Bartender Chronicles: Alex Smith, Clem’s

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Photo by Sarah Jacobs.

Have you ever wondered what life is like for those kind and patient people pouring shots behind the bar? This summer we’re bringing you a meet and greet with some of your favorite faces behind the bar at your favorite haunts. After the jump, Alex Smith from Clem’s talks about the bar softball team, his drink of summer, and his band’s show at Northside Festival.

How long have you been bartending, and where did get started?
I’ve been bartending for a couple of years, two years. Before that I was a barback.

Why did you get in to bartending?
I like to party and hang out late anyway, so I thought, ‘Why not make money doing it at the same time?’ Party and make money.

What’s the best thing about working at Clem’s?
It’s a locals bar, so it’s like a clubhouse. Everybody knows one another. Everybody’s chill. It’s not necessarily the kind of thing where you have the “cool” bartending job. It’s jsut one of those places where everybody knows you, and it’s awesome.

How long has Clem’s been around?
Clem’s had their 12-year anniversary on this past Saturday.

Are there any traditions that you’ve carried on from the early days?
Yeah, there’s the softball team, and those guys are awesome. They come out every Sunday and do like a little cookout and stuff. There’s also old drink specials that aren’t around anymore that still get ordered, like the Grandfather or something like that. It’s like a beer-and-shot combo that doesn’t exist anymore, but people still order it.

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Do you have advice for bar etiquette for customers?
Everybody knows you shouldn’t yell or wave. Be nice to everybody.

If you wrote a bartenders’ handbook, what would be the cardinal rule?
I guess don’t shit where you eat. [Laughs.]

Do you have any favorite drinks you serve?
I mean, it’s frozen drinks season. Anything frozen. We just got a frozen drink machine. We’ve got a frozen Clemonade. It’s like a lemonade with a bunch of vodka in it, so it’s perfect for right now.

What do you drink after a long shift?
A glass of whiskey. And a cigarette. I don’t know.

When you’re starving, where do you stop?
If I’m starving after and I work happy hour, I might go out for some steak tartare, but if I didn’t make much but I’m probably going to get a burger or something from Commodore … It’s the best burger in the neighborhood.

What’s the vibe at Clem’s?
There’s a lot of bands, a lot of musicians, which is cool. You meet a lot of new people that are playing shows. My band, KDH, has gotten a bunch of gigs just from me working at Clem’s and getting to know local musicians. So a lot of bands will come in before and after band practice. So it’s a good place to network with local musicians.

What are your hobbies outside of work?
I play a game called kendama. Kendama is a Japanese ball and cup toy…It’s pretty cool.

Are there any shows at Northside that you’re excited for?
Actually, yeah. My band, KDH, is playing a show for The Deli’s showcase at Muchmore’s on June the 12th.

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