Hot Bartenders

I had just broken up with my boyfriend—again—and I was swimming in that quiet desperation that comes when your teeth are grinding and it's a Wednesday night and your best friend has moved to the Inland Empire and you don't have drop-in privileges anywhere else and you realize with a sickening thud that you can not think of a single place to go have a brooding drink where the bartender will be flirty and soothing and hot and make everything better for the space of a $7 cocktail or four. How could this be? How could I not think of a single tavern/restaurant/pub/dive—in a city of half a million people—with a strong, tall, lantern-jawed barkeep to watch me come unhinged? Not undressed. Unhinged.

Okay, maybe undressed.

Obviously I'd been unsingle too long. Good thing that had changed. Again.

But this not being able to find a hot bartender, well, that wouldn't do. Not for me. Not for you. Not for any of those fine wheelchair-bound codgers who look to this page for their cheap vicarious thrills. It's untenable for us all, and it was time for a change. So we went on an odyssey from South County to North, popping into Japanese karaoke restaurants and the St. Regis(where the bartender was thisclose to making the list, except that his butt managed to be both wide and flat, looking like it was wearing a bulletproof butt vest). We traveled from gay bars with gold lam curtains to Newport snobberias. We had certain standards: hot. Nice. Flirty. No frigid misses or vacuous implanted sluts. Charm and urbanity behind a bottle—you know, the reason you'll spend $18 (plus tip) on a sixer of Bud. Here are our top five, with some bonuses thrown in.

Photo by Jack Gould Ryan Heapy, Kitsch Bar, Costa Mesa
Ryan Heapy is a delicious little snack of a 22-year-old bartender. Half-Mexican and half-Welsh, he's tall (six-foot-two) and soul-patched, with a pretty, shy smile; rich brown eyes; gel in his spiky, short hair; and a nose ring to prove he's nobody's cubicle drone. Drawback? Though he says he's nice to everyone, the poor boy doesn't know how to make time. Surrounded on all sides of the black, ambient bar by women willing to teach him, Ryan looks . . . scared. And confused. But as my new friend Haley and I drunkenly yapped about how stupid 22-year-olds are ("Oh, sorry, Ryan. Not you."), Ryan served up pale-pink Cosmos and didn't take it personally. Ryan works Mon., Thurs. and Sat. at the Kitsch Bar, 891 W. Baker, Costa Mesa, (714) 546-8580. Nikki MacCormick, Brio Tuscany Grille, Corona del Mar
I popped into Brio figuring there would be eye candy; I didn't figure on Nikki MacCormick. She's 28 years old and five feet nine inches of happy to see you. She's blond and slim and stunning, with that faux supercasual look (hair in ponytail; bangs falling artfully at the sides of her face) that pretends to be low-maintenance but could take half an hour to perfect. She wears perfect little librarian glasses, too. As pretty as she is (she should be ferociously stuck-up), she's still smiley and friendly, picking up a conversation whenever the bar's not too busy. She's from Brooklyn, which explains the willingness to talk to people even without a formal introduction. In Brooklyn, she says, people are blunt and loud and honest, but they're not rude—as opposed to the egos of Corona del Mar. She just lets it roll right off. Brio bonuses: John the bar manager (cute and bald) fusses over everyone who walks in and remembers every drink; Philip is beach-handsome and kinda shy, but if you snap your fingers at him, you're not getting another drink. Ever. Nikki works Sun., Mon., Thurs. and Fri. at Brio, 2325 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 673-8444. Joshah Mitchell, Woody's at the Beach, Laguna Beach
Christina Aguilera
is emoting all over Moulin Rouge, and the boys of Woody's are either hating or loving one another—you know how bitchy they can be. Behind the bar, Joshah Mitchell (26, six-foot-oh) is diffusing rudeness. "It's not gonna fly," he says. Joshah is also a stylist at Christopher Perry in San Juan Capistrano. Is he a good stylist? "Very." Also, he says, "I'm all around a very nice guy." He doesn't say it braggy, though. He has a square jaw and a pointy nose and blond spiky hair. He gets hit on all the damn time (he has been at Woody's for three and a half years), and it takes me a while to place the resemblance. It's Vince Vaughn. I bat my eyelashes at him. He's courteous but doesn't particularly respond. Yup. He must be gay. Joshah works Thurs., Fri. and Sun. at Woody's at the Beach, 1305 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 376-8809.
Photo by Jack Gould Dana Wildes, The Huddle, Costa Mesa
Dana Wildes, tattoos hanging out of her ass shorts, has just climbed onto the bar at the Huddle. She turns off the jukebox and clangs the bell. "Everyone!" she shouts. "Not only do we have four birthdays in the house, but we also have a new drink! It's called a Yeast Infection!" Dana has little bangs. Her hair is dyed Grape Jelly. She makes lots of jokes (really good ones) about oral sex and intravenous drug use. People come back to the Huddle over and over, not for the pool tables or the sullen clientele, but to see this woman racing back and forth behind the bar like a speed freak, making shots like Wet Pussies. She's a single mom of two, and she's vulgar as hell—always, but always, in a way that makes you wish you were a little more vulgar, too. Dana works Fri., Sat. and Sun. at the Huddle, 741 Baker St., Costa Mesa, (714) 540-0966.

Photo by Jack Gould JJ Juaregui, Azteca, Garden Grove
How do I love JJ Juaregui? Is it the tan? Is it the slick pompadour? Is it the eau de Elvis that oozes out of him? S! But it's more than that, too. It's the geniality, the stinky cigar clutched in his mitt, and the fact that he goes after-hours to French restaurants where the elderly bartenders bring him special quiches. He loves everyone (especially if by "everyone" you mean B-movie queen and Sinatra galpal Jeanne Carmen), and everyone loves him. He's so money, baby. It's good to be King. JJ can be found most nights at Azteca, 12911 Main St., Garden Grove, (714) 638-3790. A few tips in parting. Remember, you're in their house. Be courteous. Don't say out loud how you imagine they'd be in the sack or what you think of their breasts/asses/gams/sucking ability. That's what a newspaper column's for. And keep the finger snapping to a minimum. Thank you!

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