Mike Henderson: Be nice!

Categories: Behind the Bar

mike henderson behind the bar.jpg
courtesy of Mike Henderson
In this interview, Root Down bar manager Mike Henderson weighs in on the formation of the Colorado Bartenders Guild, counting to four and the rise of the beverage professional.

Westword: How long have you been a bartender? What made you get into the profession?

Mike Henderson: I got into bartending after college in Madison, Wisconsin, my hometown. I was working as a door guy at a bar called Paul's Club, and one night it got really busy. The manager said, "Can you count to four? Then you can make drinks, so get behind the bar." The most complicated thing I ever had to do there was a cosmo or a white Russian, but seasoned bartenders gravitated there. So I really learned from day one about hospitality.

When I first came to Colorado, I lived in the mountains and did restaurant management. Then I went down to work for Big Red F in Boulder. Soon after, St. Germain gave me an opportunity to be their rep. I wanted to get back into cocktails, and there weren't a lot of places to do it, so I figured St. Germain was a good place to start. I still had this desire to get behind the bar again, though. So when TAG opened in Denver, I went there to be the bar manager. That was 2007.

I left TAG to go work at Colt & Gray because I'd started toying around with the idea of opening my own bar, and I thought Colt & Gray would be a good place to go. The bar didn't materialize, though, so I left C&G, went to Lou's Food Bar for a short time, and then the opportunity opened up at Root Down. That was a year ago almost to the day. I'm pretty stoked on Root Down and Linger right now. This is definitely my home for the foreseeable future.

In the midst of all that, the Colorado Bartenders Guild started in 2007. Bryan Dayton and I had met -- we'd both been talking independently about the idea, so we got together and got a hold of Sean Kenyon and Ky Belk. It all launched at Steuben's one afternoon. Ky backed out, and Anika Zappe came on board, and for many years, it was the four of us running it. Bryan Dayton stepped out when Oak at Fourteenth opened, so for the last year, I've been running the guild. We're in the midst of our first real election, and this month, guild members will elect a new board. It's great to get some new blood and people in the scene.

Bartending rule to live by: Be nice. We've got great jobs. We get paid to make cocktails, hang out with people and throw parties in our home every night. It's an awesome job, so there's no point being upset about it.

Five words to describe your drink list: Simple, seasonal, sustainable, sour and savory


Location Info

Root Down

1600 W. 33rd Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant


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