For three-and-a-half years, Joel Lindsey has donned a Hawaiian shirt as the bar supervisor at Trader Vic's in downtown Atlanta.
What did you do before bartending?
I went to bartending school when I became disillusioned with teaching. I discovered there is significantly more money in it. I was in grad school studying philosophy.
Does your educational background help with your job?
Philosophy is the practice of how to think in a cosmopolitan manner, different ways to view the world and different people from a detached perspective. A bartender's most important skill is to be chameleon-like and engage people on their own terms.
Explain the enduring appeal of a kitschy Polynesian bar in the basement of a downtown hotel.
There's a certain authenticity to the fakeness of Trader Vic's. It's a representation of what was popular 40 years ago. It has a radically different atmosphere than any other bar in city.
I've got this image that customers are either hard-bitten booze-hounds or students.
It ranges. We get a lot of the hip Little Five Points crowd, students from Georgia State, SunTrust people and the occasional old couple who got engaged at Trader Vic's 30 years ago.
Are there more locals or conventioneers?
It varies widely. In our slower periods, we get a lot of regulars who are not necessarily tiki-philes but who like the oasis it provides.
Any misconceptions you want to clear up? Like that women throw themselves at bartenders.
That's not really true. They flirt a lot, but I don't get many straightforward offers. I deflect that by mentioning my wife.
Are you more like Woody or Sam of "Cheers"?
Sam. I love baseball.
What's your most requested drink?
The Mai Tai was invented at Trader Vic's. It's a tart rum drink with fresh lime juice, simple syrup and gold and dark rum.
Does it come in a cool keepsake glass?
No, but our Samoan Fog Cutter does. It is served in a vase. It's a real favorite.
What should people order more of?
Brandy Alexander is a great drink with gin, crème de cacao and cream. No one under the age of 60 orders it.
I heard you won an award for your skills.
The editors of Creative Loafing named me Best Bartender in 2004.
Is this a long-term career? Will you be a senior pouring drinks?
The physical wear and tear is starting to get to me. If someone offers me a sit-down job, I'd consider it.
Trader Vic's, 255 Courtland St. 404-221-6339. www.tradervicsatlanta.com.
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