TACOMA, WASHINGTON — Ron Clark has been bartending in Tacoma for longer than most of his coworkers have been alive. He’s what those in the Industry used to call a “Lifer.” Bartending for him used to be a way to make a living off the grid, and go home.
“Yeah, buddy, when I got in this business, you showed up to your shift and made cash, no questions asked. Nobody knew my real name until 2008. That was the draw for me,” he told us over a landline yesterday. “Then things started to change. The people I trained behind this bar were telling me cocktail specs that I had never heard of, telling me they’re classics or whatever.”
Eventually Ron opened up to the new generation of bartending culture and decided to dip into “this cocktail competition mess.” We arrived early this afternoon to see him compete in the regionals of a major brand’s cocktail competition. He was first up. When the MC shouted “GO,” Ron gripped a Applebee’s sized stack of water glasses over his shoulder and hugged 12 liters of water jugs. He went around the room giving everyone water and taking their order.
“To be honest, I’m not sure what to do. Let it play out,” a representative for the brand said 2 minutes into it.
At the end of the 9 minute round, Ron had completed 27 drinks by memory before being stopped by the MC.