Kickboxing and $850 Margaritas with Dolh Chompupong at The Mint
The tender: Dolh Chompupong
The bar: The Mint (7373 E. Camelback Rd., 480-947-6468)
The pedigree: Dolh's always worked in the industry. He started in his parents' restaurant washing dishes, cooking, bussing tables and making drinks. He's been at several places around town, including Pink Taco and Roka Akor. Until recently, he was bar manager at Sushi Roku, where he started out working breakfast ("Miserable. Miserable. Imagine setting up breakfast in a Japanese restaurant and having to wake up at 6 a.m. 365 days a year.") He made the short move to The Mint about four months ago.
You were set up pretty well at Sushi Roku. What pushed you to come here?
Having a creative voice. This is the menu I wanted to have. Hopefully someday I can have my own bar or restaurant, and this is what I would want to put out. I'm very proud of it. The people here believed in the concepts that I had.
You're one of the few established bartenders in town I've met who actually went and got a bartender's certificate. Do you think it's helped?
A lot of people joke about it, but it actually gave me a lot of insight on how things are done, and once you learn how to do things to a high quality, everything you do comes out 100 times better. You'll see a lot of people just pour liquor into the tins, but even if your proportions are right, you never really know how much is in this tin. They teach you how not to overpour, how to shake properly. You wouldn't believe how many people shake a tin like this, where the lip of the tin is pointed at the customer. If you do it that way, it'll spray out at the customer. It's little things like that.
Back in the day, being a bartender was just as respectable as being a doctor or a lawyer. It was a very difficult job to get. People took it very seriously. They were your bartender, and they were your psychologist, and they were your friend. Now it's like you can pull anyone off the street or stack the bar with pretty girls -- which is cool, don't get me wrong. But does she know how to make a drink? Is she fast? Does she clean? The problem is that at a lot of places, she's standing there looking good, but she doesn't know how to bartend, and when it comes down to crunch time -- say game day on Mill -- a bartender who's been trained properly will be popping out three or four drinks to every one she makes.
What's your bartending philosophy?
My philosophy as a bartender or a mixologist or a bar chef -- I just want to throw those names out there, first of all. A lot of people call themselves that, and a lot of people are kind of smug about it. I just want to make drinks for everyone. I believe in fresh ingredients and simple cocktails. If you're making a drink that can't be reproduced at somebody's house easily, you shouldn't be making it, because that's what people enjoy. It's like, I have liquid smoke and fire and dry ice --no, no, no. That's not what I'm about. I don't believe in squeezing everything myself, but there are juices out there that are fresh, quality, and pre-packaged. You can have fresh, tasty cocktails that don't need to be made with complicated ingredients.
Have you been to Jade Bar? Amazing. But guys, can you make 60 of those drinks in an hour? Not a chance. Because it takes the customer ten minutes to even get the drink. I'm not impressed by that. I think their drinks are phenomenal, but I'm not impressed by the speed. On the other end of the spectrum, say you're going to Mill. Am I impressed by one bartender who's able to pour 50 drinks in a minute with vodka and cranberry off the gun?
So is it more important to be fast, or to take the time to make a quality drink?
You have to balance yourself somewhere in the middle. You have bartenders who are slinging drinks all day long: vodka cranberry, Jack and coke. Then you have the "mixologists" who say they're the best bartenders around. Okay, now make 50 of your drinks in an hour. Can you do that? I want to consider myself in between them both. I care about my drinks, I care about speed and efficiency and how happy my guests are. This is a high-volume, fast-paced bar, and you can get a custom cocktail or you can get your vodka cranberry, with care put into it.
You entered a lot of bartending competitions. Any big wins?
I won a few. I once sold an $850 margarita for a charity thing at Tempe Town Lake. Other auction stuff was stuff like cruises and Gibson guitars. I'm proud of mine because it was only attached to a $50 gift card to Sushi Roku. It was a pomegranate and ginger margarita. It was delicious. Maybe not $850 delicious, but for the charity? One hundred percent. I'm going to get back into it a bit more. It's the same adrenaline as playing the big game, the same rush. It's like a crowded Friday or Saturday night here.
You still get that rush?
What do you drink?
Of course it depends on the mood. If I'm partying, I love to do champagne on ice, and if I'm really going hard, shots. Friendly shots -- not straight Jack, but mixed shots that you can share with 10-20 of your buddies.
What's something people would be surprised to find out about you?
I train and compete in Muay Thai. I'm actually deciding when I'm going to have my first fight.
Really? You don't seem like a fighter.
Here's a funny story from this weekend: a guy walked up to the bar, and he was pretty drunk, but not belligerent. He lights up a cigarette inside. I walked over, grabbed his cigarette, and said, "Sorry buddy, you can't smoke in here. You gotta put it out." The guy goes off on me. Goes off! Dropping F bombs, et cetera. I calmly explained to him that it's a law that you can't smoke indoors, but he's still yapping off, he flips me off, and eventually leaves. Another bartender is like, "How can you be so calm? I wanted to jump across this bar and smoke that kid." But honestly, what does it really matter? Unless somebody threatened me, it would take a lot to get me to a physical altercation outside the gym. For the longest time, I kept it secret that I did kickboxing. Nobody here knew until one of my bartenders came to my gym and saw me hitting the bag. I asked him not to tell anyone because I didn't want them to be intimidated or whatever. But by that weekend, everybody knew!
Another one: I also love to cook. Sometimes I actually prefer that versus bartending. Some people think I'm a good bartender, but they'd be surprised that I'm that good or better of a cook. I'd switch to cooking full-time, but only at my own place.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
I'd like to hang out with Dave Chappelle -- before he went crazy. Before he went crazy, he must have been a great time. Him or my pops. He lives in New York, and we don't get to see each other much. I'd like to have a drink with him, in Thailand, on a beach, and it would be a Thai beer.