Denise McKenzie, 12-year bartender, pours a beer at Kuhnle’s Tavern in Marysville. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Denise McKenzie, 12-year bartender, pours a beer at Kuhnle’s Tavern in Marysville. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Kuhnle’s Tavern bartender pours them as she sees them

Denise McKenzie has learned a few things after 12 years at the venerable Marysville bar.

If Denise McKenzie had a superpower, it’d be reading minds.

The bartender at Kuhnle’s Tavern in Marysville has a knack for knowing exactly what kind of beer customers want when they step into the 100-year-old bar on State Avenue, where she’s worked for the past 12 years.

Here, McKenzie, 57, talks about what brought her to the bar, what she enjoys about her job and what she likes to tell people about the craft of bartending:

What’s it like to work at a bar with so much tradition?

It’s really nice. We’ve got all kinds of generations pertaining to the owners, the bartenders and then the customers. They’ll come in and say, “My grandma used to drink here daily.”

What brought you to Kuhnle’s Tavern?

Actually, my roommate brought me here. She had a girlfriend who was working here, and we came here to watch Seahawks football. I met some really nice people, and I started seeing someone from here. I was just looking for something different. I worked in retail for 21 years as a grocery checker. I never poured a beer in my life, but JoAnn Kuhnle (the former owner) was willing to give me a chance.

Was there a learning curve?

It’s like the grocery business — you can tell who your usual customers are and what they’re buying. Here, you can tell pretty much when they come in what they’re going to drink. But there are a few who keep you on your toes.

Why is bartending fun for you?

You get to know people and their families. They’re going through the good times, the bad times and the “I don’t know what” times. You’re like Dr. Phil. You’ve got big shoulders, and you just listen. It’s really family-oriented.

If you were a beer, what would it be?

I would be a Coors Light. But I do like variety. I’m not going to lie, I like White Belgium. I don’t care for IPAs. They’re too hoppy. The younger kids like it, but it’s a higher potency. I can’t hang like that.

Have you had any unusual drink requests?

No, but I’ve had people mix beer with wine coolers. They’ve also mixed a Blue Moon with an Angry Orchard.

Which days do you work?

Sunday through Wednesday.

What do you pour yourself when you’re finished working for the day?

It just depends on the special of the day. Usually I go with Coors Light and Bud Light, but I’ll drink Mike’s Hard Lemonade on Tuesdays.

What do you like to tell others about bartending?

It’s fun. You’re not sitting in a little cubby all by yourself. You’re moving around. You’re mingling and chit-chatting and still trying to serve the customers. It’s for somebody who’s got lots of energy.

Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, ethompson@herald Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.

If you go

Kuhnle’s Tavern, at 204 State Ave., Marysville, is open from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to midnight Thursday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday.

Call 360-659-9910. More at

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