Cocktail king Bryan Dayton leaving the bar at Frasca to sling drinks at Bitter Bar
Bryan Dayton, the bar manager of Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, is leaving his gig of more than five years to join the über-talented mixology crew of Bitter Bar, the Boulder watering hole whose chief mixologist, Mark Stoddard, recently trotted home with gold in the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup in New Zealand. And Dayton, whose last day at Frasca is Tuesday, May 11, couldn't be happier about his impending move. "Bitter Bar is the hottest cocktail bar in the state right now, and I'm really looking forward to being in an environment where there's a frickin' powerhouse of bartenders," says Dayton, who seriously considered taking a bartending job at Colt & Gray before Bitter Bar's James Lee offered him a more lucrative position.
But why leave Frasca -- considered not just the best restaurant in the People's Republic of Boulder, but perhaps the best in the state?
Dayton, who began working at Frasca, first as an expediter, then as a barback and server before taking on the bar manager role, credits Frasca co-owner/master sommelier Bobby Stuckey and co-owner/exec chef Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson for "essentially giving me a wine degree," but he also insists that Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson "didn't embrace the cocktail culture as much as I would have liked." Stuckey, says Dayton, "is really into wine - that's his gig -- and while he let me do a cocktail list, it never really grew like it has in New York, and my whole thing is the cocktail movement."
Dayton also points to a "super intense environment, where failure isn't an option," long hours and high expectations. "Frasca is a challenging place to work," admits Dayton. "I grew by leaps and bounds into a better restaurateur, because they push you to be as good as you can be in the service industry -- they want everything to be five-star -- which is awesome, but it's also a really time-intensive job that takes its toll, and because of that, I didn't get to see my family much." Eventually, explains Dayton, it was the time commitment that made him reevaluate his future. "I was working five days a week, fifty hours a week, and I wanted to work four nights a week and do one administrative day - recipe testing, create menu ideas, make syrups, play with ingredients - but they wanted me five nights a week, period, and I knew I couldn't do that, so I made the hard choice to look for something else."
Dayton, who says he'll bring "the service aspect, spirits knowledge and creativity" to Bitter Bar, is planning to start there in mid-May, where he'll start off bartending three nights. "It's a really positive environment over there where we can all feed off each other," notes Dayton. "They're a phenomenal group of people, and I'm hoping to learn a lot of from them, and hopefully, they'll learn a lot from me, too."
As for his time at Frasca, Dayton says he "learned a tremendous amount from Bobby, who's a great restaurateur and service geek." Most of all, says Dayton, "I'll miss my regulars and peers."