How Serving Drake Wine Spritzers at My Bar Made Me a Better Bartender

Serving them all has made me happy to be the person that I am: an honest bartender who doesn’t bend the rules for anybody.

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Apr 14 2016, 11:00pm

Foto von Jon Phillipo via Flickr

Welcome to Last Call, where we visit watering holes around the world to collect life advice from their trusty barkeepers, learning everything from how to get over a broken heart to what drink orders will get you laughed out of their bar.

For this installment, we spoke to Juan Martinez, a first-generation Oaxacan-American bartender who has served more than a hundred celebrities throughout his ten-year career at Cecconi's in West Hollywood and Toca Madera in Beverly Grove. We caught up with the 26-year-old to see how getting a $300 tip from Drake made him realize that we are all just human.

It was a Tuesday afternoon. The lunch rush hour at Cecconi's was just ending, and then he walked in.

It wasn't Drake's first time in the restaurant but he seemed different on this particular day—he looked stressed out. It was a week before his Take Care album came out. He got a call on his cell phone out of nowhere, so he left his group's table and came to the bar to sit right in front of me.

I knew what he liked to drink, so I poured him his favorite: a white wine spritzer, specifically some pinot grigio watered down with tonic water. I think he was talking to his mentor or something. Whoever it was, they were talking shit to him, telling him things like, "Your album isn't going to sell," or something along that nature. I can tell by the expressions and vibe that whatever this other person was telling him, it wasn't good. It was an intense conversation that lasted about 45 minutes. I heard him say things like, "I'm getting tired of this LA scene. I'm getting older, I should be settling down soon. Is this home? I don't even know where home is."

All the while, his eyes were focusing on me as I swiftly cleaned up my station and got ready for a long night ahead. I knew he was going through a hard conversation so I kept on refilling his glass even if he didn't ask; he must have had about five glasses of watered-down white wine. Then, I started to bring him some snacks to munch on while he talked on the phone. Again, he didn't order any of it but he looked really stressed out, so I thought he would appreciate it.

I've been in this situation before with many stressed out Hollywood customers, and small gestures like this really come a long way. I treat anybody like this—whether you are a famous person or not. I am in the service industry, after all, not the celebrity service industry. I was the head bartender at Cecconi's at the time, and I was already used to serving celebrities like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Slash, Ringo Starr, Gerard Butler, and hundreds more. You name 'em and I've probably served them, since the restaurant is right in the middle of West Hollywood and I worked there for six long years.

Serving Drake made me happy to be the person that I am: an honest bartender who doesn't bend the rules for anybody.

I think Drake noticed my respectful thoughtfulness toward him that night, and as soon as he hung up, he told me, "Hey man, you work really hard and I want to take care of you." As a Koreatown-born, Oaxacan-American who has worked extremely hard to get to that point in my career, hearing that meant a lot. He then leaves to bring back the rest of his posse and tells everyone, "This guy is the real deal. Order some drinks from him." I make them custom-made drinks based on their liquor preferences. While I was making my drinks, I could tell that Drake was looking at me and that he was truly happy for me. It was almost like he was scouting me for something.

A little later, I gave Drake his check. He signs it, gives it back to me, and says, "Keep on doing your thing. I'll see you around." When I look at the receipt after he left, I saw that he gave me a $300 tip. This made me realize how, in some very weird way, him and I are similar. I've since left Cecconi's but I am now working as the bar manager at the extremely successful Toca Madera in Beverly Grove. Kind of like how Drake has gotten extremely successful since our encounter, too.

Out of all the celebrities, he has—for sure—been the nicest one that I've had the pleasure of serving. I'm not just saying this because I am a big fan of his music or because of the $300 tip; I am saying this because I've served a lot of celebrities who are straight-up dicks. Serving him made me happy to be the person that I am: an honest bartender who doesn't bend the rules for anybody.

As told to Javier Cabral