Shaking, Not Stirring, Lands Local Mixologist In The Limelight

After a decade behind the bar of Martini Italian Bistro, mixologist Gary Gruver has hit the big time.

This year, Gruver won the chance to compete in a nationwide bartending contest sponsored by GQ Magazine and Bombay Sapphire Gin in Las Vegas, where his Sapphire Fleur de Lis earned him an 11th place finish out of 46 finalists.

Consequently, Gruver walked away with a handful of goodies, a photo shoot featured in the December 2011 issue of GQ, and another that will appear inside the February 2012 issue.

I recently caught up with Gruver to learn about his success as a bartender and the unexpected benefits that come with the job.

Ashley Anderson

How did you get entered into the bartending contest?

Representatives will come and ask if you want to be in the contest. This year (the preliminaries were) at the PNC Suites at Papa John’s. I won that portion of the contest to go to Vegas.

How is the winner chosen?

Eighteen hundred bartenders compete nationwide and whoever gets the most votes wins.

How did you come up with the ingredients for the Bombay Sapphire Fleur de Lis?

I played around with it and I probably had about 40 different variations. I had a panel of my friends one night just sit at the bar and I made them drinks, and they all voted on it.

You already appeared in the December  issue of GQ and will appear again in the February issue. What was the photo shoot like?

I haven’t done the February shoot yet. For (the December) issue I did a photo shoot at the Wynn Club. It was a two-hour photo shoot in the lobby and they shot me and three other guys.

Did you win anything else besides the GQ photo shoot?

Bartender’s tools – real pricey stuff – and a big sapphire jewel.

What is your ultimate goal as a bartender? Would you like to venture out to the New York or LA market?

I love Louisville and I have a good niche here. I’d like to see myself grow here and maybe, who knows, have my own lounge.

What would you say is the biggest benefit you get from bartending?

Definitely networking and just meeting new people from all different walks of life. I travel a lot with bartending too and have been down to bar tend the Super Bowl and the Black Eyed Peas concert. You wouldn’t think it, but a whole lot of different avenues open up to you with bartending.