Joseph Ewens is what some would call a "lifer." After 18 years, eight bars, and seven cities, Ewens can clearly point to his success as a career bartender. "I just love people. The people are why I keep doing this," he told us during a recent visit to the bar at Max's on Broad. Joseph's enthusiasm for craft cocktails and great conversation left little question around the young restaurant's recent popularity.
Behind the Bar: Joseph Ewens
You've been at this a while! In which cities have you bartended?
Boston, Austin, Denver, Sarasota, Chicago, Marthas Vinyard, and Richmond
Where did you start?
I started out as a server at a little Irish pub in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At 19 I learned how to pour my first vodka soda, bartended through college, and now I'm a lifer.
Is there something unique about the bar at Max's?
No TV. Your bartender is the TV, or your wife or husband or drinking buddy.
What's your favorite thing about being a bartender?
The people. For example, when people ask me what they should drink, I ask them to pick a liquor, and we make something together. I have fun, they have fun. I love being able to be creative on every shift.
How often do you make something up on the fly?
It's great when customers kind of give you the reign to come up with something and be creative in the moment. I really like to make fun and whimsical drinks, even for men, like a bourbon drink with a little twist.
Do you have a guilty pleasure cocktail?
Boulevardier. And only by David Thomas. He's my favorite bartender in town, and I always let him pick the spirit.
For the new or home bartenders out there, what's your pro-tip?
Have humor. Have a sense of professionalism but enjoy your job, enjoy people. And try not to work in bars with TVs - entertain the people yourself. Work on your personality and work on the interaction.
What's the most common question you get as a bartender?
Behind the bar, "How long have you been bartending?" People usually know what they want at Max's so it's not usually a question about drinks.
Everyone asks me what the bar is made out of (it's zinc). I love telling people the story of Max's - it used to be an atrium which is so cool. There was literally a garden where we are standing.
While I'm not behind the bar the most common question is, "Do you have insurance?" (Yes, I do.)
What drink do you hope people will ask for?
A Manhattan or a Dirty Martini. It says a lot about their personality. I love making the classics - and not like "Sex on the Beach" classics. Gimlets and Gibsons, things like that. I also love taking those old favorites and putting a fresh twist on it.
Cocktail: Belle Rose
- 1 1/2 oz. Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
- 1/4 oz. Lime
- 3/4 oz. Domaine De Canton
- 3 dashes Peychauds
- 3 cucumber slices
Muddle 2 cucumber slices build the following ingredients over ice shake well. Serve in a large coupe, garnish with thinly sliced cucumber.
Photography by Ash Carr.