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Bartender of the month: Ryan Payne of The Dram

Ryan Payne enjoys one last drag before his shift starts at The Dram
Robert Stahl

If you want to see Ryan Payne’s lip curl, order a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky from him at The Dram. “I can’t stand the smell of the stuff,” the bearded barman says. “It’s one of those products with no integrity that’s gotten incredibly popular almost overnight.” Having to serve the candy-like spirit must be a slap in the face, especially when Payne takes such great care to make sure The Dram offers a diverse lineup of specialty cocktails. Take the Smoking Herb, for instance, a cocktail whose flavor is rivaled only by its presentation: a sliver of rosemary is torched in a glass, creating a bright flash of light in an otherwise dusky lounge. As bar manager, Payne is responsible for all of the choices on the Dram’s drink menu. “I can’t have cocktails that have a ton of ingredients because we get so busy and have to crank them out as fast as possible. Here, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible.” It’s this intuition—along with his keen attentiveness and ability to keep calm under pressure—that makes Payne a perfect candidate for bartender of the month. Well, enough introspection. Fireball, anyone? Just kidding, Ryan. Just kidding.

Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.
I have a guilty pleasure for bad rap music, like Tyga and Juicy J. I like the attitude that comes with it.

What are the best and worst parts of the job?
The best part is my office is a bar. The worst part is the cuticle infections you get from having wet hands. I get them on my thumb and ring finger all the time My hands are constantly in water, or coated with juices or sugar. I get them on my thumb and ring finger all the time. It’s pretty awful.

What would you tell a beginning bartender?
Whenever you get busy you have to keep it together. If you get flustered, if you start losing it, things are only going to get worse. You need to learn how to move, how to consolidate and multi-task. The quicker you can figure those things out, the less you’re going to get frustrated with yourself and with other people. That’s when you hit your stride.

What’s your biggest bartending pet peeve?
When customers one-time you. By that I mean, when they order one drink at a time rather than giving you the full order at once. Or if they want to put everything on separate credit cards. I mean, if you’re out on the town with people you enjoy being around, then buy them a round!

What would you say is your best bartending skill?
My ability to multitask and take care of a good number of people at once. Holding cocktail orders in my head is one of my strong suits. I’m also efficient with my movements and I do a good job of making people feel cool.

What’s the silliest thing a drunk customer has done?
Wow, that happens almost nightly. How to choose just one? Okay, we had a guy take a karate kick to the bar top recently. He followed that up with some nice roundhouse kicks on the dance floor. We had to get security to take care of that one.

Sounds kind of scary. Was he attacking someone?
Nope. He was just being awesome.

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For more info: The Dram is located at 2918 N Henderson Ave, Dallas, TX 75206;
(214) 826-3726.

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