Tavern in the Village
Prairie Village, KS
By Carly Jones
Bartending is not just a job, but an art. To many bartending may seem easy, mix up a quick drink and pass it along to your customer on the other side of the bar. There is much more to it than making a Gin & Tonic, Rum & Coke or simply pouring a beer into a glass for your customer. You have to know your drinks, be quick, able to multi-task and have a certain type of personality to be a successful bartender. I have customers coming in the store all the time looking for a fun and new recipe, whether it be for a signature cocktail at their upcoming holiday party or just to serve to some friends on a Saturday night. Most of the time I find out the main ingredient being used and Google recipes online. The talent that a good bartender has is to make up their own concoction to serve, and David Smuckler of Tavern in the Village is a great example of just that.
David grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He explored around the Midwest throughout his teen and young adult years. He started out as a busboy for a few years at a fine dining restaurant. He then ventured to a junior college in Indiana, where he did the whole college scene and took classes for about a year. David knew that working at a restaurant was something he really enjoyed and once he turned 21 years old, he started working as a bartender. The upbeat and fast paced enviornment behind the bar fir his personality just right. He has been bartending for 8 years now.
David has had some great history in the restaurant business. Back in 2001 he helped open Sophia’s, an upscale restaurant that offers Southern European influenced cuisine. He is proud to say that the restaurant will be celebrating their 10 year anniversary this year. After he moved to Kansas City, he worked at M&S Grill on the Plaza for a year and then moved on to Morton’s Steakhouse off Grand Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri. David was with Morton’s Steakhouse for 5 ½ years. There he met Kelly Manning and
Anthony Zarate, who went on to open Tavern in the Village as owner and general manager, respectively. David helped get the restaurant and bar running in March of 2011 when they opened for business.
Having been in the restaurant and bar business myself, I asked David how he was able to learn so many cocktail recipes. He told me that when he first started bartending, everything he learned was from memorization. He read a lot of books and filed all the information in his head. David told me one of his memorable moments in his early years of bartending was when he had a woman order a Smith & Kerns, a cocktail made with Kahlua, cream and club soda. David paused and realized not only had he never made one before, but he didn’t know the ingredients to make one either. A mortifying moment for David turned into a lesson learned. After getting quite the lecture from this woman about not knowing how to make this particular drink, he vowed to himself that he would never let that happen again. He continued to study and memorize more and more recipes.
The more years David spent bartending, the more he really got into the art of mixing drinks. He decided he would start playing around with the idea of making up his own cocktails. Whereas before David used to read recipes and just memorize them, he now looked deeper into what ingredients go well together and why. He spends a lot of time at Whole Foods, teaching himself flavors and aromas of different fruit and herbs. All of his ideas come from doing just this and figuring out what meshes well together by using only the freshest ingredients. My personal favorites of David’s is his Blueberry Cilantro Margarita and
cocktails*. They are delicious and so refreshing.
David has competed in several competitions using his bartending skills. Back in 2007 he placed 1st in the Greater Kansas City Bartender Competition. He has competed in several online events and although he did not place, in 2008 he attended the National Shake It Up Mixology Competition in Las Vegas. Clearly he enjoys making drinks for a living, but to David, “bartender” is just a title, he truly takes pride in what he does and he is good at it. When I asked him what part of his job he enjoys the most, he without hesitation, said the company. David loves his customers and the conversations he has with them over the bar. Someday he hopes to step away from being just behind the bar and take on a more responsibility in the restaurant business as whole.
*See how to make David's
Blueberry Cilantro Margarita Peruvian Sage cocktails
at What's Shakin' at Rimann's.