Erik Heinemann’s story is a Jackson tale as old as time: after college, he wanted to ski more than he wanted a desk job, so he headed west for a season and fell in love with the Tetons. Erik is even luckier than most– although he still considers himself a ski bum, he fell into a sustainable career via a bit of dumb luck and a lot of hard work. Hear how this Long Island native and former college swimmer traded city dwelling and a conventional lifestyle to live the dream at the top of the gondola.
Erik’s Quick Six
Years Behind the Bar: 3
Spirit Animal: mescal
Favorite Fellow Bartender: Zach at The Rose
Power Couple: rum and kombucha
Hangover Cure: Sunday brunch at Cafe Genevieve
Apres Beer: O’dells APA
How did you end up behind the bar?
I broke my leg! It sucked, but I could kind of walk on it so I was working more than I was skiing when I first moved out here. I started bussing tables at Piste, and then by the summer I got to pick what I wanted to do, so I started bartending. It’s fun to make drinks in front of someone, you get to connect more than if you were serving.
Do you prefer bar hopping in your home state of New York, or here in Jackson?
The bar scene in New York is so ridiculous that by the time you get up to a bar, you’re just like, give me a few Bud Lights and some shots so I don’t have to wait in line again for 45 minutes! It’s fun being in Jackson because so many bars have great cocktails and bars aren’t so packed that you feel like you’re imposing on the bartender when you order them.
How do you take your spirit of choice?
Mescal is very popular right now, most bars in town have an awesome mescal cocktail on the menu. It’s fun to play with because it kind of pleases both scotch and tequila drinkers. I’m a big fan of it on the rocks, or with a little lime juice.
You learned how to bartend in a relatively short amount of time without much prior knowledge. What are your tips and tricks?
Start with flashcards, treat it like studying for a test. Ask other bartenders too. I love when people ask me questions and I can build a drink in front of them to explain it. Talk with people who have been in the industry for a long time… have fun with it. This past off-season my roommates and I experimented a lot with making simple syrups. We went to the grocery store, looked at whatever fruits and veggies were fresh, and just tried stuff. I also look at traditional cocktails and try to build off of them… inspiration is everywhere. I tell my family and friends to send me photos of great cocktails they have when they go out… it’s good to have inspiration outside of Jackson, too.