Introducing Nightclub & Bar’s 2014 Bartender of the YearApril 22, 2014 By: Kristen Santoro
In the greatest and most complimentary sense of the word, Sean Kenyon is a purist.
This year’s Nightclub & Bar Bartender of the Year, Sean Kenyon, believes in the purity of good, warm service, great ingredients and honesty behind every drink, plate and conversation with every customer who has the good fortune to sit at his bar.
Based on his charity work, bartending skills and palate, individuals who have the opportunity to work with Kenyon can learn so much. “You have to be the hardest working and most passionate person in the building,” he says. “I believe it is important to maintain your own voice and opinions while respecting the views of others.”
A third generation barman, Kenyon’s mother, father and grandfather have been pub owners and bartenders in New Jersey since the 1930's. At age 68, his father, Robert, is still behind the bar in Hackensack, NJ. With hospitality in his blood, Kenyon first stepped behind the bar at the young age of sixteen and never left. Be it a beer and a shot or an artfully crafted cocktail, the service is always welcoming and the attention to detail meticulous.
Over time, Kenyon developed a deep passion for classic cocktails and the history of cocktail-making. While at the core of his methodology is a deep-rooted respect for the classic cocktail, he effortlessly finds new influences for his creations in modern spirits, ingredients and techniques. Always striving to have the best available spirits to present to his guests, he challenges himself to make new choices while maintaining the highest level of hospitality, which in many cases means using brands customers aren’t familiar with. “Sometimes they are disappointed at first, but once they sample the alternatives, they are very happy,” says Kenyon, a firm believer in every brand behind his bar.
As a founding member of the Colorado Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (COBG) he is passionately dedicated to furthering the art and craft of bartending and hospitality. He champions removing the pretense from the industry and is the first to say that “mixology only happens in the glass and bartending is everything else around it.”
Every night, bartenders have the ability to improve or ruin someone’s day. “It’s our obligation as bartenders to achieve the former and avoid the latter, and not enough bartenders take this responsibility seriously,” states Kenyon. “It’s important to mind every aspect of the guest experience.” A reputation for great drinks is what brings guests to William & Graham in the first place, but it’s that kind of approach to service that keeps guests coming back.
Currently working on developing a new beverage program for his bar, Williams & Graham – a bookstore speakeasy in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood, and running the beverage program at the nearby Squeaky Bean, Kenyon also just signed on a new building to open up a proper neighborhood tavern. “The kind of bar that my father and grandfather owned,” he says. “I am really excited about the prospect.”
Kenyon is certainly a class personified, a joy to watch, and can handle any situations with ease. Keep an eye open for more great things to come from Sean Kenyon!