Behind the Bar: Jamil Hyatt at AZ 88

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Benjamin Leatherman
Jamil Hyatt strikes a pose behind the bar at AZ/88.
No matter what he's doing -- whether it's serving up stylish martinis at Scottsdale's AZ 88 or spitting out dope rhymes within the Valley's hip-hop scene -- Jamil Hyatt is plenty smooth.

As a former MC for mostly-defunct Valley hip-hop ensemble Antedote, the gifted lyricist (who went by the moniker Many Pieces) was renowned for his silver-tongued flows and fly rapping ability. These days, however, the 33-year-old has been impressing patrons aplenty at the Old Town eatery and martini bar with his drink-mixing skills and magnetic personality.

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Benjamin Leatherman
Jamil Hyatt mixes it up.

And although Hyatt's flipped the script and gone from working the mic to working a bar, he explains that the two tasks aren't completely dissimilar.

"There's certain type of showmanship and definitely creativity involved with both," he says. "You really have to know your audience too. You have to be aware of what people like when it comes to either music or drinks. It about being on your toes, always aware of your surroundings."

He definitely has to stay on his toes in order to keep up with the wide-ranging tastes of AZ 88's diverse clientele. 

​"It's always been like that here, an older upscale crowd mixing with kids going out to the clubs or people here for spring break or spring training," he says. "Neither of 'em are outta place. You can come as you are. Our vibe is contemporary, even swanky, but at the same time not stuffy or overly pretentious."

And no matter who steps through AZ 88's glass doors, they're typically jazzed by its upbeat vibe and ever-changing neo-bohemian art and décor (there's currently a taxi-like theme going on, featuring wrecked cab parts hanging from the ceiling a countless names of NYC hacks lining one wall), not to mention a swanky drink selection and some upscale food choices. 
Whether its classic cocktails like a Tom Collins or even a cutting-edge artesian concoction, Hyatt and his co-workers pour 'em with aplomb, including a few inventions he's stumbled upon by unintentionally.

"People have said, 'Make me that drink that other guy made me the other day,' and sometimes I'll try remembering it and making the wrong thing but it will still end up being good," he says.

Some these "happy accidents" in his alcoholic arsenal include the Crooked Cucumber (which we'll provide the recipe for tomorrow) and the particularly tasty mix of rye whiskey, fresh lime juice, and ginger beer.

"It was refreshing and didn't even taste like whiskey, which I love drinking, but is too heavy and is something I can't drink during the day," he says."

But whether patrons are downing one of his improvisations or the requisite Stolis and mojitos, Jamil makes sure any drink he's serving is worth the chedda getting plunked down. It's demonstrative of one of the few mantras he's developed during his yearlong stint at AZ 88, which is surprisingly succinct coming from someone so gifted with words.

"Just make quality stuff," he says. "In anything you do."

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