Behind the bar with Joshua Smith at TAG and Williams & Graham

Categories: Booze

Joshua Smith.jpg
courtesy of Joshua Smith
Joshua Smith, who divides his bartending time between TAG and Williams & Graham, has been slinging drinks for all of his adult life, but his first foray into the profession was a bit of a fluke.

"My dad used to be a chef, so I'd been in the kitchen for a long time, and I've been working in restaurants since age twelve," he explains. "After I graduated high school, I was serving at this college bar, and the bartender didn't come in one day. The boss asked, 'Are you legal?' I said yes, even though I wasn't, and he told me to get behind the bar. The Long Island pour was the first trick I learned. I got hooked, and I've been doing it ever since."

Smith traveled the country, picking towns where he could work as a ski instructor during the day and bartend at night. He continued to work in bars when he went to college in Montana, where he earned BFAs in acting and dance, and when he moved to California, where he went to Cirque du Soleil's formal training school. "I bartended and cooked throughout," he says. "I loved being on stage, and bartending was my stage."

At that point, though, bartending was just a means to an end for Smith, who hoped to make a career out of performing. "It was just a job," he explains. "I loved it, but it wasn't going to be my career. The stage was going to be my career."

Physically exhausted in 2006, Smith took a break from Cirque and came out to Colorado, where he planned to bartend and ski. He took a job at The Keg as head bartender and trainer, and started meeting people who loved food, wine and cocktails as much as he did. And that's when he changed his career path. "I called Cirque and said I wasn't coming back," he says. "I was supposed to be with them for three more years."

From The Keg, he went on to work the club scene, pouring drinks at La Rouge, where he was a bartender and trainer. "That's where I did my first competition," he explains. "And I won a flat screen and a whole bunch of cash. I got kind of hooked." He bounced next to the kitchens of Amuse and 5 Degrees, then put together the food and drink menu for Cherry Creek Country Club. He helped out friends at Crave and Alibi before moving to the Avenue Grill. While he was there, he met Jeff Osaka, and was with him when he opened twelve, and then spent two years behind the stick there. But when Troy Guard pushed him to take the TAG|Raw Bar spot, he agreed to take that on, also working at the bar at TAG. And when Williams & Graham opened, he joined that staff, as well.

Though he left the stage years ago, Smith credits his performing background for his personality behind the bar. "It's probably why I'm so animated," he explains. "I love to wow people. I love their eyes to pop out of their heads."

What follows are Smith's thoughts on life behind the bar:

Location Info


1441 Larimer St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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Brian Melton
Brian Melton

I'm SO glad you guys decided to bring this segment back. Josh is such a great part of our Colorado bartending family and deserves the praise. It's fun to read about other bartenders in the scene besides the usual suspects.

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