Featured bartender: Cate Graham at G-Daddy's BBC
This bartender profile is brought to you by Somersby Hard Apple Cider. Find out where you can try Somersby here.
Cate Graham dropped into Milwaukee to see a concert, and decided it was the place to be. So she left her native Michigan and has been here, and bartending at G-Daddy's BBC Bar & Grill at 2022 E. North Ave., ever since.
It's been a match made in heaven, as the 30-year-old is celebrating her third anniversary in Milwaukee this September.
OnMilwaukee.com: Were you a bartender in Michigan?
Cate Graham: I was, for four years. Same bar. It was so weird. When I walked in here, it was basically the exact replica of the bar that I worked at. It was one of those things ... I was like, this was the perfect fit. I walk in and I'm like, 0h my gosh, all this great beer, Michigan sports, this is amazing.
That was the first job I had bartending and I just stuck with it. And then here. The first job I had in Milwaukee (was) bartending, and just stuck with it.
OMC: So this is the place to be if you're rooting for a Michigan sports team?
CG: Yeah. If you come in wearing any kind of a Michigan jersey and they score, you get shots. It's so much fun.
OMC: Is this limited to the big college football programs?
CG: No, but it's mostly Red Wings and Lions. And Tigers, now that it's the time of the year (for the baseball playoffs). They're killing it.
OMC: Why bartending?
CG: I was a barista. I would always go into the same bar, this little dive, hole-in-wall bar after work and complain to the bartenders, who were my friends. They were like, why don't you pick up a serving shift here and see what happens. I tried to quit the first day. She was like, don't quit, stick it out, they moved me to bartender within two weeks and I loved it.
It's the best thing of all time, ever. It's my favorite job.
OMC: Why the move to Milwaukee?
CG: I graduated (from Western Michigan University) and kind of was just looking for a change of scenery. I came here for a concert and was like, yup. I just moved. Why not do this?
OMC: What concert?
CG: It was Turner Hall, (Blitzen) Trapper and Dawes. Maybe it wasn't Dawes. But it was Blitzen Trapper, definitely. But I was like, sold! I love Milwaukee!
OMC: Now that we're into football season, is there a different vibe here than in the summer?
CG: You know, it's funny here. We have a really solid base of regulars that come in. That vibe is always kind of the same. When school starts up and the kids come in it's a little more busy and kind of electric. Everything is buzzing a little bit more. I prefer the summer vibe, personally. Football season is just crazy anywhere you go in Wisconsin but here we've got Packers and (Detroit) Lions so here it's a double explosion. It's so fun.
OMC: Packers and Lions fans together. That must lead to some interesting conversations?
CG: Yes. Yes. I do the Sunday evening shift, so I always come in for the tail end of that madness and it's crazy. It's fun. It's fun and crazy.
OMC: What the most popular orders here.
CG: We have a really good beer selection. It's hard to say (one specific brand). We're predominantly a beer bar, and our beer of the month's sell pretty well.
OMC: Is that different than the place you tended bar in Michigan?
CG: No, I've always been a beer gal. We have 30-plus beers on tap right now. The bar I worked at had 40-plus. It's just fun, what's in season, what's local. That's one of the things, too. In Michigan we had a lot of really good, fun underground micro's. Wisconsin, they're everywhere. They're like little mushrooms popping out of the ground. I love it here.
OMC: If you are asked to mix, do you have a favorite?
CG: If we do do cocktails here, a lot of it is rum and Coke, gin and tonic, the very standard things. Since we have such high volume, if someone is like "make me something fun" it's never that irritating if it's slow, but when we're busy it's like, OK, want something fun, vodka-water, lemon twist. I'm a purist, this is what you're getting. But it's fun.
OMC: Is there anything you dread making?
CG: I don't usually feel like that because it's my job. If you want a Bloody Mary at 2:30, at last call, I'll make you a stinkin' Bloody Mary at 2:30. It's going to be good, I'm not going to do the vodka-tomato juice, because I know bartenders get surly about that, but this is my job, this is what I'm here to do. I would arm wrestle you later but I will do it with a smile.
OMC: Are you a beer girl personally?
CG: Absolutely. With a mixer, sometimes you can be let down. A two-hearted is a two-hearted, no matter how you slice it. That's what I go for.
OMC: When you go out with friends, are you asked to play bartender everywhere?
CG: Yes. Yes. I'm always the default drink maker, always, no matter what. I love it. It's so fun. I love greeting people in the morning with 'Here's a tray of Bloody Mary's.' I like the hospitality of it. It's one of those things where if you present somebody with a cocktail, who would say no to that? It's like, start your day, you're going to enjoy this. It's fantastic.
OMC: Do you have a "go to" story for people who always ask your craziest story?
CG: They're usually about me! No, not really. Weird things happen every day. Every day is a new story. And I have a very short attention span. I just don't always remember things to the fullest. I don't really have a go to.
OMC: Why do you think most bartender's don't tell such stories publicly?
CG: There is a little bit of discretion. It's kind of like 'I don't remember' because what happens on that side of the bar stays there at that time.
OMC: Since you get Michigan and Wisconsin sports fans in here, which ones are the rowdier fan base?
CG: I'm biased because I'm a huge Red Wings fan, but our Red Wings crowds are amazing here. We had a decent amount of (Chicago) Blackhawks fans. We had a couple Boston (Bruins) fans. Last year's (Stanley Cup) playoffs were, with the shortened NHL season, from January to June, that six month stretch killed me. As a hockey fan, as a bartender, when it was over I was happy. I'm like, I'm running on fumes now because you have so many games. Hockey season is fun here, and since Wisconsin doesn't have a team it's hard to find bars that will play games with sound. We try to accommodate that all the time. Especially if I'm working. Hockey takes precedence.
OMC: Finally, what would your Somersby recipe be?
CG: Somersby with a shot of Fireball (cinnamon whiskey). Tasty."Slingshot." We've been doing that one for awhile.
As a cocktail, I would call it the "Fiery Autumn." I do a Tuaca Cinnamon and Vanilla (Liqueur), a shot of that, with the Somersby, on ice. It's amazing. It would be a 12-ounce bottle of Somersby with a shot of Tuaca.
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