Best Bartender

Debra Douglas

From the jukebox at the 1800 Club on the Miami side of the bay, Mick Jagger laments, "You can't always get what you want...." At the dimly lit bar, surrounded by a square copper countertop, 44-year-old Debra Douglas doles out Budweisers the way a saint manufactures minor miracles. A kiss on the cheek for the regulars, full regard for the passing stranger. Douglas, all caramel skin, dark wavy hair, wide mahogany eyes, and full, chocolate-color lips, surprisingly was born on Long Island to parents who hail from Trinidad. She is part Chinese, Scottish, and Cherokee Indian, a wild mixture that has resulted in a serene exotic beauty. During 23 years in the hospitality industry, she just might have heard it all. "You have to have a sense of humor in this kind of work," she allows in her smoky alto voice. Like the statue of the African fertility goddess that sits near her cash register, there is something resolute and eternal about Douglas on the job. Despite the quiet storm of emotional activity that surrounds her, she emanates a steady, generous warmth. Watching her serve a stable of locals, one is reminded how much giving there is in listening. She leans far out from behind her fortress to be embraced by the outstretched arms of a patron, a routine ritual of greeting and farewell. Absorbing and deflecting excesses of affection with an easy charm, she moves on to take in the daily snippet of life's long tale from yet another customer. In the background that Stone's ode to acceptance plays on: "But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need."

 
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