Backstreet Jazz & Blues' Nikki Llewellyn: Featured Bartender of the Week

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Welcome to Girl Walks into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week Alissa Nelson profiles Backstreet Jazz & Blues bartender Nikki Llewellyn.

ALISSA NELSON
  • Alissa Nelson

Every drink Nikki Llewellyn makes is a unique, boozy snowflake. "Girls come in and they want 'something fun,'" she explains. "So I invent a lot of drinks. But the sad thing is, I can never remember them. So it's kind of like I have to make something new every time."

Llewellyn has worked at Westport's Backstreet Jazz and Blues for more than five years. "I'm kind of a Westport baby," she says, having worked previously at Ozzie's. She came to Backstreet as a cocktail waitress but soon moved behind the bar. Despite an office job during the day, she keeps coming back on Thursday nights. "I can't get my foot out the door," she says. "I love it."

{If you know of a bartender who's deserving of a profile, e-mail gutcheck@riverfronttimes.com}

Click through for a Q&A with Llewellyn and a video of her making a Risqué Martini...

Perched on a nearby barstool, Backstreet bar manager Edna Claunch waits till Llewellyn is out of earshot, then leans forward and whispers, "She's really a great bartender, our best. People absolutely love her." As Llewellyn walks back ebulliently, ready to whip up a Risqué Martini, Claunch straightens and clams up once more.

In three words, how would you describe your bartending style? Funny. Loud. Yummy.

Favorite drink to drink? It depends on who's making it. If I am, then definitely a dirty, dirty Grey Goose martini straight up, chilled to perfection. Otherwise, I usually stay on the safe side and order an Absolut and club soda with lemon.

Favorite drink to make? As silly as it seems, I love making margaritas! They were the first drink I really learned how to make well, and I've never had a complaint -- always compliments -- so I'm always positive my guest will enjoy it.

Drink you hate making? Anything with more than five ingredients. I once had a younger group of drinkers come in with a list they had printed out of all these crazy drinks they wanted to try. It was a Friday night and needless to say they only got to try one on the list. I told them they could pick one and that was it.

What makes you ignore a customer at the bar? When people come in with that scowl on their face like they already don't like me, but I haven't even said "Hi" yet and they burn a hole into the back of my head while I'm helping the person that was before them -- then yeah, I'm going to make you wait a little bit longer. Smiles get my attention a lot quicker.

Can you spot trouble as soon as it walks in the door? People always surprise me, but it usually involves someone wearing heels too high for them to walk in, or an Affliction [clothing store] T-shirt.

Best/worst song on the jukebox? We don't have a jukebox, but I will say that after working in a blues bar for over five years, I am definitely so tired of "Mustang Sally." Ugh. Best song: Any band could play "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and I'll be shakin' my booty!

Worst/best thing you've ever seen happen in your bar? Worst: Has to be this poor girl on her 21st birthday that came in with her girlfriends after a bar-hopping party in Westport. The friends wanted her to do one more shot before they left. She took the shot. And I know that look: tears in the eyes, face goes pale -- well, you know. So I slide down one of our buckets on the bar to her, and she throws up on the bar, on the floor, on her pants, but not in the bucket. Poor girl. Best: I've been the catalyst for so many hookups, not even funny. There are probably children in this world because of me.

How do you keep yourself occupied on a slow night? It's usually just me and my manager Edna, so I like to dance around and act ridiculous to see how mad or insane I can make her, but she usually just laughs.

Who would you most like to have a drink with? Nick Hexum. I am obsessed with the band 311! Ask any of my friends, they'll all roll their eyes.

Click through for more Q's and A's and a video of Nikki Llewellyn making a Risqué Martini... Where are you most likely to be found when you're not in this bar? I work during the day all week in an office, so if I'm not there I'm usually at home watching too many reality shows. If I do go out, I usually go to Ameristar, or to Drunken Fish.

Best hangover cure? I found that if you drink a glass of water in between drinks and then take an Ibuprofen before you go to bed, the next day isn't so bad. Lots of Gatorade the next day has saved my life many times before as well.

Worst pickup line you've ever heard? This usually involves myself. Since there are hotels at Westport, there are lots of businessmen that have nothing to do and nobody to do it with. So I guess they think that since I smiled and had a conversation with them that I also want their room key or their phone number. Gross.

Most unusual liquor you've ever seen? Probably the concoction that came out of that aforementioned birthday girl.

If you could start a band, what kind of band would you start? One that I wouldn't have to sing in. We would not make any money.

Best/worst drinking holiday? Best holiday: my birthday -- which isn't technically a holiday, but it is to me! Worst: New Year's Eve. I don't know what it is about that night, but it brings all kinds of weirdos out.

Biggest tab you've ever seen? Nothing too exciting. I did have some guys come in a few years ago that were opening up a club and they would come in after their day with all of their new trainees. They would run up about a grand or two a night. They were only here for a week or so. I wish they would come back.

Drunk food of choice? Waffles, eggs and Bert's chili from Waffle House.

Three adjectives that describe your bar. Dark. Smoky. Fantastical.

My bar is the only bar in St. Louis where... I work! Come see me!

Backstreet Jazz & Blues I-270 & Page Avenue (at Westport Plaza), Maryland Heights 314-878-5800

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