A Chat with Ann Tuennerman and Chris Hannah
In honor of Tales of the Cocktail's 15th anniversary, Tales founder Ann Tuennerman is highlighting 15 bartenders whose lives and careers have been impacted by attending the event, and whose work has elevated the industry as a whole. In this edition, Chris Hannah, the man behind the French 75's James Beard Award-winning bar program, discusses his legendary career.
Where were you born and raised?
Born in DC but grew up all over, including out of the country.
What attracted you to becoming a bartender in the first place?
Always liked being a part of people's fun.
Was it planned or was it a temporary gig that evolved into a career?
Temporary gig that evolved into a career.
What and where was your first bartending job?
Pour House, in Raleigh, NC and Duck News Café, in Duck, NC.
Was there a moment when you decided that bartending would be your career?
After the hurricane, it became apparent.
Was your family supportive of your decision to pursue bartending?
Yes, after I finally graduated college they were cool with it.
For someone who wants to pursue bartending as a career, what top three tips would you offer?
Set up an IRA savings plan, meet as many local bartenders as possible and join your local USBG chapter, travel to another city's cocktail event and attend a seminar.
How did you first learn about Tales of the Cocktail?
Volunteered to set up tables in 2005.
Where there any challenges you had to overcome to attend Tales the first time (financial, logistical, etc.)?
Only challenge was working my real job and volunteering to also work at Tales -- time conflicts.
Kindly describe your first Tales experience and what it meant to you.
Watched Dale DeGroff and Chris McMillian speak on stage about cocktails and culture, and found out there was much more to cocktails, as well as finding out about the amazing cocktail community that existed.
What was it like to be immersed in the community of bartenders and
cocktail luminaries from all over the world? Did it confirm bartending
as your calling?
Truly amazing to discover the company I belonged to, and it certainly reaffirmed the importance of bartending as my career.
Kindly describe your top three favorite moments from Tales.
Being in the CAP program (and actually holding Dita Von Teese), working Welcome Parties with Chris Patino (not necessarily the one with two other Hannahs); losing the Swimsuit Contest to Jared Shubert falls just behind last year, when I was able to have the Cuban El Floridita bartenders at my bar.
Kindly describe any awards or recognition you received at Tales.
I've been nominated for Bartender of the Year before.
How has it energized your career overall and what opportunities have flowed as a result of your winning?
Well, I haven't won, but the opportunities after meeting members of bartending
community visiting Tales has enabled the most fun I've had in my life
the past 10 years, as well as created the most amazing second-family I've found
Kindly describe your top behind the bar experience where you impacted or inspired a guest?
The summer after the hurricane, there was a guest who would cry at my bar. I would talk about the Saints and who they've picked up and whatnot in the offseason to get him to talk about something else and stop crying. My coworkers always made fun of me when he came in, but I had to do my job. Before the season started he came in to say goodbye, said that he had to go away for a while and was wondering if I was going to any Saints games. I said no, I don't have tickets. He handed over two season tickets packets, 50 yard line club level, and in 2006 I was a season ticket holder.
Kindly describe any key professional relationships that were forged at
Tales through networking with fellow bartenders, spirits luminaries and
I still work at the French 75 Bar, but have been able to take several amazing trips to work in wonderful places.
How would you sum up Tales to an aspiring bartender who is new to the profession?
It's the best thing to do for your career, be professionally minded but do have fun. There are so many interesting spirits to try for the first time, and the education and history that go along with them comes from the most educated people in our field.
What is your go-to cocktail when you go out?
Old Fashioned or Negroni.
What is your favorite cocktail to make for friends and family?