Jeremy Myers, bartender at Tarrant's Cafe downtown, and Kyle Stinson, bar manager of of Tarrant's West, have varying degrees of behind the bar expertise. Jeremy, a full-time VCU student, began his bartending career a little over two years ago. Kyle has been in the industry since before he was old enough to bartend - he estimates 10 years on and off. This week, we explore how their experiences bring a complementary vibe to Tarrant's cocktail menu.
Interview: Jeremy Myers + Kyle Stinson
Tell us about the menu at downtown Tarrant's Cafe versus Tarrant's West?
Kyle - The food is almost completely the same, but the cocktails and beer are very different. West has 24 taps, downtown has 16. Both locations have a lot of different things for different people.
What about the vibe is different in each location?
Jeremy - When you see like old 20's movies where people are just crashing into each other, that's what downtown feels like. We attract everybody - natives, transplants, tourists, West Enders, the artsy scene. One guy will be getting a pizza, another will be getting a steak. Our address - 1 West Broad St - is literally where East meets West in Richmond.
When we first opened Tarrant's West there was a lot of crossover between staff but now they are a bit more established. They are different vibes altogether.
Kyle - Tarrant's West is in the Three Chopt area. We're tucked into a couple neighborhoods, and it's really become a neighborhood place. I usually know 75% of the people at the bar. It's a combination of locals and business people from Innsbrook.
J - Both have happy hours from 11-7
K - And we just extended ours to Saturdays. And added TVs.
What makes the Tarrant's bar unique?
K - Out West it's very large. We have windows that open up onto the patio, and we have seven cocktail tables. There are about 70 seats in the bar area, and we'll fill it up on a Tuesday just randomly sometimes. People in the West End have been telling us that they've been looking for a good place to hang out and eat that's not a chain, so they're excited to have us.
J - The way the bar is in relationship to the restaurant follows the evolution of downtown Tarrant's. When they opened, Ted Santarella (owner) used to cook things on a hot plate right here, then run upstairs to the apartment to keep cooking on the stove. As they expanded, the bar went with it. Also, the bar top used to be the dividers in the men's room at The Jefferson Hotel.
How do you decide what goes into your signature cocktails? What's the process?
J - Our last cocktail menu was a collaboration of all the downtown bartenders. For future cocktails we are trying to bring back the classic approach of this place - kind of 30s style, but keep it modern. I don't want to go in the "speakeasy" direction per se, but I think a Brandy Alexander or a Fish House Punch could be really cool here.
K - I think about flavors first and foremost. I like big flavors. I try to satsify what I hear people are asking for, too. Like our happy hour menu has an Appletini, and right next to it is a Sazerac. Our food menu and our cocktail menu is similar in that way. A little something for everybody.
Which cocktail do you hope people ask for?
K - I like making any kind of drinks, really.
J - I just like the classics, Negronis - drinks like that. I love making a good margarita, because people haven't usually had a good one and I like introducing them to a quality version. I hate making shooters, I try to pass those off.
K - Tiki cocktails are difficult, don't love making those. Margaritas really are an amazing cocktail.
What is your guilty pleasure cocktail?
K - Negroni. The cool thing about it is you can switch out any of the three ingredients to change it up.
J - Same. Negroni.
Do you have a pro-tip for new or home bartenders?
K - Patience is an amazing virtue. Be patient with people, ask questions, figure out what they actually want and help them though it. Don't build in your own beliefs when trying to decide what other people want.
When creating drinks, explore flavors, find inspiration everywhere.
J - I jigger everything. My colleagues don't necessarily do that. This was phrased well by Dave at Greenleaf's Pool Hall, "A cocktail is all about balance, and who am I to screw with that."
Who are your favorite bartenders in town?
K - Saison is awesome, when I worked at Max's I would order cocktails there. Also, Ryan Pantos from Graffiato.
J - Justin, Sarah, and Max are amazing. T and Brandon at Roosevelt.
What’s the best food + cocktail pairing Tarrant's?
K - First thing that came to mind was a dirty gin martini and pizza.
J - I'll drink anything with anything, pretty much.
Jeremy's Cocktail: Ruby Beach Margarita
- 2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
- 1 oz. Cointreau
- 1/2 oz. lime juice
- 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
- 1/2 oz. Demarara syrup
Shake hard with ice and serve in a chilled coup with a lime peel.
Recipe courtesy of Jeremy Myers
Kyle's Cocktail: The Belle Inferno
- 2 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
- 1/2 oz. Disaronno Amaretto
- 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1 oz. pistachio orgeat
- 2 bar spoons orange jalapeño marmalade
Shake all ingredients, strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass, garnish with an orange peel.
Recipe courtesy of Kyle Stinson
Photography by Kate Magee.