Greg Nadasdy has been tending bar at Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub for about two months, but prior to that, he has served at more than a dozen establishments, perfecting his skills and making tons of friends along the way.
We recently stopped in at Jackson’s for a couple of Pabsts and got to chat with Nadasdy about good bartending, Milwaukee and the perils of mojito making.
OnMilwaukee.com: Alright, lay it one me. Where are all of the places you’ve worked?
Greg Nadasdy: My very first restaurant job was in 1999 at John Hawks Pub. I waited tables for a couple of years and then started bartending. Then let’s see. I was a server at Wells Street Station and Hi-Hat. Then I got behind the bar at Nanakusa and Grenadiers.
In 2004, I went to Kenadee’s when it opened. That really whipped me into shape as a bartender. I was there about a year and then I went to Roots. That was a great job and it really shaped who I am today.
Then I went to Trocadero and Red Light. I had a brief stint with Michael Fecker when he owned Los Mitos. Then Euro Bar, now 42 Lounge. I worked there a lot. I topped out one week at 108 hours and realized that job was putting me in an early grave. So I went back to Roots until it closed and I worked at Karma, Water Buffalo, Mason Street Grill, Distil, Saz’s and finally, here.
OMC: Do you like moving around so much?
GN: In the early days, it was fine. I just kept outgrowing the place and I was getting better and better. At this point in my career, it would be nice to stay. I don’t see myself leaving here for a while. All this hopping around gets a bit much.
OMC: What do you like about Jackson’s so far?
GN: The history of the building. The space itself. The food is good, the drinks are cheap. $4 for a Lakefront tap? Happy hour all day on Sundays? You can do some serious damage here.
OMC: Did you drink Pabst prior to working here?
GN: Sure did. Thanks to the Nomad and the prix fixe – a PBR, a shot of Jamo and a Camel Light for $5.
OMC: What makes a good bartender?
GN: Speed, efficiency, cleanliness, friendliness, knowledge, tolerance. Tolerance. It can be a very trying field. Connections are important, too. I know people everywhere after spending so much time in the business and I can really pump up a place, bring in a lot of new people.
OMC: What’s your personal style as a bartender?
GN: My style comes down to a couple things really. Efficiency and entertainment.
Being fast, clean, organized, knowledgeable and able to multi task with uncanny bartender hearing, peripheral vision and agility make me an efficient bartender.
When you get really good at this is when you start to see the little tricks we do to have fun while we're cranking out product.
The other part is entertainment. One of my favorite people in this biz said my favorite lines about this in a staff meeting once. "We're here to entertain, to put on a show. People can make food and drinks at home. They come to us to have a good time, and it's our job to give it to them."
We're on a stage behind the pine. So this is where I talk to people. Engage them. Get to know ‘em a bit. Make some jokes. Share some laughs and have fun together.
This is one of the best things about being a bartender. We basically get to make a bunch of new friends every day.
OMC: What’s your favorite drink to make?
GN: Whiskey in a glass.
OMC: Any drinks you don’t like making?
GN: I’m f*cking over mojitos. It’s an easy drink to make, but I've made 50,000 of them. Just the smell of ‘em … I can’t do it.
OMC: Do you want to own a bar someday?
GN: Oh, yeah. Someday. It’s going to take longer than originally planned. Milwaukee is a great place to be a bartender, but as a bar owner, you have to nail what you’re doing. It’s cutthroat. There are a lot of bars and restaurants and only 600,000 people.
OMC: What kind of bar would you like to open?
GN: It keeps changing a little bit, but I like the middle ground idea. Like Boone and Crockett or The Standard where you have funky and crafty as well as easy-peasy beer and a shot. A place where you can walk in wearing a T-shirt or a suit.
OMC: You guest bartend at the Standard some nights, right?
GN: Yeah. I love pulling guest shifts there with Matty and Steve. They have guest bartenders every Wednesday and Saturday nights. It’s a great idea.
OMC: Were you born and raised in Milwaukee?
GN: I was born in Milwaukee, then moved to Ozaukee County when I was 2. Moved back here to go to MIAD at 18 and stayed.
OMC: Are you an artist?
GN: I am. Mostly into drawing. I drew most of my tattoos.
OMC: Are you as into food as you are drinks?
GN: Yes. I love cooking. I’ve learned so much from working with so many great chefs over the years. And I love eating out in this town. Odd Duck, Buckley’s and I cannot wait for Goodkind to open.
OMC: What side of town do you live?
GN: Brady Street. It’s my second stint in the same house. I lived there with my ex, and then we bought a house in Riverwest. Then we split and I remembered how nice the landlord was at the Brady Street place and it turns out someone was moving out. So back I went.
OMC: Would you ever leave Milwaukee?
GN: I get offers from time to time, but this is my home, my comfort zone, my city. We are becoming a tourist destination again. People want to come here just for vacations. They want to experience the history, the great bars and restaurants we have here. I'm meeting people from Japan, Russia and all over the U.S. and Canada who read about us in an article or saw us on some top 10 lists of great cities to visit.
OMC: Are you a traveler?
GN: I’ve done bits and pieces of travel. I’ve always wanted to do more. And I have some trips planned. Small trips in the state. A road trip to New Orleans. And my brother and I are Hungarian and planning to go to Hungary for a week. I’d like to take another week and check out some other places, like Amsterdam.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.