Eye Candy

The dreamiest bartenders in Austin, plus dating tips from behind the bar

There are, arguably, two things that most Austinites are really good at: looking good and drinking booze. So we took on the arduous task (really, feel sorry for us) task of tracking down some of the dreamiest bartenders in Austin, sitting them down and forcing them to make us drinks. While the list is hardly exhaustive, it does give you a little peek into the folks behind the bar. Whether you're in the mood for a gin fizz or a PBR, chances are there is someone on this list who will give it to you and look good doing it.

Because, really, what goes better with a drink than a little eye candy?

Chauncy James, Bartender at Volstead Lounge

Mention to almost any woman (and some men) in Austin that you’re about to go interview Chauncy James and chances are that person will sigh and say, “He’s so dreamy.” Before landing at East Side Show Room, a gig that garnered him national recognition and a photo in the New York Times, Chauncy bounced around to various bars through Austin. “I never really found my fit, a place to be really creative. Not that many places would let me put eggs in their drinks.”

Though he’s moved a few blocks east to Volstead, this Nashville native hasn’t left his craft behind, bringing the same intensity and creativity to the menu that he did at Show Room. Using the building’s storied history as inspiration (Murders! Fires! Brothels!), you can look forward to a fall filled with delicious offerings from this East Side bartender.

Most Ridiculous Thing That’s Happened Behind the Bar
“A horse has literally walked into my bar.” 

What He Drinks
“Whiskey Rye with a couple of heavy handed dashes of bitters and a cheap beer.”

On Picking Someone up at a Bar
“The worst thing you can do is not act on your instincts. We give you the mood, the setting and the booze. You do the rest. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here.”

Dreamiest Bartender
“There aren’t enough girl bartenders. It’s a shame because they can handle so many situations. They’re cleaner and faster.”

Fall Cocktail
We don’t know exactly what was in the unnamed tequila-based cocktail Chauncy whipped up (it was inspired by a prostitute setting fire to her room) but we do know that it was delicious and that we wanted another one.

Mimi Polston, Bar Manager at Dive Bar

After traveling the world and living in New York, Mimi Polston eventually landed back in Austin where she was “born and brewed.” Since returning, she has taken up residence behind the bar at Dive in downtown Austin. “We call ourselves an approachable cocktail lounge,” explains Mimi. Indeed, Dive is a neighborhood place where you can get a cheap beer or a well-made Old Fashioned, served by a good lookin’ bartender with a quick wit. “We started simple and we’ve evolved.” On staff since the bar opened, Mimi is beloved by her regulars, most of whom she knows on a first and last name basis along with what they do, who they’re dating and who they wish they were dating.

Have You Ever Dated a Customer?
“Once. It did not go well.”

Weirdest Pickup Line
“I get really weird gifts. I had a guy come in and give me a picture of a monkey named Mimi. I also get a lot of porkbelly.”

On Picking Someone Up at a Bar
“If it’s a small bar like Dive Bar, ask the bartender. Get the bartender on your side. Also, if a woman is drinking wine alone- go for it.”

Dreamiest Bartender in Austin
Tony and Kurt at Dive, the Ryan Reynolds look alike at Star Bar, the bartenders at Cipollina.

Fall Cocktail
Big Cat

Bulleit Rye
Grand Marnier
Angastora Bitters
Orange Bitters
Root Liquer
Burnt Orange Twist

Alexis Piotrowski, Bar Manager at The Jackalope

When Alexis Piotrowski first visited Austin almost a decade ago, she ended up spending most of her time at the Jackalope the “little punk rock oasis in the middle of Dirty Sixth.” By 2010, Piotrowski and her husband had abandoned the shores of their native San Diego for the heart of Texas. Though she had only been to Austin a hand full of times, Piotrowski knew exactly where she wanted to work. “Jackalope was number one,” she explains. Within a few months, Piotrowski went from a substitute bartender to the bar manager. “I really enjoy my job,” she says. “I like the nightlife. I like the hooch. I like to spread cheer.” Piotrowski spreads that cheer while being, as her boss describes, “sexyhotsmart.”

On Dating
"If you’re going to take a lady out, be kind. Because as soon as you go to the bathroom, she’s going to be asking the bartender what I think about you."

Her Fool-Proof Guide to Picking Someone up at the Bar
Before you go up to your intended target, ask yourself:

1. Am I too drunk to drive? If can’t operate your own vehicle, you aren’t able to hit on anyone appropriate.
2. Look at the other person’s body language. Do they look approachable? Is her back to everyone? Or is she looking around the room?
3. If she says she’s not interested, she’s not interested.
4. If you’re sweating profusely, do not hit on anybody.
5. Don’t hit on someone by being rude then trying to make up for it.

Where She Likes to Drink
"Drink.Well., Rainey Street, The Brixton."

Dreamiest Bartender
“I’m gonna have to say everyone at Jackalope.”

Fall Cocktail
Dark and Stormy
“As pumpkin is to beer, rum is to fall for me.”
Dark Rum (Alexis prefers Sailor Jerry)
Good Ginger Beer

Aaron Kimmel, Drink.Well.

Nearly every bartender on this list mentioned Drink.Well. for one of their favorite places to get a good drink. This North Loop pub opened early this year and has quickly become a go-to place for people looking for a good drink in a laid back bar. Don’t expect kitsch alongside your cocktails; these craftsmen and women make simple, delicious drinks and look damn fine doing it.

Fall Cocktail
Harlem Shuffle

Ramazzotti Amaro
Angostura Bitters
Bittermen's Mole Bitters


Amber Billiard, Drink.Well.

Fall Cocktail
The Carl

Firelit Coffee Liqueur
Orange Bitters
Chinese Five Spice Bitters

Kevin Randolph, Bartender at Handlebar

Only in Austin could a bar be built entirely around love of the ‘stache. Recommended by fellow list-mate Alysa Thornley, the entire staff of Handlebar is one steamin’ pile of dreamy. They’re so good looking in fact that they recently shot a 2013 calendar which will be available soon for purchase.

Bartender Kevin Randolph has worked just about everywhere downtown, but Handlebar is the only place where facial hair is, as he puts it, “not mandatory but highly, highly recommended.” Among a rotating beer list (“we can’t keep the beers here long enough”) there is also an entire cocktail list named after some of the best mustaches in history (the Burt Reynolds is delicious!). So perch yourself on one a barstool and let the men of Handlebar take you for a ride.

Have You Ever Dated a Customer?
“Yeah! Of course!”

Most Ridiculous Thing That’s Happened Behind the Bar
“It’s a different story every night. Cutting guys off and then they want to fight, that’s pretty ridiculous.”

His Fool-Proof Guide to Picking Someone up at the Bar

1. Don’t be too persistent.
2. Smile.
3. No cockiness! But be confident.

Where He Goes for Drinks
“I like the Dizzy Rooster. But I don’t like to have a set plan. (I go) wherever the wind takes me. “

Dreamiest Bartender
"The Suite 101 girls are always sexy. Brad Manning at Dogwood."

Alysa Thornley, Bartender at The Brixton and Shangri-La

Alysa Thornley got her first bartending gig at the not-so-legal age of 17. Despite moving across the country, she has stuck with her chosen profession, drawn to its fast-paced lifestyle and constant barrage of new experiences. “I like when things are going a mile a minute,” says Thornley. After moving to Austin last year, she was hired on at Shangri-la as a bar back during the city’s hottest summer on record. “It was humbling,” she says of the sometimes grueling experience.

But she stuck with it, mainly due to the friends she has made working, and living, on the East Side. “Everyone is family. No one has a huge chip on their shoulder. People are positive and healthy and gung-ho about life.” An informal poll of Austin men marked Alysa as one of the dreamiest ladies behind the bar. Bonus: If you bring her spaghetti while she’s working, she might just buy you a beer.

Best Part of Being a Bartender
“Cheap drinks.”

Worst Part of Being a Bartender
“Disrespectfulness from drunk men.”

Have You Ever Dated a Customer?
“Not once. I don’t want to have a sale while we’re meeting.”

The Pickup Line Do You Hear Most Often
“People ask, ‘Oh, did that hurt?’ And then they touch my tattoos. Don’t touch! It’s creepy.”

Where She Goes for Drinks
"The Eastern, Whip-In, La Perla, Jackalope."

Dreamiest Bartender
Shaun Baldwin at the Liberty

Fall Cocktail
“I really like White Russians for the fall but I change it up a bit.”

White Russian

Stoli Blueberry

Sarah Mac, Bar Manager at Hole in the Wall

Another Austin local, Sarah McLaughlin has manned the bar at Hole in the Wall for the better part of a decade. When she isn’t managing, she’s serving up drinks to one of the most eclectic crowds in town. “It’s not just one demographic,” she explains. “We have UT students, cool kids, older cowboys who come in and say, ‘I used to come here 30 years ago!'” One thing all Hole in the Wall patrons have in common is they’re served by one of the best looking bar staffs in Austin.  Swing by during happy hour for a shitty lemonade served by the lovely Sarah Mac. Once you’ve started, you might as well finish with some honky-tonk and a whiskey. When in Rome, right?

Best Way to Get a Bartender's Attention
“Be patient! We’re trying. Just know that we have to deal with hundreds of drunk people every week. Don’t be that guy.”

Have You Ever Dated a Customer?
“Yes! But I do not recommend it.”

Most Ridiculous Thing That’s Happened Behind the Bar
“Falling off a barstool while trying to change a light bulb. Sober.”

On Picking Someone up at a Bar
“Don’t be creepy.”

Dreamiest Bartender
"Stan at Yellow Jacket. Alex at Hole in the Wall."

Honorable Mention: Houston Eaves, formerly of Contigo

You don’t get a nickname like Handsome Houston unless you’re, well, handsome. Though he is leaving Austin for San Antonio, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge his impressive career. His name was dropped more times than any other bartender as an example of someone who just makes a really, really good drink. Though you’ll now have to travel down I-35 to get to him, chances are if he’s serving up anything like what he was making at Contigo, it will be well worth the drive.