Featured bartender: Foundation's Ed Makowski
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Ed Makowski has worked at Foundation, Riverwest's punk rock skater hangout turned breathtaking tiki bar, for eight years.
He started out as a doorman, but as business picked up, he found himself helping out behind the bar washing glasses.
"People would look at me and wonder why I wasn't making drinks, so eventually, I did," says Makowski.
Makowski is also a poet who published two collections of poetry (under the name of Eddie Kilowatt) and served as The Pfister Narrator from November 2011 to April 2012.
OnMilwaukee.com recently caught up with Makowski and talked drinking, writing and life.
OnMilwaukee.com: Do you get sick of making such complicated tiki drinks all the time?
Ed Makowski: People ask me this a lot. If I did, I would work somewhere else. I enjoy having to really pay attention to make a more detailed cocktail taste good, look pretty. I love less fancy bars, too, but working in a place like this is great.
A person may only have one opportunity to come here, so you have to try to make the experience special. Every single time.
There are a lot of places – Bryant's, The Hotel Foster, here – that are places of experimentation. It takes more than dusting off the "Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide."
OMC: What's your favorite tiki drink to make?
EM: The Piranha. It has our cardamom rum, apricot, orange, lime and ginger beer. It's sweet and savory with a ginger twist.
OMC: Do you like drinking tiki drinks?
EM: I do. I have always loved rum, which is great because I try to keep my drinking work-related. I'm moody about what I want to drink, though. But I seem to always return to the daiquiri (rum, lime and sugar). It's a great way to taste the differences between unique rums.
OMC: How many different kinds of rum do you have at Foundation?
EM: About 70. There are so many different types of rum, with varying flavors. We always use the best ingredients available and if we're not satisfied with what's on the store shelf we make it ourselves. For example we squeeze our own fresh lime and lemon juices, combine many of our own syrups and other ingredients.
OMC: Do you find more women buy tiki drinks than men?
EM: When we first started making these drinks, we had to convince men to try one. They'd buy one for their girlfriend but get themselves a beer. Men can be a weird breed. But it's not an issue anymore.
People come from all over to check out this place. We get a lot of people from Chicago. I can usually pick them out.
OMC: Do you have to monitor peoples' drinking since the drinks are so strong?
EM: Not too often. A few of the drinks I recommend not ordering that specific night if someone is driving. Customers appreciate that we're looking out for their best experience and not insulting their tolerance or anything silly.
OMC: What are your thoughts on the smoking ban?
EM: I think it's created a more dynamic environment. Smokers have to get up, go outside, interact. Before the ban, most people only got up to go to the bathroom.
OMC: Do you get a lot of material for your writing from bartending?
EM: Somewhat. It's so much busier here now, I don't always have time to write it down.
OMC: How was your experience as The Pfister Narrator?
EM: It was great. It was nice having a job doing what I want to do anyway: hanging out, talking to people, getting stories in my head. I met people from Germany, Australia, from Kenosha. People aren't as guarded when traveling and stories roll off the tongue with ease.
The Pfister is a fantastic place. It runs really smoothly and everyone involved just wants the visitors to have a great experience. There's a lot of history there. I have been writing a lot of poems lately about history.
OMC: When did you start writing?
EM: In middle school. One of my teachers was always trying to get me to send things to writing contests. I wrote a lot of rhyming poems. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized poems don't have to rhyme.
I have always had all of these words stuck in my head and I have to get rid of them or else they stay there. So I write them down. One day, I thought, "I seem to be doing this a lot. I guess I should reflect on this; edit, read some other people's work."
OMC: Do you write every day?
EM: No. I write whenever I have an idea. I might write four poems in one day and then I won't write for a week. I let it be.
OMC: Do you believe there's often a relationship between writers and drinking?
EM: I would expand that to musicians and artists of all kinds. There is definitely a connection between many varieties of imbibing and creation.
There are things you don't always want to think about, unpleasant topics, but they have to be dealt with. Some poems I waited years to edit. It's like going into battle with your personal history and memories. Sometimes getting into that mindset can take a couple of drinks.
I don't write drunk, but I often drink while editing. But I definitely don't need to drink to write.
OMC: Do you ever talk about being a dad when you're behind the bar?
EM: Not much. I usually figure it's adult time and let our patrons be adults.
OMC: Do you still ride a motorcycle?
EM: No, not right now. Someday. I sold it to buy a house. And since then I've been doing a lot of remodeling – with a lot of help from friends.
OMC: Do you get hit on while working? How do you handle it?
EM: Well. If that were to ever happen I imagine I'd be so aloof and focused on the drink at hand I couldn't possibly notice.
OMC: What do you want to accomplish before you die?
EM: I just want to backpack and travel and ride bikes and motorcycles with my family and the people I love as often as possible. And I have a fantasy that writing and making art will someday afford that.
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