Behind the Bar with Leigh Jones of Jonesy's EatBar

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Nancy Levine
Leigh Jones, behind the bar at Jonesy's EatBar.
Leigh Jones, the woman behind Jonesy's EatBar and the Horseshoe Lounge (with partner Margaret Moore), was also the co-owner and designer of the Dish, B-52 Billiards, Brasserie Rouge, Atomic Cowboy and Buffalo Billiards in Nashville and Austin. But she really came into her own with the eponymous Jonesy's, Denver's first official gastropub.

Now serving: Leigh Jones.

How does the bar fit in with your vision of the restaurant? My vision of the restaurant is a bar! When I closed the Dish and reopened as Jonesy's last year, it was my goal to capture that wonderfully inviting and warm spirit of the perfect corner bar or neighborhood pub. It just so happens that as I was researching ideas for the new place, the term "gastropub" appeared on my radar. Love the word or hate it, that's what we are...a restaurant as comfortable as your favorite pub, with a higher level of quality in our food, wine and beer selections than typical pubs. Oh, and our bar stools are the most comfortable in the city!

Who comes up with your specialty drinks? It's a group effort, but Amy Kempster and Rachel Hendrix are our "go to" girls for ideas. It was super cool that Sean Kenyon rolled in last week to help us fine-tune some drinks, too.

Can you enhance your food with cocktails the same way you can with wine? Sure, but it's tricky. There are so many perfect components of a well-made cocktail that it really should stand alone as an aperitif, but a nice bourbon always works with a steak. However, once you get into desserts, the sky's the limit on pairings. The thought of our Hot Buttered Pumpkin Rum paired with our peach bread pudding makes my toes curl.

What's your favorite drink to make? I really like making a drink that'll make someone happy. I love a couple of our fall cocktails because they tickle that nostalgic spot in people's senses.

What is your least favorite drink to make? I hate making a margarita with a high-end tequila that will get lost in the ingredients. It's a waste of good booze.

What's the weirdest drink someone has asked you to make? I think one of my chefs reduced some steak pan juices (aka blood) and had us mix it in a Manhattan once. Gross, but funny!

What do customers do that pisses you off? As a bartender, nothing. I've been in this business too long to be pissed by what really is the norm. Some people don't know what they want, some people don't order fast enough, so what? It'll happen again tomorrow and the next day -- it's called customer service for a reason. Still, do not be disrespectful to my staff; that's an immediate exit. Oh, and if you have to puke, get yourself to the bathroom, don't do it at the bar. Just a memory from my B-52 days...

What's the best tip you've ever received, either monetary or insight? I've worked with many, many strong people who have given me great guidance and advice. The Denver restaurant community, for the most part, is very willing to offer assistance and support. I think the most valuable thing I've learned over the years, though, is to trust my gut. It's been right nearly every time, especially those times I tried to ignore it! As far as monetary tips, I truly believe that good or bad, they all even out in the end.

What's your favorite alcohol? Cazadores Tequila and red wine. Not together.

What's your drink of choice? Red wine, and I do like a simple Ketel One gimlet. The Layman brothers over at Avenue Grill hook me up with a perfect one every time.

What's one alcohol you despise? St. Germain, mainly because I think it's overused and so strongly flavored -- although we are using it in our cocktail for the Hendrick's Gin competition.

Other than your own bar, where do you drink most regularly? I guess where I eat dinner, which lately has been the Squeaky Bean and Marco's. I head to the Avenue Grill or Billy's Tavern sometimes on my way home. My boyfriend lives by the Ballpark, so Blake Street Tavern sees me a lot.

What do you do in your spare time? Laundry, play with my two dogs and try to get some exercise. But I'd really love to travel more again. This year, I am also co-chairing the Taste of the Nation event with Matt Selby and Chuck Sullivan!

What's your fantasy Denver cocktail day? I'd start my day at Snooze and then fortify with coffee and conversation at Fluid with Matt Selby or my chef, Brendon. Lunch would be super-girlie: We'd have Marco's pizza and a case or two of Prosecco catered into Vain Salon for all my gang to enjoy. After much bubbly carousing and hair-doing, I'd swing by Thin Man to see my friend Johnny Miller, then cocktails with Sean at Steuben's or go have a laugh with Travis at Vesta. Then I'd swing by Jonesy's for a set of live music; all of my favorite regulars would be there, and Boba Fett and the Americans would crash the party. Dessert would be tequila and joking around with the fine gents at Black Pearl or Encore, or maybe I'd finally make it over to see Keegan at D Bar. Last but not least, I'd head home to my honey for a last glass of red wine and whatever comes after all that drinkin'....


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