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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Hey Barkeep!

    Alex Guyton

    Ann Marie Gaston, a bartender for six years at North Italia, mixes a drink on Thursday.

    Daily Wildcat: How long have you been bartending?
    Ann Marie Gaston: Well, I’ve been here at North for almost six years, which is kind of a lifetime in the restaurant industry. I’ve been in the restaurant industry for almost 20 years.

    Do you have a favorite drink to make?
    On our cocktail menu, we have a drink called the apple bourbon punch. We take Buffalo Trace whiskey and we infuse it with fresh vanilla beans and we do apple slices, and then we marinate that for 48 hours, and it gives a really nice spiced aroma to the bourbon. And then, for our cocktail, we mix that with chai and lemon juice, honey, and then we shake it and serve it over ice. It’s just a fantastic little wintery cocktail — It has spiciness to it [and] plenty of alcohol. It’s just really delicious.

    Do you have a most memorable customer?
    Being in one spot for so many years, you kind of get a following, and I don’t mean that in a cocky way. Like, for instance, I have a daughter. She’s 3 now, and so the guests in the restaurant have seen me pregnant, they’ve seen me after, before, and so it’s really unique. People still ask me about my family life, nightly, several times a night. Your customers almost become an extension of yourself and they’re interested in your life and they want to know how you’re doing. It’s really unique. … It makes it more than a job.

    Anything really weird or strange that you’ve seen go down at the bar?
    So this restaurant’s really evolved a lot in the duration that I’ve been here. When I first started here, it was more of like a night club. We had a DJ on the weekends, we had doorman by the front door that would check your ID, and it was — I don’t want to say ‘wild’ in a negative way, but it was like a nightclub. People were dancing and partying. But now it’s more family friendly. There are kids sitting right over here and tonight it will be a packed house. People come here to enjoy really great wine and food. Towards the beginning of my time here, once there was a fight, and the other bartender had to hop over the bar and break up the fight, and that was kind of wild and crazy, something I’ve never seen before. We’ve developed and changed so much that that would never happen today.

    What do you appreciate in a customer?
    I found that in the bar industry, it can be a lot … like the medical industry, as far as you meet someone on their best day [and] their worst day. Someone can be, like, emotional and tearing up at the bar from reading an email or maybe mourning the loss of a loved one, or maybe they’re celebrating their engagement, so you just try to read each guest individually. I try to treat each situation as a fresh, new situation, and if they’re excited, I’m excited, and if they want to be somber, then I try to be respectful.


    Follow Alex Guyton on Twitter.

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