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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

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In Bars & Clubs

Katie Kay works at Black Sheep, The Tin Widow and Bad Genie. But you might have also seen her at a number of other places she's worked over the past 14 years.

Featured bartender: Black Sheep's Katie Kay


"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Absolut, Avion, Fireball, Pama, Red Stag and 2 Gingers – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

If Katie Kay looks familiar, you'll understand why. You can currently see Katie Kay tending bar Tuesdays-Thursdays at Black Sheep, but she also works Fridays at Tin Widow and Saturdays at Bad Genie. (Kay will also participate in the OnMilwaukee.com Bartender Games on Thursday, Feb. 27 at Turner Hall.)

And before that? Well, Kay – that's her nom de tavern – has also worked at Cush, Three, Tangerine, Cans, Vintage, Starbar and Duplex and has done guest stints at the Library Club, Decibel, Monkey Bar, Oak and Co2.

And maybe others.

"And probably more but that's all I could remember for now," she says with a laugh. "I've also worked at a club in Breckenridge Colorado called Cecilia's."

We asked Kay about her experiences tending bar and what she enjoys when she's on the opposite side of the bar, as well as what's going on these days at Black Sheep.

OnMilwaukee: Do you prefer Kay or Krajenka?

Katie Kay: I prefer Katie Kay. It's what everyone has called me since I can remember.

OMC: Give me the brief Katie bio...

KK: I was discovered (laughs) while working at The Exclusive Company by Bill Jenkins, who at the time owned Cush. He told me he thought I'd make a great bartender and gave me a sink-or-swim test run on a Saturday night. I've been behind a bar ever since. That was 14 years ago.

OMC: There have been some changes recently at Black Sheep, with a new chef and some new cocktails, right? Can you tell us a bit about that?

KK: Yeah, the drink and food menus have gotten a complete overhaul. Frank Haroun from The Noble joined our team as head chef and just went crazy coming up with new dishes. Everything I've had so far is brilliant. I don't even eat at home anymore.

OMC: What is your specialty/signature drink?

KK: Lately I've been making a cinnamon margarita that's been going over really well with the clientele. I like to mix it up though... I've always got a new drink I'm stoked for people to try out.

OMC: When someone asks for food recommendations at Black Sheep, what do you suggest?

KK: The best part about our food is that it's mostly small plate so people can try out two or three dishes at a time and just share them together. Specifically, I always recommend the scallops. I have those every time I work.

OMC: What is the most ridiculous thing you've seen a drunk patron do?

KK: Oh man, I've seen so much drunken ridiculousness. One of my favorites was a girl who was dancing on the bar. She flashed everyone and lost her balance, tumbled backwards over the bar and onto the bottles in the rails. The pour spouts were metal and they dug into her back the whole way down. She got back up like a champ and walked out of there like nothing even happened.

OMC: Ever break up any bar fights?

KK: I've definitely stopped my fair share of bar fights. My favorite was when I stepped between the two gents fighting and just started yelling in the face of one of them. They stopped immediately, pretty much in shock that I actually did that. Somehow it worked and they just went their separate ways. I got pretty lucky I didn't catch an errant blow to the face, though.

OMC: Best and worst pickup lines to use in a bar?

KK: People still use pickup lines? Wow. Yeah, any pick up line is the worst. I'd much rather have a guy come up and just start a conversation than have him tell me I fell from heaven or some other garbage like that.

OMC: Best/worst parts of being a bartender?

KK: For me, the best part of being a bartender is how social it is. I love meeting new people and I get to do that every day. The worst part is the schedule. I've definitely turned into somewhat of an insomniac but hey, more time for activities right?

OMC: Do you go out to bars when you're not working?

KK: I try to. It's tough when I'm behind a bar five to six nights a week. By my day off I usually just want to hang out at home and chill.

OMC: Beer, wine or cocktails?

KK: Working at Black Sheep has definitely opened up my affinity for wine but at heart, I'll always be a whiskey girl.

OMC: Do you have a favorite bartender?

KK: Most of my friends work in the industry so that's a pretty tough question for me to answer. I do love visiting Rufio at Rogues Gallery. That whole crew is fun to visit.

OMC: Is there any bar and restaurant scene hotter than Walker's Point right now?

KK: Right now, no. It's a fat kids dream over here, but in a classy way.


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