OC Weekly's Summer Fest has some pretty badass participants. As a fan of The Blind Rabbit, it was my pleasure to interview two of the speakeasy's talented crew. Ying and Robert work together, live together, are married and have two kids. I learned how the two like-minded individuals complement each other perfectly.
Most important quality you look for in a bartender.
Ying and Robert: Being genuinely hospitable is what's most important to us. In the end, we can teach you technique, product knowledge, and how to make a good cocktail, but we cannot teach you how to be genuinely considerate and nice to people.
How do you divide/share responsibilities at work?
R: We operate and collaborate on some things. I am more the front hype man and Ying takes care of the nitty gritty. I do all the designs, themes and menu curation.
Y: I work on the behind-the-scenes stuff! A lot of the back end gets done by me, from scheduling, to planning, events, emails, reservations, training, to name a few! Robert is definitely the show man. He can effectively captivate an audience for the full 90 minutes with his terrible dad jokes, charm, knowledge and history of the most minute things.
You're making a drink for yourself. What are you having?
Y: A Drunk Night in Thailand or Blantons Neat.
R: This is hard because we try, create and have so many amazing concoctions to choose from. If I want something mellow and easy to drink I like a drink of my own creation, the "Boy from Detroit", coffee-infused Campari, amaro, rye whiskey with chocolate bitters and vanilla tincture. Then we smoke the cocktail in cinnamon and pecan wood chips; it's delicious.
One stereotype about the industry, and whether it's true.
R: That we judge you based on what you drink. Drink with confidence and enjoy your strawberry daiquiri. We know it's good; don't worry about the glass it comes in.
Y: Often times, people assume that working in this industry is a passing job. That people in the restaurant industry must be aspiring to be something more than "just a bartender" or "just a server". A common question is, "So what do you really want to do with your life?". For a lot of people, it may be a stepping stone. But for others like us, we see it as a career path, and we hope to revolutionize the industry!
Most popular cocktails at The Blind Rabbit:
Y+R: It's hard to narrow it down to one or two drinks, as our menu evolves so much, but if I had to say it would be the "Wait for It" by Andrew Winters. It is made of aged rum, fresh pineapple juice, vanilla tincture and canned syrup with 151 rum and cinnamon. It's served completely consumed with fire and comes with a show. It also happens to be a tasty drink.
The second drink that gets ordered most often would be the "Drunk Night in Thailand", made with blended scotch, honey water, lime, Sriracha and Hellfire bitters served in a plastic bag with a rubber band and a straw. The taste is like a Tamarindo candy with a spicy kick at the end.
Are there any bites that I can order while having a cocktail?
R+Y: We love food and cocktails, so of course we serve some delicious bites! One we would highly recommend is our Duck Confit Mac and Cheese! It's one of our legacy dishes (been with us since day one). Even though our menu rotates twice a year, that item, along with The Burger (1/2 pound of USDA Choice beef, Gruyere cheese with bacon aioli on a brioche bun) are a constant, they never leave and people would riot if they did. Another good bite would be our Mozzarella and Thai Basil Salad on our most current menu. Light and refreshing and pairs well with some of our lighter cocktails.
How practical is it to go to bartending school before becoming a bartender?
Y: Well for me, I started over a decade ago as a server, to bartender, to trainer, into management in the industry without experience. So I do not necessarily think it's essential to go to bartending school if you want to become a bartender. I think it's fun for people to learn some basics if they want to dabble, but there are many ways to do that right with technology being so advanced and knowledge literally at your finger tips.
R: I went to bartending school 20 years ago. It got me laughed out of a few restaurants when I applied and defiantly did not get me a job in the industry, but it was cool to know a few things. Otherwise, not practical at all.
What advice would you give to an aspiring bartender?
R: I love reading. For someone who is aspiring, read! Start with the Jeffrey Morganthalers, The Bar Book. It's a great starting point for someone who would like to learn more about the basics! Reading is what got us here today.
Y: If you're ambitious and want to start to be a bartender, you have to put the time in. Learn one thing a day! Dedicate yourself to learning one spirit a day, a technique, the history of a cocktail, etc., but learn as much as you can when doing so and share the knowledge! For me, sharing always helps me remember things better!
Where exactly is The Blind Rabbit located?
Y+R: We are located in the Anaheim Packing District on the lower level. All we ask you to do is look for the black rabbit handle! [Editor's Note: Reservations are highly recommended via their website.]
Do you know what you'll be serving at Summer Fest yet?
R: Nope, not a clue.
Y: We work as a collaborative with our whole team. Any time we have events like this, we encourage our team to submit cocktails to the table. This means we can set up to multiple meetings before we finalize any cocktails we put on the menu. We're in the works, and promise to deliver an amazing cocktail to compete with.
Favorite places to drink:
R+Y: We rarely go out to have cocktails (because we have kids), but when we do have time to go tippling we make it to The Cellar in Fullerton. They have an amazing, well-executed cocktail menu. Our other favorite would be SideDoor in Corona del Mar; it's part of 5 Crowns, and they are a landmark in the area. Just an amazing place and such wonderful people.
Name an indispensable tool in the bar.
Y: A good shaker-tin that seals well, the 16/28. I like the stuff at Bartenders.com. They have cool black ones that are slightly insulated and help when you're making Ramos Gin Fizzes.
R: I know it's not indispensable, but when I need it I love knowing it's there. The Lewis Bag and the Wood Mallet. Holding the Mallet and smashing ice is almost therapeutic, and I love the results, the texture of the ice, and the feedback I get when I'm in the process. It's fun and a great conversation piece.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
R: Fountain Valley. I grew up in Anaheim, went to Jone S. Salk Elementary, attended Dale Jr. High and later Magnolia High School. After graduation, I joined the Navy to see the world. Spent four years in the Navy as a radar operator and a search and rescue swimmer. After many adventures I ended up back in Anaheim, and I couldn't be happier.
Y: Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The cold forced the family out here. I loved it there, although I was a child and shoveling snow in the morning at unspeakably low temperatures might have changed my tune as an adult. Lived in LA and came to Orange County to study at UCI. Been here since!
What's your favorite childhood memory?
Y: Being carefree and playing as a child. Whether barefoot in the dirt making forts and tunnels to rollerskating and bike riding races!
R: My favorite childhood memory would be playing catch with my dad. It didn't matter where or when, we could just pick up a glove and a ball and toss it back and forth and talk. I miss those days so much, and I can't wait to share that time with my son.
How did you two meet?
R+Y: Through a mutual friend at his birthday party at Javier's! It was not a fairy tale from the beginning, rather a rough two-year struggle of our likability towards one another. Finally both made the plunge, and a decade later, married with two kids!
Last thing you looked up online:
R: Reddit. If you know what it is you understand. If you don't, stay away. It will consume you.
Y: All-weather floor mats for a car we just purchased!
Tell me something most people don't know about you.
Y: I'm obsessed with anything potato-related. Robert once gifted me a French Fry Tour, collecting gift cards to a ton of places that had French fries near us that I could go to if I wanted a snack!
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R: I'm an introvert. I love being at home and couch potatoing like it's an Olympic event. But guilt gets the better of me and I stop watching Futurama for the 10th time and take our kids to the park.
Hardest lesson you've learned.
Y+R: You'll come across many people in your life— friends, acquaintances, business partners, family. The hardest lesson we learned was trusting too easily. Some people are not interested in your success, but the success of themselves.
What's next for you?
R+Y: We're embarking on a new concept combining Tiki and Asian food. Our location is top secret, but we think once we make the announcement, it'll blow people away.
The Blind Rabbit is located at 440 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim; www.theblindrabbit.com.