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The ABSOLUT Best Bartenders in Town

There are good bartenders and great bartenders. And then there are the ABSOLUT best bartenders in town. Here at AV, we’ve teamed up with our friends at ABSOLUT to create a contest to determine who’s the best barkeep in Western New York. We combed the region’s lounges and nightclubs with one simple request: Mix us the best cocktail you know, using any one of ABSOLUT’s fine flavored vodkas.

We’ve narrowed it down to 20 contenders and 20 delicious concoctions. And now we’re turning to you, our readers, to make the call. Read about the men and women who make the drinks, stop in the joints where they work and sample their wares. Then vote, using our Best of Buffalo ballot that appears in print in this issue and online at, for your ABSOLUT Best Bartender. And may the best cocktail win!

Photographs by Nancy J. Parisi.

Visit the Best of Buffalo Ballot to sign up to vote, or continue your ballot!

Jay McCarthy

Hutch’s Restaurant

1375 Delaware Ave., Buffalo

Jay has been bartending on and off for 20 years. He has been at Hutch’s for three years. A member of the city’s school board, Jay is the only elected bartender in Buffalo. You might say he is a natural politician behind the bar. You can visit him Monday through Friday at Hutch’s. (Wednesday’s he is off.) He loves to meet new people.

In a shaker, muddle a lemon wedge and simple syrup. Add ice, 3 parts ABSOLUT Citron, 2 parts limoncello. Shake and strain into a sugar-rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Thirsty Buffalo

555 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo

Romie has been bartending for 14 years, three of which have been at Thirsty Buffalo. He won a North American Flare competition in Toronto in 2008. In 2010 he placed 55th in the world. You can visit Romie at Thirsty Buffalo on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Fridays, and Sundays.

Build in a shaker with ice: 2 parts ABSOLUT Mandrin, 1 part blood orange vodka, 1/2 part fresh-squeezed orange juice, splash of club soda, splash of simple syrup, splash of Sprite. Shake and pour into a chilled martini glass. Add a grenadine sinker and garnish with an orange wheel.


Jenel Coppola, Jeannette Buffamonti, Michelle Sabatino

Remington Tavern

184 Sweeney St., North Tonawanda

All three of bartenders have been working at Remington Tavern since it opened July 2012. You can stop and see Michelle, Jenel, or Jeannette any Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. All three will be happy to serve you the Three Alarm Blaze. This drink was the creation of Remington Tavern’s wine and spirit manager, Charlie Tripi.

Start with 1 Beausoleil oyster in a tall shot glass rimmed with lime juice and celery salt. Add 1 part ABSOLUT Peppar, a splash of olive juice, 2 dashes of tabasco, and a float of tomato juice

Papaya Asian Kitchen and Bar

118 West Chippewa St., Buffalo

Papaya has been open since April 2005. Josh and Meghan have been bartending there for eight years. Kym Seiss has been bartending at Papaya for four years and is always entertaining. Come and see them on Wednesday nights at Papaya and they will recreate this delish martini for you.

Rim martini glass in graham cracker or vanilla wafer crumbs. Build in a Shaker with ice: 2 parts ABSOLUT Cherry Kran, 1 part ABSOLUT Vanilia, 1 part cranberry juice. Shake and pour into rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Kym Seiss, Josh Lewis, Megan McLellan

Michael Fix


581 Delaware Ave., Buffalo

Tempo is owned by chef Paul Jenkins and chef Mark Hutchinson. Michael has been bartending there for one year. He clearly loves what he does and will create a cocktail for you that will complement any meal that you have at Tempo. He definitely has the gift of gab, so come in and say hello. He may even do his Christopher Walken impression for you.

Build in a shaker with ice: 2 parts ABSOLUT Pears, 1 part Luxardo Amaretto, 1/2 part St. Germain, 2 tsp ginger simple syrup (Michael Prepares his own), splash of lemon juice. Shake and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a Chilean Tamaya baby pear.

Butterwood Sweet & Savory

391 Washington St., Buffalo

Charlie has been a bartender for nine years. He has been at Butterwood since its opening in 2012. He has worked hand-in-hand with the chefs to create a cocktail menu that complements the chef’s menu. He loves creating speciality cocktails that put a spin on the classics and show off the spirit he is using. He always uses fresh ingredients, even squeezing his own fresh fruit juice. Stop in for dessert and say hello to Charlie. He is at the bar most nights.

Build in a shaker with ice: 1 part ABSOLUT Wild Tea, 1/2 part Passion Fruit Shrub, dash of Lillet. Stir and strain into a champagne flute. Top off with your favorite champagne or Asti. Garnish with a lime twist.

Charlie Bordonaro

Brandy McLaughlin

Duke’s Bohemian Grove Bar

253 Allen St., Buffalo

With the snow coming down, as well as the temperature, Brandy wanted to get the cold weather off her mind. She created the Hibiscus Fizz! She has been a bartender for eight years and has worked in pretty much every type of establishment; beach bar, pub, and fine dining. She enjoys the social aspect of bartending, always thinking on your feet, and entertaining her customers. Come and see her on Thursdays after work.

Muddle strawberries and 2 sugar cubes in a shaker. Add ice, 2 parts ABSOLUT Hibiskus. Squeeze 2 lemon wedges and drop in. Shake and pour into a cocktail glass.


1104 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo

Cole’s has been around since 1934. Mike has been working there for nine years. He loves to make the established drinks, such as the Lemon Drop Martini made with ABSOLUT Citron, to go with the traditional Cole’s. But he created this new martini for the ladies that come in on Wednesday nights. Come and say hello to him almost any night.

Build in a shaker with ice: 2 parts ABSOLUT Ruby Red, 1/2 part St. Germain, 1 part grapefuit juice, splash of club soda. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Mike Pierce

Chris Czechowski


647 Ridge Rd., Lackawanna

Chris has been at Curly’s for seven years. You can go and see him there almost anytime. He is responsible for the creative drinks that Curly’s features monthly. You might say he is a chef behind the bar. Curly’s Kirk and Krista Van Wagner are the third generation of their family to own and operate the restaurant.

Make lavender and honey-infused ice cubes. Crystallize pomegranates. Build in a shaker with ice: 2 parts ABSOLUT Hibiskus, 1 part organic pear nectar. Shake well. Garnish with infused ice cubes, crystalized pomegranates, and hibiscus flowers.


1464 Hertel Ave., Buffalo

Stacy has been working at Gecko’s for 12 years. She is an avid sports fan and loves working behind the bar for any sporting event. Come and say hello during your favorite team’s games. Try her Mandrin Fizz, you will not be disappointed.

Build in a shaker with ice: 1 part ABSOLUT Mandrin, splash of sour mix, 2 parts club soda, 2 parts 7-Up. Shake and pour into a cocktail glass, ice and all.

Stacy Gentile

Jeff Bork

Left Bank

511 Rhode Island St., Buffalo

Left Bank just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and Jeff has been at the Left Bank for 13 years. You can see him every Wednesday or spend your weekend with him. He doesn’t mind. When you do visit him and witness his talents as a bartender, ask him about his giant peach.

Build in a shaker with ice: 3 parts ABSOLUT Apeach, 1 part Triple Sec, 3 parts peach schnapps, 1 part orange juice, 1 part pineapple juice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Drop a grenadine sinker into the glass and garnish with an orange wheel.


475 Ellicott St., Buffalo

Seabar is one three Chef Mike Andrzejewski’s restaurants. Adam is a new addition, starting just nine months ago. But Adam has been in the business for more than 17 years and loves it. If you visit Adam at Seabar, ask him to do some cartoon impressions for you. His claim to almost fame is that he was asked at one time to be one of the voices on The Family Guy.

Build in a shaker with ice: 2 parts ABSOLUT Pear, 1 1/2 parts St. Germain, 3 dashes of bitters, splash of lime juice. Shake and serve straight up in a martini glass garnished with a lime.

Adam Kutas

Jimmy Destino

Crazy Jake’s

26 Webster St., North Tonawanda

Jimmy has been bartending for 20 years and has enjoyed every minute of it. He has been the bar manager at Crazy Jakes for two years. He had his share of nine-to-five jobs but always came back to bartending. He loves the challenge of taking some of his favorite foods and turning them into drinks. If you come and see him on Martini Wednesday, he promises you will love the martinis he will be featuring. Trying the Apple Biscotti Martini is a must!

Rim a martini Glass with cinnamon sugar. Build in a shaker with ice: 2 parts ABSOLUT Vanilia, 1/2 part Amaretto, 1 part sour apple schnapps, splash of cranberry juice, splash of lime juice. Shake and strain into the rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a green apple and cinnamon Stick.

Pan-American Grill

391 Washington St., Buffalo

Matt has been at Pan American since it opened in 2012. He has 12 years experience behind the bar, and it shows. All the drinks are made from scratch with fresh ingredients. He is also known for his bow ties. Come to see what interesting bow tie he will be wearing on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. He ties them himself!

In a shaker, muddle lime wedge and simple syrup. Add ice, 2 parts ABSOLUT 80, 1 part ginger ale, 1 part City of Light beer (a light lager they brew). Shake and pour into cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Matt Walkden

Frank Ryan

The Western Door

310 Fourth St., Niagara Falls

Frank has served as the head bartender for Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel’s award-winning Western Door Steakhouse since it opened in 2003, and created the restaurant’s delicious drink menu. He has been featured in U.S. Bartender Magazine and has cocktail rights for five different drink recipes that have appeared in the publication. He also contributes articles to a variety of publications, including a feature column called “Passing the Bar” in Tonawanda News and the Lockport Union Sun and Journal. Frank quickly remembers guests’ names and drink preferences, and plays an integral role in the success of this Niagara Falls hotspot.

Build in a shaker with ice: 1 part ABSOLUT Berri Acai, 1 part Hiram Walker Mango Schnapps, 2 parts pineapple juice. Shake and pour into a martini glass. When ready to serve, pour a shot of Blue Curacao down the side of the martini glass, which will result in the layering of the drink. Ggarnish with pineapple and cherry.

Toro Tapas Bar

492 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo

Toro is the first Spanish tapas bar in Buffalo. Chris has been bartending for 10 years and at Toro for three of them. He loves his time behind the bar, and if you ask his opinion, he will be more than happy to give it to you. This adds to customers’ entertainment. If you put on a hip-hop song, he might break out in dance.

Chill a martini glass. Build in a shaker with ice: 1 1/2 part ABSOLUT Peppar, 3 parts tomato juice, 3 dashes of Worcestershire, 2 dashes of olive brine, 3 dashes of Tabasco, sprinkle of celery salt, 3 turns of the pepper mill. Stir and strain into a martini glass, garnish with olive and pepperoncini.

Chris Dickman

Ben Lewis

Lagerhaus 95

95 Perry St., Buffalo

Ben works Tuesdays through Saturdays at Lagerhaus 95, as well as any home Sabres game. You can see how much he loves bartending when you ask him to make you his special ABSOLUT cocktail!

Build in a shaker with ice: 2 parts ABSOLUT Hibiskus, 1 part blood orange rose simple syrup. (Ben makes his own.) Shake and pour into a martini glass. Top with 1 part prosecco. Garnish with an edible hibiscus flower.

Snooty Fox Lounge

445 Delaware Ave., Buffalo

Dex has been at the Snooty Fox bartending for four years. He is the assistant manager there. He loves his job and would love it if you stopped in to see him.

Build in a shaker with ice: 1 1/2 parts ABSOLUT Mandrin, 1/2 part Licor 43, 1 part sour mix, 1 part Triple Sec, plash of OJ. Shake and pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a mandarin orange.

Dexter Chow-Yuk

Paul Hartel

Mulligan’s Brick Bar

229 Allen St., Buffalo

Paul has been working at the Brick Bar, as we all refer to it fondly, for three years. He has been bartending for 20 years. He is one of the best known bartenders in Buffalo—maybe because it is his policy to meet two new friends a day. Come in and see him on Thursday nights.

Fill cocktail glass with ice, then add 2 parts ABSOLUT Vanilia, pineapple juice, a splash of grenadine. Garnish with pineapple and cherry.

Yolo Restaurant and Lounge

5841 Transit Rd., East Amherst

Dina has been bartending at Yolo since its opening in December 2011. You can visit Dina Wednesday through Saturday evenings and Sunday for brunch. But she encourages you to come to visit her on a Wednesday, when she can try her specialty cocktails out on you at a feature price.

Rim a martini glass with sugar. Build in a shaker with ice: 2 parts ABSOLUT Ruby Red, 1 part triple sec, 2 parts fresh fruit juices (a special combination), splash of simple syrup. Shake and pour into the rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a slice of red grapefuit.

Dina Rizzotto