Set 'Em Up and Go

One of the best bartenders in the world lives in Miami, but he's hanging up his apron

Nightlife hours did, however, prevent him from having what he wants most now: his own life. He had several girlfriends during his four years at Cafe Tu Tu Tango's bar, but they always dumped him because he worked nights, holidays, and weekends. He's decided to use his degree and bartending contacts to seek a job as a sales representative for a liquor company. Yet he still drops by Shuckers, a North Bay Village bar where bartenders hang out after work. Giant cutouts of Red Stripe beer-bottle caps and frosty glasses of Shiner Bock decorate the walls. Younger bartenders brag about their latest bottle-juggling feats. The ones who've hit 30 agree with Brown's remark: "As you get older, you leave the flair stuff behind." They boast about their more intangible skills, like finding the perfect drink and words to help a regular through a complicated mood.

They concur that the moments before last call consist mostly of, as a South Beach club bartender puts it, "desperation and grab-assing." But these bartenders, who love their work as much as Brown, claim they can blend for customers the most delicate atmosphere of all: romantic. Sometimes, if they give two patrons just the right flavored drinks and encouragement, the bartenders insist they can help even a steel-plated heart to melt. "That's why my dream job would be to teach younger guys who'll love the craft everything I know," Brown says. "It's an art. And a really great bartender's cocktails aren't just drinks. They're like potions.

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