August 2015 Bartender of the Month: Jesse Greenleaf
Name: Jesse Greenleaf
Establishment: Bartender at Duke’s Waikīkī
Recent Gigs: Jesse Greenleaf is a nationally recognized Waikīkī bartender who authored The Cocktail Handbook: Cool Drinks from Hawaii’s Hottest Bartenders along with his wife Amie Fujiwara, in which he shared more than 80 great drink recipes, plus inside tips on bar etiquette and tools and techniques of the trade.
Jesse makes his current behind-the-bar home at Duke’s Waikīkī. Greenleaf has earned multiple awards for his innovative creations, has appeared on the Food Network and Travel Channel and was featured on the drinks-focused travelogue show Three Sheets with Zane Lamprey.
Why did you become a bartender?
I fell into bartending purely by luck! In 1989 I was a lunch waiter at an Italian restaurant in the downtown district and at night I was dinner waiter at a high end Italian restaurant in the heart of Waikiki! After visiting the night club called Studebakers at Restaurant Row I decided to drop off an application. Two weeks later I was called to start training as a bar runner, two weeks later a barback got deployed and I was called on to help cover. Two months later I was a bartender at the number one night club in Hawaii! I was only nineteen!
What are some fun flavors you’re working with?
For my "Muy Caliente!" I have been chopping fresh jalapeño into 1/2 inch chunks then filling a storm pourer with peppers, then pouring 12 ounces of Grand Marnier and 12 ounces of honey then sealing them to soak for 5 days. Those go into my Passionfruit - strawberry - jalapeño, top shelf margarita! I like combining sweet and savory elements to create new twists on old classics!
What are you doing different from the norm in your beverages?
I tend to always look for flavor combinations that haven't been used before. Pickled ginger, wasabi, cracked pepper, infused honey, fresh local fruit both cubed and puréed! Living and working in Hawaii provides a year round seasonal variety of great produce and a melting pot of spices and ingredients from all over the pacific!
What’s in the mixing glass or shaker for your customers?
In my "Hawaiian Time" the glass starts with 2 lime wedges, 2 lemon wedges, after a quick muddle I add a squeeze of freshly puréed strawberry/basil, then in goes 1 1/2 oz. of mandarin vodka, 1 oz. of lemongrass / ginger shochu and 1 oz. lemonade. Iced, shaken, and strained over ice in a bucket glass then floated with ginger beer! Talk about refreshing!
What’s your take on beer in the bar industry?
Always relevant as it's still considered by many the perfect refreshing drink of choice! Sour beers, micro brews, specialty flavored stouts, everyone's new version of an IPA, the list goes on and on! If you want to stay relevant in bartending on any level you better keep beers and ciders in your wheelhouse!
What are you sipping on and why?
I'm currently enjoying citrus or mandarin vodka, in tall glasses filled with soda water and floated with fresh grapefruit juice. Refreshing, easy to make, and helpful with my current battle for a better waistline!
What are you dancing to while mixing?
Anything by Mayer Hawthorne "Henny & Gingerale", Macklemore and Ryan Lewis "Growing Up" with Ed Sheeran, and anything by Atmosphere!! All of them are sick, independent musical geniuses! Check them out!
What are some quirks/quotes you are known for?
Fast, Funky, Friendly, Fluid, Fresh!!! My new favorite toast, "Bottoms Off!" I'm known for a few jokes now and then as well!!