Featured bartender: Monarch Lounge's Luke Miller
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In 1927, Walter Schroeder opened the prestigious Schroeder Hotel, which today is the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, 509 W. Wisconsin Ave.
In the 1940s, the 25-story, Art Deco hotel added an 82-foot long serpentine bar that was, at the time, Milwaukee's largest. It was later converted into a ballroom and stayed that way for decades.
In 2012, a multi million-dollar renovation project converted the ballroom back to an opulent bar named the Monarch Lounge.
The grand, 3,800-square-foot cocktail lounge is open to the public and features stunning crystal chandeliers, mahogany wood, a marble and steel fireplace, a piano and an onyx bar top.
The Monarch has a new 1928-inspired drink menu featuring classic craft cocktails and a light menu with calamari, crane cake sliders, a cheese and olive plate, flatbreads, hummus and more.
There are two large-screen televisions tastefully placed in the corners of a media area and live jazz on weekends.
We recently stopped in the Monarch Lounge for a cocktail and to munch on complimentary Cajun snacks. During our visit, we met and interviewed Luke Miller, a college student who has tended bar at the Monarch since it opened.
OnMilwaukee.com: So, any chance you're part of the Miller Brewing family?
Luke Miller: No. I wish.
OMC: Are most of your customers staying at the hotel or are they locals?
LM: Mostly people staying in-house. I have met people from all over. Most recently, I met a really nice couple from New Hampshire. But I have some regulars, too, who stop in to see me. It's a mix.
OMC: Is there a dress code here or can people dress casually and feel comfortable?
LM: For sure, anyone can hang out here. And people think at first that because it's fancy that it's also expensive. But it's not. It's the same prices as Miller Time Pub (located on the ground floor of the hotel). You definitely don't have to wear a suit and tie.
OMC: Have you ever stayed overnight here?
LM: Once, during a blizzard. I took the bus to work and they didn't want me to leave.
OMC: What do you like about working here?
LM: It's quiet and relaxed and I meet people traveling from different parts of the country, the world.
OMC: What's your favorite drink to make?
LM: Old fashioneds. We make them from scratch here – with two cherries and the orange.
OMC: Do you make more whiskey or brandy old fashioneds?
LM: Probably brandy. It's Wisconsin's drink. Actually, we have a brand new menu. The old fashioned is on it, along with a bunch of other 1928 classics. gimlets, martinis, Manhattans, Jack and gingers. We also have a new food menu. I tried everything on Saturday. It's all very good.
OMC: How often do they clean those incredibly large and ornate chandeliers?
LM: I really don't know. But they always look really nice. We don't open until 4 p.m. so they must do it during the day. I can't imagine it's an easy job, though.
OMC: What are you going to school for?
LM: Criminal Justice.
OMC: So you want to be a cop?
LM: I don't. I'm going to join the Marines when I graduate in May.
OMC: Are you going to get a bulldog tattoo?
LM: You never know what will happen.
OMC: Where will you be stationed?
LM: Because I'll have a college degree – I'm the first one to graduate college in my family – I will go right to Officer (Candidates) School in Virginia. Then I will get stationed somewhere else, like, hopefully, California or Hawaii. I really can't wait. I have only traveled to Florida and North Carolina.
OMC: Do you have to go to boot camp as an officer?
LM: Yes. I've heard officer boot camp is harder than the regular one. I'm not worried about the physical, but the mental. But my parents are proud of me and the Marines will eventually pay off about half of my student loans.
OMC: What have you learned about people or life as a bartender?
LM: I've learned how to read people. I can tell if people want to talk or want to just have a drink. And how to open up more to people. How to be more communicative. Communication is going to be really important when I'm an officer.
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