Yes, we know we already profiled one bartender from Hector's last fall. And we're sorry to repeat the venue, but D.J. Bensyl is just such a good story.
His bartending career has taken him from Milwaukee to Key West to Door County and back, and Bensyl, 45, has built quite a loyal following in the business.
Besnyl was a mainstay at The Bayside Tavern in Fish Creek, and he owned a bar called Bub's Pub in Egg Harbor for a short time. For a 27-year veteran of the industry, Bensyl is one of those rare bartenders who doesn't touch the sauce -- though you'd never notice while knocking back margaritas as you talk across the bar, as he just doesn't make a big deal about it.
Currently, Bensyl splits his time between the Bay View and Wauwatosa locations of Hector's -- he worked the very first shift at both bars. We caught up with him recently:
OnMilwaukee.com: How long have you been a bartender?
D.J. Bensyl: About 27 years, on and off, but mainly on. I started at Kalt's, a German place on Oakland. Rob, the owner of Hector's, hired me away. After a few years, I loaded up my truck and moved to Key West, and the first bar I stopped at was the Green Parrot, the best bar in the world. I worked in Door County in the summers and Key West in the winters, with one in Australia.
OMC: What's your signature drink?
DB: Margaritas, probably. Also the Bayside Coffee, from my days in Fish Creek.
OMC: How did you get to be a margarita master?
DB: Basically every place I've ever at, I got stuck making margaritas -- having worked at Hector's 18 years ago when they first opened.
OMC: What's your least favorite drink to make?
DB: Long Island Iced Tea. It's an amateur drink that leads to insane drunkenness.
OMC: What's the most ridiculous thing you've seen a bar patron do?
DB: Ones that you can print, right? Opening Day last year, I was working at the Hector's on State Street. There was a guy who looked like he'd be an extra on "Wayne's World." The guy passed out in the corner, and I was going to make him leave for extreme drunkenness. But then "Footloose" came on the stereo, and he proceeded to get up, take his leg off and dance. I let him drink for free.
OMC: Have you ever had to break up any bar fights?
DB: Yeah, lots of them. I just get in the middle, go low, stand up and push them apart. It's instinct, and it's my job: if I don't do it, no one will.
OMC: Do pick-up lines work?
DB: People beat on pick-up lines, but if you deliver them with a smile, they work. Acknowledge that it's a pick-up line and you're doing it for humorous effect.
OMC: Who are better tippers, men or women?
DB: Women. Working private parties, I've had $100 tips.
OMC: You ever serve any celebrities?
DB: Not too many, I guess. I've served a few sports figures, but I generally treat everyone the same.
OMC: Where do you go when you're not working?
DB: I like the outdoors, and I like live music.
OMC: What's the best part about bartending?
DB: The social interaction, the flexibility. I'm not stuck in a cubicle.
OMC: What do you like least about it?
DB: Late nights and listening to people that aren't interesting.
OMC: You don't drink when you bartend. That's sort of irregular in the business, right?
DB: It's been 10 and a half years, now. I'll do a shot of juice or soda to be social. When I quit drinking, I realized that it's all about being social. After a while, I enjoyed being on top of the game, rather than blurred out in the middle of it.
OMC: Does working in a bar make you want to drink, or does it make you not want to drink?
DB: Once I decided to stop drinking, and I started working in a bar a month or two later, I've never felt like I wanted to. I could laugh at the end of the night and remember why.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. 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.