There is a reason that I am the one that writes this column. I have been a professional in the bar industry in Anchorage since the day I turned 21. I actually served a legal drink before I consumed a legal drink. This has been an industry that has been part of my life for all of my formative years. Mad Myrna’s shares a clientele with all of the best of the downtown hot spots and has a few other things in common with some of them, especially staff. Darcy Kniefel has bartended there and recently moved from her previous position at Midnight Sun Brewing Company to take up residency at Humpy’s, Misha Daniels splits her time between Darwin’s Theory and the gay club, and this author used to make Myrna’s his home but now finds himself spending all of his time at the Avenue Bar, a location that has been a drinking establishment for over 100 years. This is an industry that is very transitional, and sometimes that can be a positive for the clientele.
Nathan Luna is one of the newer bartenders at Mad Myrna’s, the iconic club right outside downtown Anchorage. The popular drag and dance nightclub has been an institution ever since Jeff Wood aka Mad Myrna LaChoy, the infamous drag queen, opened its doors in the fall of 1998. With the neighborhood bar feel that many clubs have during the week, and the party bar atmosphere on the weekends, these types of locations are basically a boot camp for those in the service industry. You can’t rely simply on skill; you also need a personality that makes clientele want to come visit on the slow nights.
Luna is new to bartending but has fallen in love with the fact that “my job is to create a party atmosphere or to maybe help someone that is having a rough day feel better. Get you a girl that can do both!” He enjoys working with the people that he comes across every day and likes to facilitate helping people feel better than when they came in the door.
Luna and I both fell in love with a new product that has recently hit the market. Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey is surprisingly delicious and while whiskey purists refer to it as ‘the new Fireball,’ customers who discover it fall in love with the unique flavor. Created by a husband and wife team from California, it proudly calls itself a ‘drink for the black sheep of the world.’
Being a black sheep is something that Luna and I have in common and so we both gravitated towards a unique spirit to create interesting concoctions. When I first discovered it, I immediately decided to start using it in classic whiskey cocktails, with the first being a smoked orange Old Fashioned. The cocktail is reminiscent of a peanut butter and marmalade sandwich and for people that enjoy the “foodie” side of cocktails it quickly becomes a favorite. Luna also makes an Old Fashioned for his customer base, but he has chosen to employ a chocolate bitters to give a more dessert feel to the drink, and he says it tastes like a peanut butter cup. I make a similar drink, but with the cold weather as of late I have been making it with hot cocoa and whipped cream to warm up my regulars.
Luna and I are good friends and share a few customers, so with that in mind we also decided we needed to share some recipes. We decided that the most classic recipe we could think of would be a peanut butter and jelly and so the PB and J shot was born! We both enjoy making this because it has the strength of whiskey, but it tastes amazing and isn’t that point on a Friday or Saturday night?
The bar industry is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life and I am excited that I have a new brother in arms behind the bars, even if he is the younger and prettier version of me. This industry relies on all of us being a united front and spending time together in order to make a better atmosphere for all of our beloved customers. Sometimes that means sharing recipes and making sure that we can take care of everyone even when they aren’t in our bar. Nathan Luna is a welcome addition to the bartenders in Anchorage and I encourage everyone that enjoys what I do behind a bar to swing by and meet the Peanut Butter to my Jelly.