At just 24, Waukesha native Nick Koehler isn't your average bartender. First off, he works in St. Francis, at Cool Water Bar & Grill, and has experience behind the rail at Iron Horse Hotel, Umami Moto, The Ambassador Hotel and Meze Lounge. He majored in finance, but he's got mad mixology skills, too, and he's currently studying hard to ace the sommelier certification exam in autumn.
As Cool Water continues to grow in status on the southeast side of town, Koehler is getting noticed (and not just because of the tattoos).
We asked him a bit about himself and his experiences behind the bar.
OnMilwaukee.com: How long have you been a bartender?
Nick Koehler: I've been a bartender for roughly six years now.
OMC: How long have you worked at Cool Water?
NK: I have been at Cool Water for roughly a month but am looking to take the bar into a great direction and foresee only exceptional things in the future.
OMC: What's your signature drink?
NK: Pegu Club or an Old Fashioned (I love the classics).
OMC: What's in a Pegu Club?
NK: A Pegu Club is made of 2 oz. of Plymouth-- or another light bodied -- Gin, 1 oz. Cointreau, 3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice, two healthy dashes of Angostura Bitters, one dash Orange Bitters and a tsp. of egg white.
OMC: What's your least favorite drink to make?
NK: A Bloody Mary past 8 p.m.
OMC: You don't mind making them, then, it's more a matter of etiquette?
NK: It's not the time involved more as it's an unwritten bar rule that some people don't follow.
OMC: What's the crowd like here?
NK: The clientele is steadily evolving from an older St. Francis/Cudahy crowd to a younger Bay View crowd.
OMC: Is there a different vibe in St. Francis than in other parts of town?
NK: People really rely on little details such as remembering their name and drink every time they walk through the door. Overall, I love the St. Francis / Bay View clientele more than any other in the city.
I find the Bay View / St. Francis area to be the next East Side. The bars and restaurants are becoming more popular than ever and with an amazing clientele I can only see things going great places.
OMC: What's the most ridiculous thing you've seen a bar patron do?
NK: Nudity ... lots of nudity.
OMC: Have you ever had to break up any bar fights?
NK: I try to steer clear but sometimes it's a casualty of the job.
OMC: Do pick-up lines work?
OMC: Who are better tippers, men or women?
NK: Both are equally good as long as you treat them well.
OMC: What bars do you go to when you're not working?
NK: Palomino, Burnhearts, Highbury, Bombshelter, Jackalope, Soho7.
OMC: Do you drink when you bartend?
NK: When needed. I never refuse a shot from a customer.
OMC: What's the best part about bartending?
NK: I love the fact that I get paid to interact with people all day long and generally have a great time while I work. I could never picture myself behind a desk.
OMC: What do you like least about it?
NK: The hours can be hell on a relationship and it certainly can strain your social life. Aside from that it's one of the best jobs I could ever envision having.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.