THE SITUATION I'm spending a Sunday evening at West Seattle's Benbow Room with Robert Jones, a bartender at Showbox at the Market for 12 years, who lives just minutes away on Alki Beach. Over his cocktail of choice, a whiskey ginger, he's telling me why he's stayed in the game for so many years: "I love music, I like booze, and there's always lots of pretty girls around, so it's a trifecta of fun."
HOW HE GOT HERE Philadelphia native Jones, 41, relocated to Seattle in 1993. He taught himself to tend bar 20 years ago when some friends opened the Breakroom (the previous incarnation of Chop Suey), and calls bartending school a waste of money. "You might learn some fancy twirling and junk like that, but I think the best way to do it is to spend a couple hundred dollars on booze and try a bunch of recipes and just get your friends drunk."
SHOP TALK Jones says he's thought about opening his own place, and he feels that "I probably should've grown up by now," but he loves the fun he has at the Showbox. "It's really a different night every night, which I guess is why I've stayed in it so long. Music fans are cool."
He's even got each crowd's drinking preferences down pat—"If it's a Juggalo show, you know you have to order lots of 151 and Malibu, because everyone wants a Caribou Lou," he says. "Canadians love hip-hop. When we have a good hip-hop show, like Hieroglyphics, a third of the crowd will be Canadian, so then we'll sell a lot of Kokanee." If it's an American Idol show? "Bud Light." Mad Rad? "Adios Motherfuckers and Jägerbombs."
BTW: Jones says people still come to the Showbox asking for a Dirty Shirley, a drink he created with some of the Murder City Devils back at the Breakroom: a Shirley Temple with vanilla vodka, a little 151, and "at least one cherry, if not five." He says his best cocktail is a margarita, but his best signature drink is something he calls the Get Gully, after the 50 Cent song—raspberry vodka, vanilla vodka, 151, a splash of cranberry, 7-Up, lemon, and a cherry.
I comment that all the drinks he's mentioned so far are pretty fruity and girly. "Yeah," he concedes, "but they're strong as an ox!"