When it comes to Lifers, it would make sense that these accomplished mixologist's start behind the bar with the basics, thumbing through a bar guide to follow the rules. And for Paul McGee of Lettuce Entertain You, he too followed that same path during college. At 19 living in Houston, McGee started slinging drinks at Pappas Seafood Restaurant, a family owned high-volume restaurant. For eight years, he sold massive amounts of long island ice teas, frozen margaritas and cold brews at this busy seafood joint. Nothing fancy, just fast and only two guys behind the bar. McGee walked away with a worthy skill set from an intensely bustling job—extreme organization. You don't work a bulk bar job without creating structure. But the obvious eventually set in; it was time to move on.
He hit the road and moved to Las Vegas. McGee started with Wofgang Puck in 2003 at Post Trio in the Venetian absorbing the fine dining culture. During that time, Post Trio was on the bubble of the mixology trend and bartenders started aligning themselves with chefs by picking their brains about ingredients and natural pairings. Using fresh juice behind the bar was, well, a big deal. Specifically, while McGee was at Post Trio he discovered more about food and proper wine service. Gradually, it occurred to him that his regard for cocktails started to trickle over as a sense of true craft.
Even fine dining can rear its ugly head. Serve an unseasoned tourist one too many fancy cocktails and it will get the best of them every time. McGee recalls his worst evening behind the bar when his fellow bar mate was chatting up a guest after dinner, a guest that absorbed and digested just about everything on the menu, including knocking back a lot of booze. She proceeded to projectile vomit all over the bar. Fancy ingredients are just as gross hurled up as cheap ones. Ask McGee, apparently he's seen both.
While he's spent plenty of time out West, this cowboy usually likes to play things pretty safe and considers himself to be somewhat calculated. His favorite spirit of choice is rum or rye whiskey and McGee is currently working on the cocktail program for Lettuce Entertain You's forthcoming restaurants, Bub City and Three Dots and a Dash.