"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round – brought to you by Aperol, Pinnacle, Jameson, Fireball, Red Stag and Avion. The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
Ilana Cohn-Gomez isn’t just the bartender at Shorewood’s expanding Camp Bar, she’s also the manager. It’s her full-time job, and one she takes seriously. She doesn’t, for example, drink while tending bar, which is a rarity in this industry.
She also knows she’s in a good spot, coming from Chicago, where she witnessed a full-on brawl from behind the bar.
We caught up with Cohn-Gomez to get the back story on that fight, as well as some of her tricks of the trade.
OnMilwaukee.com: How long have you been a bartender?
Ilana Cohn-Gomez: I’ve been a bartender for about four years.
OMC: Where else have you bartended?
ICG: In Chicago at Lucky Strike Lanes. I also bartended at a sushi restaurant below Lucky Strike.
OMC: Are you from Milwaukee?
ICG: I am. Born and raised down the street, literally.
OMC: What’s it like to tend bar at Camp?
ICG: I love it, and not just because I work here.
OMC: What’s your favorite drink to make?
ICG: I love making martinis.
OMC: What’s your least favorite drink to make?
IGG: Probably the run-of-the-mill vodka soda. It’s boring. It has no dynamics.
OMC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen behind the bar?
ICG: Oh my. Well, there was sort of a riot at Lucky Strike this past April. It was over something someone said on Facebook about someone’s girlfriend being with someone else. Oh my God. It went crazy. People were picking up bowling balls and smashing them through windows. Pool cues smashed on peoples’ backs. We had big planters, and people threw them on the ground. It was insane.
OMC: So I guess that answers my next question about if you’ve ever seen a bar fight.
ICG: Capacity is like 1,000. It was a Friday or Saturday night. We had two bartenders, behind the bar. We just grabbed all of the glassware and bottles off the bar, everything that was potentially breakable on someone. It lasted a while before the police got there.
OMC: Who are better tippers, men or women?
ICG: For me, men.
OMC: What’s the biggest tip you’ve ever received?
ICG: I’ve received a 50 percent tip on a bill before. Those are very, very rare.
OMC: Where do you drink when you’re not bartending?
ICG: I come here often, but I go to to North Avenue or Brady Street. I like Hotel Foster.
OMC: Do you drink when you tend bar?
ICG: I do not, but we are allowed to. I’m the manager here, so I like to lead by example. I prefer people not to drink while they are working, especially for younger bartenders. They might take advantage of it, and they’re not on point anymore. We’re handling money, credit cards and IDs. You kind of skip steps, and I prefer that not to happen.
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.