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

More in Life

Relax with Korean-inspired comfort food at uu in Everett

The stylish new downtown restaurant is an inviting place to unwind for lunch or dinner.

Harmonica legend Lee Oskar rallies to save Everett’s theater

The musician of War fame and his band will perform March 6 for the theater, which may go up for sale.

Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan gets sweeping changes for 2020

Hyundai’s most successful model carries the carmaker’s new Sensuous Sportiness design language.

Her arts legacy includes Sorticulture, Music at the Marina

Wendy Poischbeg is among those honored for their contributions to Everett’s art scene.

‘Call of the Wild’? ‘Call of the Mild’ is much more like it

This CGI-heavy adaptation of the Jack London classic is superficial stuff, though Harrison Ford helps it pick up a bit toward the end.

Slow-burning passions ignite in dazzling ‘Portrait of a Lady’

This French film begins as a 18th-century period piece, then becomes a slow-burning romance.

The 16 cookbooks of 2019 we’re facing off March Madness-style

After 10 years, Food52’s Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks as we know it is no more. So we’re doing our own thing.

The hot toddy — it won’t cure you, but you’ll feel better

Some call it the chicken soup of the cocktail bar because it offers relief from the common cold.

Record numbers seeking roles in Island Shakespeare Festival

More than 200 actors are vying for 20 positions in three plays at the 11th annual Langley fest.

Most Read