Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy
–Gretta Palmer, Author and Editor
As the sun sets and reflects off Maui’s crystal-clear Wailea waters, Luana Lounge Mixologist, Chris stands behind the bar carefully polishing a martini glass to luminous perfection. We’re greeted instantly with his playful smile that not only lights up his face, but the entire room along with it. Regulars at the Luana Lounge’s Friday Night Films, we’ve grown accustomed to Chris’s friendliness and often sardonic sense of humor that he easily manages to combine with a strong professionalism that elevates him to a top-notch and upbeat Bartender who values and remembers his customers and makes them feel like welcome guests in his “home” for the evening.
He serves up (literally) a Basil Shmasil with Botanist Gin, almond and citrus-spiced liqueur, lime, basil, and Angostura Bitters and places it in front of Anthony, who takes in the basil aroma with an expression of cool bliss as I sip my yummy rummy pineapple cocktail. My cocktail — dubbed the Rum-Ba-Dum — contained a shrub made from grilled pineapple, and was beautifully balanced from its rum to its ba-dum. Chris seems to have a knack for understanding what pleases a patron, and he’s never disappointed us — even with experimental concoctions like the Rum-Ba-Dum when it was still in its infancy. His skill, technique, and creativity intrigued us with every visit, and last night, I delved a bit deeper to learn more about the man behind the bar and the impish grin.
Hailing from Wisconsin and bartending through college, Chris kicked-off adulthood as a Music Education Major playing the Tuba. After a stint as a Music Teacher, he recognized that he didn’t enjoy the cement-enclosed school bandroom surroundings with the unpleasant aroma of “30 years of emptying spit valves,” and he decided to shake off the past and dive into the future and a warmer climate.
Weary of the merciless winters of Wisconsin, Chris and his now wife began moving every six months to a warmer environment — eventually settling in Hawaii. “Why Hawaii?” the patron sitting aside us asks. Chris answers, “Year-round economy, warmth, and the outdoors.” Here in Hawaii, Chris can enjoy his days and his nights as he laps up the sun and sea in the daylight and mixes his creative cocktails at night. The best of both worlds, in my opinion!
“So you left the cold and embraced the heat,” I remarked.
“Well, in Wisconsin, you can only do so much ice drinking,” he comments.
“Ice drinking?” I ask?
“Did I say, ice drinking? I meant ice fishing where the only thing you catch is a buzz.”
We laughed at his humor as he added, “A little bit of lead paint as a child goes a long way” and winked.
Sticking with the silliest of sillies, I asked, “What is the strangest drink a patron has ever asked you for?”
Without missing a beat, Chris answers, “A chick from LA asked for a vodka cocktail that was earthy, but not sweet. Not easy because most herbaceous liqueurs are also sweet,” yet Chris is always open to a challenge.
After multiple tries and the admonition that she did not have to drink it if she didn’t like it, he realized that she meant earth literally. She wanted a tasty drink with a rooty dirty flavor. With simply no ingredients on-hand to create such a cocktail, Chris was stumped and the concoctions ended up in the sink. He remarked, “there is no volume that Mr. Sink can’t handle. If a guest does not like a cocktail, they don’t have to drink it. It can go down the sink.” All about customer service, Chris and his co-worker/fellow mixologist, Aaron, have decided to keep shiitake mushrooms (to muddle) on-hand now for occasions such as these.
This care and compassion for his guests is part of what sets Chris apart. He truly cares about his patrons and it shows in how he treats each person who steps up to the bar. We’ve observed this personally. Making them happy, though, involves some sacrifice. He admits that he weeps a little when he has to run the blender as drinks like Lava Flows and Pina Coladas are, sadly, a staple in tropical tourist areas. I suggested to him that there aren’t many ways to make a craft cocktail pina colada. Again, quick on his feet he answered, “I can always try a deconstructed pina colada.” Why yes, yes you can, and I am sure you will.
Chris is innovative, clever, and quick — always thinking, always mixing, and always on-the-ball. Check him out on varied evenings at Luana Lounge at the Fairmont Kea Lani. He’s the tall dude with the impish grin behind the bar.
Open Monday through Sunday from 5:00 pm – 11:59 pm.
Check out their Friday Luana Experience Series:
- 1st Friday – Firkin Friday tapping beer straight from the keg in partnership with Maui BrewCo
- 2nd Friday – Project Cocktail shaking things up with themed cocktails
- 3rd Friday – The Grape Escape featuring wine pairings in partnership with MauiWine Southern Wine & Spirits
- 4th Friday – Friday Night Films with cocktails inspired by classic films like King Kong and Mutiny on the Bounty
4100 Wailea Alanui Drive
808 875 4100