Making Hundreds of Long Islands with Curtis Williams at Mill Cue Club

Categories: Behind the Bar
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Zach Fowle

The tender: Curtis Williams
The bar: Mill Cue Club (607 S. Mill Ave., 480-858-9017)
The pedigree: Becoming a bartender at Cue Club works differently than at most places: any girl who wants to tend bar has to start out as a server, and any guy has to first work the door. Williams followed the path, checking IDs before barbacking and working days. He's now a full-time bartender and has been at Cue Club for six years.

The process to become a bartender here is pretty unique. What's the purpose?
We like our employees here to understand every aspect of the bar, and by the time you get to be a bartender you respect the amount of work it took to get you to that spot. It's going to make you that much better an employee, and you're going to want to do your job well because you worked so hard to get to that position. It's really a matter of how hard you work, how good you are with people, and how much time you're willing to spend here. Most of our bartenders have been here seven, eight years.

What makes you stick around?
Honestly, the money's not bad. I'll say that. The people who come in here are a lot of fun, and the people I work with are like family. We'll all come in here to work, then we'll all hang out afterward.

What's your favorite drink to make?
Probably a Long Island [Iced Tea] or a variation of it. It's quick, strong, popular and cheap. I can pretty much guarantee you that 80 to 90 percent of the drinks I make, especially during happy hour, are going to be Long Islands. It's the easiest, quickest drink to make because I make so many of them.

Ever get sick of making them?
Nah. If I ever got sick of making Long Islands, I wouldn't be able to work here. It's so integral to what Cue Club is, the Long Island. On a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, I probably make a couple hundred of them. And that's just me. Each of the bartenders is probably doing the same. If I knew the secret to what makes them so magical, I'd probably go open my own place.

What's the best part of being a bartender?
My job is different every single night. Of course I come in here and I'm making drinks for customers, but customers change, the feel of the night changes, the staff changes. You could have a game day and the atmosphere's different. Every night, it's something new and exciting; it's never mundane and monotonous.

What's the worst part?
Sometimes the late hours do get a little old. You want to go out on the weekend and hang out with your friends, but you can't because you're working. But half the time they end up on Mill hanging out at Cue Club anyway.

What do you drink when you go out?
I usually drink craft beer, or a scotch. I kind of stay away from the well liquors. I think they give me a worse hangover. Some people can handle it; I don't know if I'm just getting older, but I can't handle it anymore.

Do you plan to bartend for a while longer, or is there a bigger plan you're moving toward?
There is an overall plan -- I don't know what it is yet, but it's there somewhere. But I can see myself here at least another couple of years. I don't see an expiration date stamped on me yet, so until they tell me that I'm past my prime, I'll stick around. Everyone here likes each other, so it's really hard to leave.

What's been your most memorable night?
My first non-training night behind the bar. We were busy and I thought I could handle it, but I was blown away by how fast-paced and how much work and multi-tasking you needed. Anybody can work behind the bar, but to be a good bartender you have to be able to handle orders from multiple people, handle them yelling at you from different angles. You have to give people good customer service with a smile on your face. If you've never worked in the industry, it's hard to give bartenders credit for how hard the job can be some nights. It makes me appreciate going out and getting good service, because I know how hard it is.

What's something people would be surprised to know about you?
I'm an avid triathlete. I'm actually doing the Ironman at Tempe Town Lake in November. I've been training since January. I've done the sprint ones before, but this will be my first Ironman.

If you could drink with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
I'd have to say Einstein. I'd like to see how he was when he was drunk. 

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