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From Dishes to Drinks

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The staging process at ESSR.

By Tom Hushen

When you attend some of the expanding mixology bars in Austin, you start to see a certain pattern among the mixologists. They have an air of confidence and charisma that make their profession desirable. That is not to say that all mixologists are the same, as each and every one has their own unique style of handling cocktails. At East Side Show Room, the mixologists must go through a unique training before they are allowed to create behind the bar.

Matthew White was never really sure bartending would be in his future. Growing up in Sacramento, Calif., he moved to Austin almost four years ago for a change of pace. A few days after arriving, he landed a job as a dishwasher at East Side Show Room.

“Before working at the East Side Show Room, I had little to no knowledge of the craft-cocktail world, and for a while, I wasn’t sure if becoming a bartender was even something I wanted to do. By the time I decided to go for it, I knew that there was no other place in town I would rather hone my craft,” White says.

According to White, to become a bartender at this popular bar, one must go through a staging process. Staging is borrowed from the French term “stagiaire,” which means trainee, apprentice or intern. This term is more commonly used when chefs work for free in another chef’s kitchen to acquire new skills.

While working as a dishwasher, White would come in on his days off to study crafting cocktails from the already established bartenders. With zero bartending experience, he would spend the next three months coming in during his off hours to learn the trade.

Night after night, White learned a little more about his own styling for making drinks. Eventually, he began to create his own concoctions, and his creative input is used to build on East Side Show Room’s ever-expanding drink menu.

“As a bar staff, we draw on each other’s individual tastes, talents and creative input to build a cohesive and diverse selection of fine cocktails. I actually have two signatures on the menu right now, and it feels good to have gone from washing dishes to creating and sharing something I can be proud of,” White says.



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