Interview: bartender Erik Lund (Rivera + MessHall)

Bartender Los Angeles

Vermont native and longtime percussionist Erik Lund ended up in Los Angeles after his Echoes de Luxe bandmates kidnapped him. He eventually left the band and started working in restaurants, which is how he met Julian Cox, his spirit guide. He’s worked at Rivera for two years, the past year as Program Director, and will helm the bar at MessHall when Bill Chait and Rob Serritella open their communal, military-inspired dining experience this summer. We interviewed Lund at Playa on June 19, after a MessHall training session, and he explained his connection to cocktails and spirits.

What brought you to Los Angeles?

I got kidnapped by the band. I was going to move to London, I had a gig playing for the BBC all lined up. They literally packed my stuff and kidnapped me, but they were my best friends at the time, so I said okay, went along with it, gave two years of my life to the band and haven’t talked to them since.

Do you still play music?

Yeah, my background’s jazz and classical.

Any instrument in particular?

Percussion and drums. My mom made me take piano lessons, which helped me woo women in high school. I try to play the guitar, my fingers don’t want to do it.

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

The first day of Julian [Cox]’s class.

Which was when?

Almost two years ago, exactly. I was always a waiter. We were friends from back in the day, both working at Roy’s. He was like, “I’m doing a class if you want to bartend.” I’m like, “Yeah. Sounds good.”

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

I didn’t drink until I was 21. I never had a sip. My very first cocktail was called a Blue [Something] Coolant. It was blue as shit, super sweet. I didn’t drink at the time, so I was like, “Oh, this is delicious.” My boss took me out for my 21st [birthday] to a strip club and we had like 10 of them there. My first six months of drinking, I was drinking nothing but Pearl Harbors and horribly made Sloe Gin Fizzes, the sweeter, the better.

Where was that?

Portland, Maine, after college.

Would you consider Julian a mentor?

Everything I’ve learned, he was like the genesis. Anything I do that don’t fall under his teachings, sort of started with a spark of what he taught. I’m an extension of Julian.

What’s your favorite thing about bartending?

A couple things. I don’t think I could limit it to one, but I like to get somebody to like something they didn’t think they would ever like. If somebody’s stuck on vodka, if we get them out of their comfort zone – they start by asking for a Cosmo – and by the end of the night, they’re drinking shots of amaro. Sometimes that will happen. That’s awesome. They’ll come back. They thought they only liked vodka. We get ‘em into gin. We get ‘em to, “Whatever you want to pick.” And as long as we serve them nothing too crazy, you can kind of funnel them into anything. Stuff like mezcal may take a little longer.

What’s the biggest challenge for you as a bartender?


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Joshua Lurie

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

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