February 2013 Bartender of the Month: Joseph OaConnor

Name: Joseph O’Connor

Establishment: Bar and Beverage Director for Big Night Entertainment

Recent Gigs: Bar and Beverage Director for Big Night Entertainment, Joseph O’Connor, is undoubtedly one of Boston’s hottest bartenders. He has been the creative force behind some of Boston’s most popular drink menus at Red Lantern, Empire, GEM and The Estate as well as three locations at Foxwoods Resort Casino, including Nightclub & Bar’s Top 100 winner, SHRINE Nightclub. With an expected gross revenue of $40 million in 2012, BNEG has trusted 27-year-old O’Connor with one of their biggest undertakings and moneymakers, cocktails.

O’Connor started in the restaurant industry washing dishes at Mulcahy's Bar and Nightclub on Long Island at 16 years old; by 18, he was picking up bartender shifts. A year later, he made his way to Boston, where he quickly landed a coveted management job at Gaslight, an upbeat brasserie in the trendy South End. 

When Big Night Entertainment Group offered O’Connor the opportunity to head the bar at SHRINE, he jumped at the opportunity; from there, the group put him in charge of the bars at all of its establishments. O’Connor sets himself apart from other bartenders with diverse cocktail menus by blending classic drink standards and unique creations. These playful combinations define the type of bartender O’Connor is and exemplify his youthful take on Boston’s bartending industry.

In addition to his mastery of premier mixology, O’Connor is uniquely valuable to Big Night Entertainment, in that he fulfills an extremely demanding role for the expanding entertainment group. Motivated by his dedication to serving patrons and his desire to maintain a strong connection with all of his bars O’Connor logs hundreds of miles on the odometer every week. But the freedom he has to create amazing, swanky and fun cocktails make this challenging position well worth the drive time for the talented cocktail guru.

O’Connor’s talents truly shine with his ability to create unique and brand appropriate creations at each spot. With so much accomplished at such a young age and a bright future ahead of him, O’Connor is a force to be reckoned with.  

What’s in the mixing glass or shaker:
A favorite shot of mine, for all to try, is a twist on a sidecar with Hennessy Black, Fresh Lemon and St Germain.  In our lounge/restaurant concepts we have large drink menus with our originals and twists on classics.  Bourbon and browns are on fire in winter. The Bulleit Bourbon, Ginger Cognac, and Lime Agave-great Bourbon-Ginger Gimlet is great.

What are some hot trends for the coming year:
Nightlife has seen an incredible growth in the products available and being requested, everything from flavored vodkas to espresso tequilas, etc.  In our Asian restaurant/lounges we have really enjoyed working with sake and the depth of that market has grown tremendously. It’s incredible to me how many great and different sakes there are to try and mix it.

What are you sipping and why:
I’m pretty simple-Champagne at Brunch or any special occasion.  Wine with dinner, scotch after a long day and beer when it’s time to slow down.  Tequila shots when it’s time to catch up. 

What are you dancing to while mixing:
Anything upbeat and energetic.  A few of the guys I work with try to impersonate me dancing and give me a hard time, but they don’t do it well!

What are some quirks or quotes that you are known for:
My team says I flick, or wag my tongue like a dog when I get excited behind the bar. I have yet to realize it but they are always giving me a hard time about it. 

Final thoughts:
Thank you for recognizing us at BNEG.  I’m really fortunate to be with this group and I love my position and what we are doing.  I work with so many unbelievable people from our ownership team, our directors and management team to the BOH and FOH staff.  I love the consistency we have been able to build on the bar across all our venues and to be able to work with so many great bartenders in CT and Boston is a lot of fun.  Jenn, our bar manager in Boston has been a tremendous help and great addition to our team.  Just grateful and hungry!

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