Bartender of the Month - June 2019: Brenton Land, Vig Bar + Mister Paradise
You might find Brenton Land at the Vig Bar serving 18 oz Bud "Heavies" and margaritas or managing the new Mister Paradise on 1st Avenue.
Yet, there is a third hidden spot that the always-smiling, truly friendly Mr. Land can be seen serving cocktails...his apartment! Yes, Brenton has custom built a bar in his home to host small groups, where he teaches them the art of the cocktail - FOR FREE. The event is suitably named,The Land of the Free.
We sat with Brenton to find out a little more about what makes him tick...besides the Avengers.
Tell us about your career, where did you start and where do you work now?
I came from publishing/advertising, so this is my second career. It always seemed like a good job but never the career for me. My first shot at this was at the Vig bar. They taught me the basics and then let me fly on my own with a Sunday night shift. I kept that shift while still working in advertising and eventually managed the weekends there. Eventually, I felt comfortable enough to leave my old career.
Today, I’m still at Vig a few days a week, managing Mister Paradise on the weekends, and take reservations for my free cocktail bar Land of the Free.
What’s your drink of choice and where is your favorite place to drink it?
Even though I love all cocktails, I’m a simple man who loves a margarita. If I ever get a night out, I’m usually posted up at Cafe Select’s bar with a glass.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of bartending?
I’m a huge nerd! Video games, movies, comics, you name it. Whether it’s being over the moon with Avengers or disappointed by Game of Thrones, I’m there.
If you have a drink with one person (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
Samuel L. Jackson or Christopher Walken. I feel like our senses of humor would line up well and how could I not drink with a couple BAMFs.
Tell us your NYC story, what makes this city so unique to you, or not.
I’m born and raised in NYC. It’s all here...sometimes a little too much. You can get any food, hear any language, and meet any people here. I sometimes take vacations just to narrow down my experiences. Like, “how about just Japanese for a bit? I’m going to Tokyo.”
What are your go-to hangover cures?
Sleep, sex, and bacon.
Tell us about some people in the industry who inspire you. What makes them unique?
Chris Reed (Bar Goto). He’s the single, kindest soul I’ve ever met in this industry. If it weren’t for him, I’d probably never have gotten my start. The man gives his all to the industry and his guests. I hope I can become even half the bartender he is.
Do you have a signature drink or style?
My margaritas are usually a huge hit! It’s my favorite so I try not to disappoint.
Bartenders love to travel; do you have any favorite spots or bucket list places?
Mexico City is where it’s at. If you haven’t been yet, you’re missing out on the best city in the world.
Why did you decide not to charge anyone for your Land of the Free classes?
Hosting guests at Land of the Free has allowed me to get to the root of what bartending is: engaging with guests. Removing the financial aspect of it allowed me to meet new people, learn about them, and stretch the limits of how hospitable I can be. I love it. It's difficult balancing it with doing things that pay bills but it's something I'd like to continue as long as I can. Follow us @landofthefreenyc for what's next.