“Hot 8 Brass Band, I love that they do the cover for ‘Sexual Healing,’ which was one of my favorites growing up. Honestly, it’s the second line drums, the brass, that’s just my type of music—feel-good music that keeps your spirits up. I’m definitely a happy music kind of guy, something to help pump me up for the day. Old-school songs like ‘Sexual Healing’ that my parents made me listen to as a child—I’m glad they did. I’m very emotional so I choose not to do the sad songs because if I’m feeling sad about a song, you’re going to know. ‘What’s he crying for?’ ‘Oh, it’s just the song…’ [laughs] But music is definitely one of my favorite things ever. I’ve got tattoos of music; I have a cross with a clef note wrapped around it. I believe in God, absolutely, but when I’m upset—some people might pray when they’re down—I personally choose to listen to music. Music always lifts my spirits. And speaking of spirits…
The name of this drink is from one of the lyrics in ‘Sexual Healing.’ It made sense because this drink makes me feel so fine. I like words like ‘crispy’ and ‘refreshing.’ If you’re eating something salty, this drink will bring back all the moisture that the salt took out of your mouth.
Originally, I’m from Pennsylvania. I was always in the restaurant business. My family owned pizza shops, and from there I went to a mom-and-pop bar, where you’ve got your beer and rum-and-cokes, that kind of stuff. And once I ventured down to New Orleans I went straight to Bourbon Street and got a bartending job. I was always told that if you’ve got that under your belt, you’re pretty much golden for other bars—once they see that you can handle that kind of business. In New Orleans, Mardi Gras comes once a year, but when you’re on Bourbon Street, it’s every day. It creates social fatigue at the end of your night, dealing with that crowd. I used to say ‘miserable,’ but I don’t use that word anymore.
As a bartender, you’re a therapist for a lot of people as well. And as long as I can get someone to smile, I don’t care what I have to do. They tell you in the restaurant business that a smile is the most important part of your uniform, and it’s true. I’m that guy that don’t care, I’ll smile all day—my grandmother told me I could never be a comedian because I laugh too hard at my own jokes. But my jokes are funny!
The way I am has a lot to do with how I was brought up. My family was always very open with each other, very loud—not soft-spoken whatsoever. There was no thinking before speaking, really. Everybody just said what they had to say, and that built something up inside me. With bartending, I’m a chameleon in the best way possible. You just got to be able to switch personalities, blend with other people. I can’t give the same smile to you that I give to that 60-year-old straight man sitting over there who’s looking for the girl bartender. I can’t interact the same way with both of you.
I’m an open book and I’m out of the closet. It’s hard to hurt my feelings. I’m a Gemini, a homosexual, and I’m also Italian. I have a lot to share with everybody!”
Basil-Mint Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh basil, with stems, tightly packed
1 cup fresh mint, with stems, tightly packed
Bring sugar and water to a simmer in a saucepan. Once the sugar dissolves, turn the heat off and add fresh herbs. Let steep for 25–30 minutes. Strain and bottle.