Like many on this list, Haylee Ortiz has deep experience in the Denver bar scene. A current board member of the Colorado Bartenders’ Guild, Ortiz has racked up awards for her work behind the bar at some of the area’s finest establishments, including OAK at Fourteenth, Session Kitchen, and Baur’s. At the latter two, she served as bar manager. These days, you can find Ortiz at Mister Tuna, Troy Guard’s latest and greatest restaurant and bar. Not only does the cocktail menu at the Hawaiian-influenced concept challenge and excite, it emphasizes service. And Ortiz plays her part, as exemplified in her “black book,” where she keeps guests’ favorite drinks for return reference.
When did you start bartending?
Haylee Ortiz: I started as a server and have always been obsessed with the flavors, textures, and nuances of a great bar program. I tried to move into bartending several times before I ended up in a floor management position, and then segued into kitchen management. I really loved that — I found a niche cooking and meat cutting but I missed direct guest interaction and felt the pull to be back out front. Bartending is a good marriage of both. I still manage, consult, and love to cook, but I don’t think I could ever stop being a bartender.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Ortiz: My guests and my team. It’s almost unfair to call bartending a “job.” It’s too much fun! I love taking care of people, sharing part of myself and sharing my beverage knowledge. It’s my passion.
What’s your favorite drink to mix up?
Ortiz: Ha! What’s your favorite drink to drink? That’s my favorite drink to make.
It’s your last meal. What are you drinking?
Ortiz: I hope I’m eating moose steaks in a log cabin, in a hot tub while sipping some unicorn Scotch from a bottle covered in dust with friends in a snowstorm with a great roaring fire going. Or maybe we are sitting in a haunted library and that scene from Ghostbusters is happening (the Scotch part doesn’t change though).