The Bartender’s Handshake5/5/2021
Stroll into The Bartender’s Handshake on Ingersoll, and it feels like you’re going back in time. It’s almost secretive, as there’s no neon sign out front. It resembles a well-worn watering hole that’s been serving patrons for decades.
But it hasn’t. Instead, the local hotspot made its debut on Halloween in 2019, weathering COVID along the way.
Once inside, the vintage decor, drinkware and furniture are a throwback to the 1960s or 1970s, as is the padded vinyl/leather bar and booths. The logo-stamped matchbooks are a unique find. When was the last time you snagged a souvenir matchbook from a bar?
The cocktail menu is eclectic, and ingredients are not your typical tonic or vermouth. The $9 “To Thursday” consists of Appleton Estate Rum, orange spice tea syrup, grapefruit, lemon and cava. It’s an ode to the owner’s family members who would drink a toast to Thursday. While visiting the bar on a Thursday, it only seemed fitting to order that or the “Jackie O.”
Other drinks include “Army & Navy” with two different types of gin and a “One Trick Pony.” The non-alcoholic drinks go beyond the sweet fruity drinks. One of the bartender’s favorite concoctions is the “We’ll Take it From Here” drink. Just tell the bartender what ingredients you like, and he or she whips something up. If you’re not the fancy-drink type, no worries, order up a PBR, Iowa brew or a vodka tonic.
The place is narrow, cozy and, due to COVID, the bar stools have been removed and the remaining handful of indoor tables seat 15 at the most.
The back parking lot was converted into a patio and offers more seating options, including space to be warmed under tall outdoor heaters or while cozying up to a firepot. The area is partially enclosed by a canopy and plastic barriers to keep any harsh weather out. If you’re seated at the firepot, order a s’mores kit for some chocolate-marshmallow goodness alongside your cocktail.
A limited kitchen serves seven vegetarian items. The creative menu includes a BBQ jackfruit sandwich with gojuchang barbequed jackfruit and daikon pickles on a vegetarian sweet roll. The sandwich surprisingly tasted similar to a pulled pork sandwich, sans the pork, of course.
The owners are Dave Murrin-von Ebers, his sister and another business partner. As a 10-year veteran in the bar industry, Dave worked at the Hessen Haus during college. After working in an office, he realized the bar scene was more social.
“I thought I should open my own bar,” he says. “I waited 12 years to learn more.”
The name The Bartenders’ Handshake is an ode to a bartender who takes a shot with his or her customers. Dave caters to the service industry and is open seven days a week and late nights. He’ll offer a service industry discount on Mondays.
“When I was a bartender, I always wanted a place to go when I had a day off, which was usually Monday,” he explains. “Lots of places are closed Mondays.”
If you’re craving a unique cocktail at a friendly neighborhood joint, stop in The Bartender’s Handshake, and don’t forget to grab your souvenir matchbook on your way out. ♦