The bartender: keeper of all our worst secrets and our doctor when daily hangups have us feeling ill. For some reason, they’re easy to take for granted — bullet points on a crazy night out.
Oh, the mind it must take to juggle a million drink orders! What grace it must take to dance around, from tap to tap, without spilling a drop!
On at least one night out of every year, our local artists of alcohol have a chance to shine: the annual Bartender Shootout at Big Whiskey’s. This year’s event took place on Thursday evening, Sept. 28, at their E. Battlefield location.
Though the crowd that gathered may have come to see bottles twirling through the air or to indulge in mountains of buffalo wings or glistening drinks not found on the menu, their money went to a great cause. All proceeds from this — and all previous shootouts — went to Good Samaritan Boys Ranch in Brighton, Mo.
Laura Head, a Missouri State University marketing alumna is the marketing and public relations director at Big Whiskey’s. She said that, though this is the first year their Battlefield location had hosted the shootout, it was a success over previous years. “It’s awesome,” she said. “We’re locally owned, and to be able to do something in our community to support a local organization — it’s great.”
Head said that they tried to get the word out to as many local participants as they could, many of whom have been in previous shootouts, such as Ryan McDonald, co-owner of the recently opened Ry Mac’s Rub and Pub, as well as a couple of their own bartenders.
“It is kind of a dying art locally,” Head said. “There are not a lot of people with that skill level, and if they do, they are usually shy of the spotlight, so we do get a couple of repeats from previous years, but it’s still a good show.”
After each bartender was given their 15 minutes of fame, Big Whiskey’s held a drink auction with various drinks, including concoctions dreamed up by competing bartenders, accompanied by some awesome extras, like skydiving tickets and manicures.
“They were all donated,” Head said. “A lot of our beer and liquor reps and distributors contributed things. Other customers of ours that own businesses contributed things as well, but all 100 percent is donated to the charity.”
Philip Thompson is a manager at Big Whiskey’s and was the first to step behind the bar. He said that his flair wasn’t really there as he is currently undergoing rehabilitation for a broken shoulder.
“I told the crowd that my shoulder wasn’t working, but I’d make up for it with the taste and presentation of my drink,” he said. “We had to make a long island, a margarita, and a cosmopolitan any way we wanted to, and then we could make a shot and another drink of our choice.
“The long island is kind of hard to do something with, but I did my version of a cosmo and one of my signature drinks,” Thompson added.
Thompson said Matt Musgrave, a previous bartender of Quincy Magoo’s and current representative for Wil Fischer beverage distributor here in Springfield, was pronounced winner of the competition.
“I thought it went really well,” Thompson said. “We gave out some really great prizes. With my signature drink, they gave away a Jim Beam tabletop with two stools. There were a couple rounds of golf at River Rock. So, there were some pretty cool things we gave away. I think it was a pretty good turnout.”
Julie Conway is the director of Development and Public Relations at the Good Samaritan Boys Ranch. She said she met Big Whiskey’s general manager Matt Caetano at a similar event, and together, they conceived the idea for the Bartender Shootout three years ago.
“Our first year we raised around $1,000,” Conway said. “Last year, it was around $1,500, and this year, it almost hit $2,000; so, each year it’s grown and grown, which is great.”
Conway said Good Samaritan’s mission for over 50 years has been to give troubled youth a chance at a normal, functional existence in a society of which they have grown detached.
“We are a home — basically, a treatment facility for boys ages twelve to eighteen,” she said. “A lot of them have been in some sort of abusive or dysfunctional home setting.
"As a result, many of them show behavioral problems. Some of them have been in the foster system, some have been adopted. They all just kind of have their own story.”
Conway said that, to provide the highest quality of care, they estimate a daily expense of $160 per day, per boy — the sum of which they have never been able to receive from state funding, which keeps the ranch going. She said the kindness shown from businesses in the community, like Big Whiskey’s, makes all the difference.
“It’s a wonderful event,” she said. “It really gives us an opportunity to make our facility top notch and the quality of the treatment programs the best they can be. It’s huge. It’s huge.”