Welcome to a three-part series in which HottyToddy.com interviews some of Oxford’s busiest bartenders.
HottyToddy.com contributor Steve Vassallo had the tough job of visiting these great establishments to get the lowdown on how these masters of the cocktail and beer mug see the evolving bar scene in our rapidly growing town.
Next up is Seth Weinberg from Columbia. Mo. Seth has been bartending for nine years and he is currently a bartender at Oxford’s up-scale destination point, City Grocery.
HottyToddy.com — What do you have on tap?
Seth — We have a good selection of draft beer, including all the favorites and some special brews. Not too many people have a keg of beer at their house, so this is a quintessential dining out experience.
HottyToddy.com — Do you have any Pappy Van Winkle?
Seth — My response is always the same. “We might tomorrow, you will have to come and see us then”.
HottyToddy.com — Who’s Emmy is that?
Seth — We have a real Emmy hanging with the other restaurant awards at City Grocery’s downstairs chef’s tasting bar. It belongs to Wright Thompson for his ESPN feature “Catfish Hunters.” It is certainly a conversation piece; people love taking pictures with it.
HottyToddy.com — What famous people have you met serving drinks?
Seth — I have worked in big cities, including Miami and Las Vegas. Celebrity sightings were frequent. James Cann used to be a regular at my bar, and I am a big fan of The Godfather. Man he had some stories to tell. Paris Hilton was memorable and difficult to serve because of the huge paparazzi entourage following her. Here in Oxford, it would have to be Morgan Freeman. He is an amazing actor, but also an extremely warm and friendly person. It is always enjoyable having him in the restaurant. Everyone is always like “did Morgan Freeman just walk by?”
HottyToddy.com — What are your most popular drinks?
Seth — Our City Grocery Bloody Mary is very popular during lunch and during our Hill-Country Gospel Brunch on Sundays. It is the recipe from John Currence’s James Beard-nominated cookbook, Pickles Pigs & Whiskey. Including a big pour of Vodka, it has 15 different ingredients, and just the right amount of kick.
HottyToddy.com — Do you serve the Fireball shots that seem so popular with the youngsters?
Seth — Fireball shots? We don’t even carry that stuff. I wonder who was standing around and said “let me put some artificial sugary–cinnamon flavor in my whiskey”? Please just give me a shot of Bourbon straight.
HottyToddy.com — Why do people like to have their meal at the bar?
Seth — Well, I don’t think they want to stare at me all night. I suppose they enjoy the social interaction over an excellent meal and a fantastic drink. I almost always prefer sitting at the bar for dinner. It is like dinner and a show, and I am getting my meal before everyone else.
HottyToddy.com — How is the Oxford bar scene changing?
Seth — With a bar like Snackbar doing so well, it is apparent that the bar scene has become more sophisticated. Customers love the delicious, complex cocktails there. Now that many liquor laws have changed recently, Oxford is also being introduced to many more products. There is a great selection of local craft beer available here now. I have to give a shout out to Mississippi breweries: Yalobusha, Crooked Letter, and Lazy Magnolia. They all are making delicious and unique beers.
HottyToddy.com — When are you the busiest?
Seth — It is pretty obvious in Oxford that a spike in business level directly correlates to Ole Miss athletics. Hotty Toddy!
HottyToddy.com — Extra Credit: When you are not working, where do you like to go have a drink, and what would that be?
Seth — I love to sit at Lamar Lounge on the patio, drink a cold beer, and smell the whole-hog bbq. For an awesome selection of draft beer I go to The Blind Pig Pub. If I could only drink one drink, it would be a Sazerac. When made properly, the balance of Spicy rye whiskey, sugar, bitters, and herbaceous absinthe is a beautiful thing.