Bartenders: They’re the unsung heroes of fancy Friday night meals and Sunday Funday bar hops. The right ones elevate your mood and delight your palate. Bartenders pour themselves into their drinks and their customers. (We’ve all had that bar visit that turned into a therapy session, right?) Meet a few of Tampa’s most committed bartenders and discover their stories behind the bar.
Bar Manager at Ciro’s
Favorite drink: Negroni
His story: Tampa native Austin Earle put in a couple years at a sandwich shop after graduating high school. In 2014, when a friend invited him to work at Ciro’s Speakeasy in South Tampa, he jumped at the exciting opportunity.
Not yet 21 and with no experience, Earle started as a bar back. With the help of several mentors and books, Earle immersed himself in craft cocktails. He worked his way up to bartender then bar manager in just seven years.
“Now I’m a craft cocktail wizard,” he says. “I love to educate the customers, as well as the team.”
Earle oversees a staff of 20 people, comes up with the entry passwords and creates the menu. One of his favorite parts of the job is also the most challenging: coming up with new drinks. He strives to impress with the look, taste, name and story behind each cocktail.
He has built a repertoire of about 20 original recipes that each took months to perfect. His favorite, Little Foot, is a bitter-style daiquiri inspired by a bar in Puerto Rico.
One day, Earle aspires to own his own bar and publish a cocktail recipe book.
Bartender at Ulele
Favorite drink: Aperol spritz
Her story: The power of suggestion drew Danielle Pavlik to the bar. The former Carrabba’s server started working at Ulele five years ago and was approached to become a bartender.
Lo and behold, she discovered her niche. Pavlik thrives in the hustle and bustle of one of Tampa’s most popular waterfront restaurants, hopping between indoor and outdoor bars.
“The more I did, the easier it got,” she says. “You’re always evolving and learning as you go.”
Having learned the food and drink menus inside out, Pavlik confidently recommends pairings, including with beer or seltzers made on site. She also created her first cocktail for the menu, Tocobaga Tart, a vodka-based twist on lemonade.
“It was a lot of fun,” she says. “There’s a lot of work that goes into it to make sure it fits for everyone.”
Pavlik embraces the challenge of working during chaotic, high-volume events like Gasparilla and the Super Bowl, delivering on speed and quality while interacting with customers from across the country.
Her outgoing personality and witty humor has drawn plenty of regulars, and even sparked some friendships.
“You create this bond with people,” she says. “The guest interaction is the most rewarding part.
Bartender at Westshore Yacht Club
Favorite drink: cosmopolitan
His story: After 40 years, Chuck Mischo has proven that bartending can be a successful career.
Mischo proudly put two children through college and private schools, thanks to his dedication.
“You can make any job a good job and bartending isn’t just a job,” Mischo says. “Some people say, ‘You’ve changed my whole day today,’ and that’s the best. If I hear that, bartending never gets old.”
Mischo got his start at Bern’s Steak House in the ‘70s while finishing his advertising degree at the University of South Florida. With no previous experience, he received extensive training during five years with Bern’s.
The bulk of his career came at his next stop, Ruby Tuesdays in the Tampa Bay Center. Mischo spent about 30 years there, until it closed. He also tended at private parties.
Mischo debated retiring, but a friend suggested he consider part-time work at Westshore Yacht Club. Mischo has tended bar there for the last couple years one night a week. His regulars reserve seats and call it Thursdays with Chuck.
The keys to Mischo’s success are quality ingredients, an appealing drink presentation and a heart for people.
“I try to make people feel comfortable and show that I care,” Mischo says. “I remember something about them so they’re not just a stool. And of course, I remember what they drink.”
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