As a kid, Alex Frye didn’t dream about one day becoming an astronaut, professional athlete or detective. He wanted to be a bartender.
A self-proclaimed introvert, Frye broke out of his shell six years ago and became a bartender at Diamond Knot Brewery & Alehouse in Mukilteo.
Here, Frye, 27, of Everett, talks about what made him interested in bartending, close calls with drunken customers and that one time he was headbutted.
I’ve always wanted to be a bartender for some reason, which is weird. I romanticized it as a kid. I think it was the creativity, the cocktails and just getting to talk to people, which was something I was frightened of as a kid. I wanted a job where you’d have to do that. I’ve always found that to be the most useful way to dealing with stuff, just taking it straight on. I was actually kind of an introvert before I started here. It’s been a challenge, but I’m glad I’ve been able to do it.
How did you land the gig?
It wasn’t instant. I started off here as a food expediter, so basically I was guiding the food to the tables and making sure it gets where it needs to go. It was like a stepping stone. I had to go from food expediter to serving. I was asking all the time to be a bartender. Then, I got to bar back, which is like being a bartender’s assistant. Eventually, it was up to the discretion of the bartenders to say I could be relied on to pump out drinks for this capacity of a restaurant and that small of a bar.
What was the training process like?
Just constant failure — trying to hold it together during your shift, breaking stuff, making cocktails wrong and learning from it. That’s all it was. It’s hard to train somebody behind that bar without just throwing them into it. It was very stressful, but it’s worth it. Some people drop out of it. All eyes are on you.
Why did you stick with it?
I just have a hard head. I also enjoyed the fact that I was producing something with my hands. You don’t necessarily think of an industry job as craftsmanship, but it takes creativity.
Was it different than what you expected?
Yes. I pictured the 1988 movie “Cocktail,” hanging out at the bar, talking to girls and sliding a lit match down the bar. I had really romanticisized it in my head as a kid. I was expecting a good old time with buddies. And it is sometimes. But the most fun is when you’re just getting your butt handed to you in the middle of the night, you’re sweating and you’re trying to pump out 10 cocktails and five beers.
What are your customers like?
I don’t know what it is or what’s in the air down here, but the locals are super generous. They’re super nice, they’re not entitled, they take care of us and we take care of them. This is the one place that almost feels like a dive bar, but it’s not quite there. The ferry people are awesome, too. Most of them are Boeing guys coming over here for a beer or two, nothing too crazy. Everyone is very well-mannered.
You don’t have to kick people out?
I do, but not that often. And I like doing it. We have the liberty here to identify someone who is being disruptive and take them away from the environment. That’s the other thing the locals like, too. We don’t just sit there and let some creepy guy hit on a girl for an hour. We don’t let some guy yell and scream at some other dude for wearing the wrong baseball team hat. We kick them out and keep the environment lively and friendly.
Any crazy stories?
The craziest stuff that happens here is from Rosehill Community Center. They have weddings up there, and they’ll come down at 10 or 11 p.m. just hammered. I’ve had people throw up on my boots before. The worst one though was when we couldn’t serve a bride because she didn’t have her ID. This guy who was yelling at us grabs a pint pot and chucks it down our line and breaks glass onto all the food in the kitchen — it was like $4,000 of food we had to toss out.
Give me another story.
I had a very angry Irishman headbutt me. It was the most gentle, drunken headbutt I’ve ever had done to me. I pulled his dad’s beer because he was really drunk. I was dumping beer into a bucket, just walking around like, “Hey guys, 2 a.m., the law says we can’t serve you anymore.” We close at 1 a.m., but if stuff is going on, we’re legally allowed to keep it lively until 2 a.m. I don’t mind; it’s extra money. But the kid got so mad. He kept yelling, “You never pull a man’s beer!” He comes up for a headbutt and just bounces his skull off mine and I’m like, “You need to go right now.” I think he was trying to hurt me, but I think he was way too drunk to do any damage. Normally, things aren’t too aggressive around here.
What’s your favorite cocktail to make?
A lot of people tell me they like tequila, and they just shoot it, they don’t sip it. My favorite cocktail I like to get people on board with is a Oaxaca old-fashioned. This has a little bit of mezcal, Angostura bitters, an orange peel and some simple syrup or agave nectar, stirred and strained over ice. It’s a really nice way to introduce people to sipping tequila instead of shooting it. It’s nice and smokey, has caramel undertones to it and is a little bit sweet so it takes the burn off a little bit.
Do you have a go-to beer for ferry commuters in a hurry?
Diamond Knot’s Industrial IPA. You’re coming off of work and you want to get one beer in you. It’s got a 7.9% ABV and high hops. Most people in this area like their beer hoppy.
Evan Thompson: v425-339-3427, email@example.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
Diamond Knot Brewery & Alehouse, 621 Front St., Mukilteo, is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 425-512-8080 or go to www.diamondknot.com for more information.