Welcome to Girl Walks into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week Alissa Nelson profiles Charlie Myers of McGurk's Public House in O'Fallon. Below is a Q&A with Walters, followed by a video of him and special guest Ronnie Walters of McGurk's Soulard mixing specialty martinis. (Last week's Ronnie Walters profile and Q&A can be found here.)
At some point during this Girl's visit to McGurk's, Soulard bartender Ronnie Walters mentions that he enjoys eating barbecue while inebriated. "Do you make ribs?" asks Charlie Myers, who tends bar at McGurk's Public House in O'Fallon. "When do you work? I'll bring you some!"
That brief exchange encapsulates Myers' approach: genuinely eager to please. Having caught the attention of the local chapter of the U.S. Bartenders' Guild after representing St. Louis at the Bombay Sapphire Most Inspired Bartender competition two years in a row, he continues to take every opportunity to hone his 'tending chops.
Myers acknowledges that O'Fallon lacks the cocktail culture that has begun to flourish in the city. But that just means that he pushes the envelope in other ways, infusing his own liquors and using fresh juices as much as possible at the O'Fallon McGurk's.
He doesn't shy away from requests for chocolate martinis, either!
"The cool thing about the chocolate martini is that it's like a Guinness Shasta or a shanty with a Guinness: It's a good way to introduce other things," Myers explains.
"It's comfortable enough for people to enter into it, like, 'I'm going to trust him to do something fun.' And then the next time we can do something more fun and more fun."
In three words, how would you describe your bartending style? Fun, efficient and crazy.
Favorite drink to drink? It kind of depends on the season, but in the summertime a caipirinha: Brazilian rum, simple syrup and lime. Put it in a Thermos in the middle of winter, I don't care. It's delicious.
Favorite drink to make? I like the ones where the customer lights up. One of my favorites is some bartenders' least favorite: a chocolate martini, when it's made right and garnished well and there's a good froth on top. Because people who order chocolate martinis aren't usually really well versed in the cocktail world, so that's something that really gets them excited. Putting a drink in front of somebody who's really excited like that is great.
Drink you hate making? Anything with Red Bull. (I'm guilty of drinking it myself.) Some people on Red Bull are no problem. Other people go brain dead, but their body and their mouth is still working. Those people always cause trouble in my bar.
Favorite drink you created yourself? My big thing is whatever's new in my mind. Right now it's a pumpkinccino: It's like a pumpkin latte with no coffee in it at all.
What is the worst drink you've ever had? I tried to make a dill pickle martini. Conceptually it was supposed to be like a dirty martini. But it was nasty.
Favorite nonalcoholic drink? Iced tea. That or water -- depends on the hangover.
Favorite drinking ritual? Splitting a bottle of spirits, whatever it may be, splitting a bottle of wine. It's that whole adage: What's mine is yours, let's have a good time, enjoy the company. The other thing I like -- and I don't know if you do it down here [in Soulard] -- is bar taps. When you all take a shot together and you tap the bar. You know: "To the bar." I've been told that there's two reasons for it, one is that it's paying homage. The other is that it's like a starting gun: BAM!
What do you drink when you're...On a plane? Ginger ale.
...At a wedding? I'm usually drinking white wine so I don't embarrass myself.
...At your parents' house? Whatever I'm making, usually. If I had my way, it would be wine, like, a malbec.
...Trying to get drunk? Tullamore Dew, Tullamore Dew, 'buca [as in Sambuca], Tullamore Dew, Tullamore Dew, 'buca.
Favorite canned beer? [Goes into a lengthy explanation of "Teen Wolf chugging," which involves biting into the side of a can of beer.] Dale's pale ale. Any microbrews in the can are good, but the nice thing about Dale's is that the alcohol content is a bit higher. I'm more of a spirits guy than a beer guy.
Worst/best thing you've ever seen happen in your bar? We have a long bar at O'Fallon. We had this couple there that were reconciling -- they'd broken up and they were trying to get back together. Well, she was pounding them pretty hard I guess, and before you know it she's making out with another chick at the bar and I'm thinking, well, this isn't going to help things. And then she gets up on the bar while stripping, and I go, "NOOOOOOO, this is a family establishment!" Probably one of the best things, we had a couple come in to celebrate their anniversary who met each other at the bar seven years ago. I wouldn't call them regulars -- they come in every six months or so -- but fate just threw them together that day and they struck up a conversation at the bar.
How do you keep yourself occupied on a slow night? When I'm here, I'm at work, I'm on. So if there's nobody at the bar, I keep a few classic cocktail books behind the bar and I'll thumb through and get some new ideas, make some stuff I've never heard of. Like there's this drink called the Golden Girl. It's got white rum, egg whites, port wine and pineapple juice. It sounds absolutely weird, but you put it all together in the right ratios and it's a good cocktail. If there's people here, I usually try to spend time with them. Unless they're giving me that vibe that's, like, "Stay away from me, hairy man."
Who would you most like to have a drink with? It's kind of generic, but I like drinking with anybody. If somebody's going to drink with you, they've got a story to share with you.
Where are you most likely to be found when you're not in this bar? At Busch Stadium, watching the Cardinals. Or playing baseball -- I played about 40 games this summer.
Best hangover cure? I manage on Sundays. You know how staff has a tendency to drink pretty hard on Saturday nights? I used to just bring a ton of candy, because most of a hangover is just dehydration and sugars, and you have to get your sugars back into balance. But my hangover cure would be water, fast food, sleep, water, water, sugar, more sleep, water. And then if you're still hungover, you start drinking again.
Most unusual liquor you've ever seen? One is a handmade drink, by this guy in Arizona for this [Bombay Sapphire] competition: he made prunicello. It reminded me of a couple of ingredients in Dr Pepper, but it was missing something. And then the other weird one that just came out would be bacon vodka. I like the idea of it, but I can't put it together.
If you could start a band, what kind of band would you start? I'm really music-stupid, so I thought it would be pretty tragically funny to start a boy band with old dudes. I would be, like, Boyz II Grave.
Best/worst drinking holiday? I'd have to say St. Pat's Day. Out in O'Fallon it's like everybody leaves their ambitions at home. It's the best and the worst thing, because you see some things that you usually don't see, but then there are people who act Irish or pretend that they're Irish and it's kind of derogatory and not cool. It's also nice to see the progression on St. Patrick's Day. Right when we open the doors, it's packed, and it's all people who have gray hair or no hair, and they all want green beer (which we don't serve) or corned beef and cabbage (which we serve every day of the year) or fish and chips (which we serve every day of the year). And then by the end of the night, it's the guys who are like, NNNGAAAAHHHHHNNNNNN.
Biggest tab you've ever seen? I had eight guys one night -- there were two guys behind the bar, and they ran a little over $600. But all I've got to say with that is Jäger bomb, Jäger bomb, Jäger bomb.
Drunk food of choice? Jalapeño poppers with ranch.
Three adjectives that describe your bar: Inviting, entertaining and neighborly.
My bar is the only bar in St. Louis where... You can play the color game with shots and get a classic cocktail. My color game with shots is basically: "What's your favorite color?" I pretty much bust it down into sixteen colors. Black and brown I've finally mastered so that they're not nasty. (Trust me on that one, because people try to throw you for a loop.) The weirdest one I've gotten is stone gray, and I've mastered that one too. So if they ask what kind of shot we're doing, I say we're doing a shot of teal. Then I ask them how strong they want it on a scale of one to ten and I'll make it to that. It can take a while for a guest and a bartender to bond, but with this it's like they're essentially bartending with you.
McGurk's Public House 108 South Main Street, O'Fallon; 636-978-9640
John D. McGurk's Irish Pub 1200 Russell Boulevard; 314-776-8309