Snack Time Q&A: Barry “BARTENDER BARRY” Johnson

For this week’s Snack Time, we’re catching up with one of our favorite bartenders, Barry “Bartender Barry” Johnson. And no, he’s not just our favorite because he makes the drinks 😉

This NJ-native came to Philadelphia for school and stayed for his endless passion for the City of Brotherly & Sisterly Love. Read more for his first experience as a bartender, custom cocktail recipes and his thoughts on being a new small business owner!

Tell us your full name. Any nicknames we should call you from here on out? My full name is Barry Johnson, but you can call me Bartender Barry

Where are you from & where do you live now? I’m originally from Trenton, NJ, but I currently live in West Philadelphia. I came to Philly to attend the University of Pennsylvania and fell in love with the City.

Do you prefer the term “bartender” or “mixologist”? I honestly don’t mind being called either. In my opinion, bartenders create an experience for their guests and mixologists are passionate about the craft of making exceptional cocktails. You should master both, and that’s what I am working towards.

Tell us about your first experience working as a bartender. I’ve always been the designated bartender among my friends, but my first paid bartending gig was for a pool party about a year ago. I had a ton of fun and was able to make some really easy money doing what I love!

What’s your favorite cocktail you’ve ever created? Care to share the recipe? My favorite cocktail that I’ve made so far would have to be my In the Beginning. It’s a spin on the pre-prohibition cocktail called the Last Word. I made a homemade fig syrup using Calimyrna figs, honey and brown sugar. The syrup is so rich that it helps create a really smooth drink. Here’s the recipe:

  • ¾ oz. Maker’s Mark Whiskey
  • ¾ oz. Fig Syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup diced Calimyrna figs, ½ cup honey, ½ cup brown sugar)
  • ¾ oz. Amaro Averna
  • ¾ oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

Any at-home tips & tricks for creating the perfect ‘quarantini’? I always recommend making your own syrups and using fresh citrus juices. Not only are they super easy to make, but all your drinks taste so much better. I love experimenting with new syrup ideas – it’s also good to know exactly what you’re drinking.

Have you picked up any new hobbies during quarantine? I love to read – the pandemic has given me the opportunity to finally pick up a few books again. From books on race to bartending and everything in between.

Favorite spirit to mix with? Whiskey – especially bourbon. It’s actually a really versatile spirit that’s easy to mix with.

Shaken, or stirred? Sweet or spicy? Stirred and sweet – but not too sweet.

What’s your go-to drink of choice when out on the town? An Old-Fashioned. It’s strong and simple.

Who is your celebrity idol now? Who was your celebrity idol growing up? Growing up: Beyonce. Her “Mrs. Carter” world Tour was the first concert I ever attended. Now: Forever First Lady Michelle Obama. I actually got to meet her for a roundtable discussion in 2016 – she’s so kind, down to earth and relatable.

Is there a bartender in the industry that you admire? Elliot Clark, the Apartment Bartender. He’s a home bartender like me and has created an amazing brand & following. He takes some pretty cool drink photos too. You can follow him on Instagram at @apartment_bartender.

When you’re not behind the bar, what are we most likely to find you doing? Eating. Whether cooking, ordering takeout or making a reservation – I am always planning my next meal.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? Starting my own business. I never would have imagined that I’d start a business, let alone be bartending. There’s so much work to do as a new business owner and I am constantly learning, but I have something that’s mine that I have full autonomy over.

And, most importantly, what’s your favorite snack? Hands down – a pack of Twizzlers. The strawberry twists, of course.

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