Interview: Bartender Christian Self (Thirtyninehotel)

Bartender Honolulu

Liverpool native Christian Self joined his family in Honolulu while his father was teaching at the University of Hawaii and has carved out a distinguish career as a bartender and mixologist. He consulted for Las Vegas-based Barmagic, worked as head bartender at the EDITION hotel in Waikiki and now helms the bar program at Thirtyninehotel in Chinatown. Self shared spirited insights at Hawaii Food & Wine fest’s From Farm to Table event

At what point did you know that you’d know you’d work with cocktails and spirits for a living?

The first time I stepped behind the bar, I just kind of knew. I was a server before that at T.G.I. Friday’s and that’s where I learned my trade. As soon as I got behind the bar, I thought, “Oh my goodness.” I fell in love. I didn’t want to do anything else.

Do you have a first cocktail memory, good or bad?

The very first cocktail I made always sticks in my head because it’s such an old one. It was the Ramos Gin Fizz, and I’ll never forget. I was like, “Orange flower what?” Cream, and egg and citrus? It seemed strange but turned out to be a really beautiful drink.

Have you had any mentors over the years?

Yeah. Actually, I have a lot. Francesco Lafranconi was one of them. He gave me lessons during the grand opening of Pearl. One of my best friends, the founder of Barmagic in Las Vegas, Tobin Ellis, Salvatore Calabrese, Simon Ford, basically everybody that I come across, we all share knowledge. I learn from everybody that way, and I’m just really, really blessed that I have those opportunities.

What’s your favorite part about bartending?

Just interaction with guests, knowing that I can basically change their day in a drink and put a smile on their face.

What does a cocktail have to be to go on your menu at the hotel?

Good. Balanced. It’s got depth. If the guest likes it, then it goes on my menu. If the guests don’t like it, then it doesn’t. It doesn’t even stand a chance.

How do you go about naming cocktails?

That’s probably the hardest thing for me about creating cocktails is coming up with names for them. In this case, I did a little bit of research in what I wanted to do. What we come up with, a lot of times it’s a moment of inspiration and the name pops up.

Who’s somebody who you’ve never worked with behind the bar who you’d most like to work with?

That’s a really good question. That’s a stumper. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve worked with a lot of people behind the bar in different forms and capacities. Probably every bartender who I haven’t worked behind the bar with. I think that would be the best answer, because I could work with those people and learn their different styles and techniques. That would probably have to be my answer, everybody else who I haven’t worked with.

Address: 39 North Hotel Street, Honolulu, HI 96817

Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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