Gran Malo this week because nothing quite warms your chilled bones like a few shots of crushed black pepper, sea salt, cayenne and toasted Texas pecan-infused tequila. We sampled some of the bar's newest infusions, snacked on bacon-wrapped jalapenos that were so spicy my ears hurt, and caught up with Matt Bradshaw, the bar manager.

Where are you from? I'm from San Antonio, but I went to high school here and then moved to Dallas for college.

How long have you been bartending? I've been in the service industry since I was 15, but I've been bartending off and on for seven years.

What are some other jobs you've had besides bartending? I worked at a dry cleaner's once in high school. It was horrible. Horrible and...steamy. It's amazing the things you'd find in people's pockets. I was also a construction superintendent which wasn't fun either. I love bartending though; it's in my blood. It's what I'm meant to do.

How would you describe the bar's aesthetic? It's a little bit dive-y and dim with really great food and cocktails.

How would you describe the crowd? We have a fair amount of regulars, and new people are coming in all the time because it's a new place. We get people from the neighborhoods nearby, and some even come down from the Woodlands.

Do you have a specialty or a drink you pride yourself on? The Houston chapter of the US Bartenders' Guild was in here last week, and we made a hot drink, a traditional Mexican punch, Ponche Navideño, using various seasonal Mexican fruits...tejocotes, guava and prunes. It was kinda spicy and really interesting. It's not on the menu now, but we will have it soon. We're also working on a tequila toddy with hibiscus flowers and cinnamon, so that will be really good, too.

You get three songs on the jukebox. What do you play? Manu Chao- Me Gustas Tu, something by Willie Nelson and Lou Reed- Walk on the Wild Side.

Favorite spots around town to get a drink or dinner? I like Big Star and...Branch Water Tavern has an awesome happy hour and a great whiskey selection.

*Wildcard: What is the next book you hope to read? One of the five I've already started. I finally stuck to one and I'm about 90 percent of the way through- Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

Swing by El Gran Malo and say hi to Matt. Happy hour is 4 to 7:30 p.m. daily, with $3 off tequila infusions and margaritas, $1 off cocktails, beer and wine.

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