My First Job: Tico’s Rico Wisner

Rico Wisner. Photograph by Tigran Markaryan.

We asked DC bar folks how they first dipped their toes into the biz. Here’s Rico Wisner, bartender at Tico:

“I got started bartending here and there—the Baltimore Inner Harbor, McCormick & Schmick’s, Dave & Buster’s. That’s where I learned the cheesy 80’s stuff: Bahama Mamas, Alabama Slammers—it’s like Chuck E. Cheese for adults. At City Lights in Baltimore we had to do frozen drinks with one of the terrible Oasis machines. At one point it broke down, and when the repair man came, he pulled a nickel out of the machine. We ended up dumping the same nickel in the machine every week so we didn’t have to make any more frozen drinks. The third time the repairman came back he was like ‘This nickel is starting to look familiar…’

I also worked at Penang, which is now Boqueria. It was the weirdest, shadiest little place. My first shift, I walked in, and the bartender was like, ‘How long have you been in the biz? Do you have a general idea about prices?’ I said yeah, and she was like, ‘Whatever you think is a normal price, just add a dollar to it, and throw the cash in this pile.’ There was just a pile of cash! By the end of the night we must have had a thousand dollars. That crowd went through a ridiculous amount of Johnny Walker and Grey Goose. I’d always get the girls from Camelot, because it was the place for them to hide from their regulars.”

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.