You’ve gotta love a bartender who pre-drinks a little before her shift so she can be at the same level as her customers. That’s Ava Herrider for you. She’s bartended at exactly one tavern: West Milwaukee’s 4th Base. And though she’s left Wisconsin and tried her hand at marketing, the bar just keeps bringing her back.
We caught up with Herrider at 4th Base for this latest bartender profile, and to learn why she once had dinner with Danica Patrick.
OnMilwaukee.com: Did you really just get here from another bar? We’re you pre-gaming before work?
Ava Herrider: I like coming into work and being on the same level as my regulars. I always go to Conejito’s first for one or two. I start socializing there or see some of my customers there. I usually run into some new people and tell them to come here.
OMC: Does that work?
AH: It does. It worked the other day. I ran into two guys at the bar who were on their way to West Milwaukee, and I said, "Hey, I’m bartending tonight. You should visit," and they did.
OMC: I take you’re one of those bartenders who is not opposed to drinking while bartending?
AH: Not at all. I don’t like to drink too much. I keep it at an even keel. I didn’t use to, though.
OMC: You left here for a while, but now you’re back. Tell me the Ava story.
AH: I graduated from Marquette in 2007, and I was ready to get out of Milwaukee. I grew up on the East Side, and I felt like I had kind of exhausted the city, squeezed all of the juice out of the orange. I moved to L.A., and I was there for a year. I had to move back for family reasons, and I came right back to 4th Base. It really is home.
OMC: But you also left bartending all together, right?
AH: Yes, I was doing marketing, the whole career thing. I had fun with it, but I realized it wasn’t right for me.
OMC: So, is bartending right for you?
AH: I always enjoy it, no matter what. I can always fall back on it.
OMC: Is this the only place you’ve bartended?
AH: Yes, I grew up here. I had a landlord who told me I’d love this place. Daryl (the former owner) hired me in 2003. I just walked in, and he hired me that night. I was 21, I had never bartended before. He taught me everything. He taught me how to talk to people; I was a really shy person.
OMC: You’re a sophisticated bartender. I remember the first time I came in here, you shook my hand, introduced yourself, then went back to talking about the stock market with a regular. Have you heard yourself described this way by others?
AH: I would agree. I have a lot of interests, and the cool thing about working here is that there are so many people with different interests that I can talk to them about them and they can teach me so much. I’ve learned everything about IRL racing here.
OMC: Have you ever served any celebrities?
AH: Yes, I have served many celebrities. I served Danica Patrick many times. She used to come when she was in the IRL, with her whole family and entourage. I actually had dinner with them one time. Her dad liked this place. We always had them in the back room and I was always their waitress. They even requested me after I moved to L.A. I also served a couple guys from the Miami Heat, but I don’t know who they were. Lots of announcers from every sport.
OMC: What’s your signature drink?
AH: I serve a lot of beer and whiskey, but I make a really good Bloody Mary. Everybody makes their own here, we don’t have a mix. I also make a good margarita.
OMC: What’s your least favorite drink to make?
AH: There isn’t, because I know whoever is ordering it is really going to enjoy it!
OMC: How often does someone come in here and complain about the prices?
AH: Every shift. I usually try to warn people ahead of time if they’re ordering something really expensive. I tell them that these crab legs are $60 a pound. I hate having someone upset later. Most people come with the expectation that they should ask. Definitely ask.
OMC: Have you ever had to break up a fight?
AH: I have never had to break up a fight, but I’ve seen fights broken up. I’ve seen a person try to run into the front of the building with a truck once. That wasn’t recently.
OMC: Is that the craziest thing thing you’ve ever seen at the bar?
AH: That might be the craziest thing that I can talk about.
OMC: Who are better tippers, men or women?
AH: Women. Back in the day, when I had a lot of parties for pharmaceutical companies, my biggest tip was $400.
OMC: Where do you drink when you’re not bartending?
AH: Well, I just moved back to the East Side, so I’m checking all of that out again. I go to Hooligan’s here and there. I really like going to Industri, Bel Air Cantina for tequila night. I like hole-in-the-wall bars. Vodka’s my drink, but I love margaritas.
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.