News & Politics

Behind the Bar at Bourbon Steak

Drinkmaster Duane Sylvestre loves rum cocktails and customers who tip in concert tickets

Photograph by Chris Leaman

For our Great Bars 2011 package, we talked with some of Washington's veteran tapmasters and cocktail makers to see what life is like on the other side of the bar.  

Why you became a bartender: “The bar is like a stage. I can interact with people, serve them, give them instant gratification. I’m an only child, so maybe I like the attention, too.”

Most potent drink on your menu: “Gin martini made with Old Raj gin. It’s high-proof gin stirred with a little vermouth—it doesn’t get much more potent than that. Or a Sazerac made with 100-proof rye.”

Favorite drink to have at home: “A simple rum sling, which is rum with water. Angostura puts out a single-barrel reserve that I’ve only found duty-free when I travel home to Trinidad. I usually enjoy my birthday with a bottle of that close by.”

Best cocktail you’ve ever created: “The Red Rum cocktail—Chairman’s Reserve rum infused with sorrel, Velvet Falernum from Barbados, Angostura from Trinidad, lime, egg white, and nutmeg. It’s like the Caribbean in a glass.”

How much money you make on a typical night: “You feel good if you can work a shift and make $35 an hour after tips. If you can make $50 an hour, great. If you’re making less than $20, you start questioning your purpose in life.”

Best tip: “A pair of tickets to a Janet Jackson concert, $150 in cash, and a very nice note.”

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