Straight Up with Adrian Holliday of The Old Mill

Forget about margaritas! Bartender Adrian Holliday serves up his favorite cocktail ... the Banksy Pimm's

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EGREMONT — Before The Old Mill opens, you're liable to hear some play-by-play in the Egremont restaurant. That's because longtime bartender Adrian Holliday likes to tune into the overseas soccer scene before his shifts. Given the sport's international appeal, it isn't surprising to learn that the 58-year-old South Egremont resident hails from Cape Town, South Africa, and that he began his bartending career in London.

"Bartending in 1980 England was very different than modern-day bartending," Holliday said on a recent Thursday afternoon.

Holliday moved to London when he was 18, almost exclusively pouring pints of beer.

"There were no mixed drinks. There were no cocktail menus. There were like two glasses of wine by the glass — one red, one white — that kind of thing. Over 40 years, things have evolved," Holliday said.

He started bartending at The Old Mill in 2001. On Friday nights, 40-something second homeowners from New York City might be ordering lots of vodka-based drinks. On Saturday nights, Holliday's often serving Old-Fashioneds to a "more mature" crowd.

Though he has worked in craft services for the TV and film business and in other jobs, bartending has been a constant for Holliday throughout his adult life.

"It's a lifestyle thing for me. When you've been doing it this long, you become nocturnal," he said. "I'm totally nocturnal. I don't sleep 'til noon every day. I'm up pretty early. But I'm more active at night than during the day."

BARKEEP!

What's your favorite drink to make?

At the moment, one of my special cocktails is called the Banksy Pimm's (gin, Pimm's, fresh lime juice, ginger beer, topped off with soda water and garnished with mint and cucumber). It's a tall drink.

What's your least favorite drink to make?

I don't really have one. You know what? The whole margarita thing gets old because I don't see why you would mess up decent tequila with all the shenanigans.

What's in your fridge at home?

A little bit of white wine, three bottles of Angry Orchard cider that have probably been there for a year and that's probably it, alcohol-wise.

What do people come in here and talk to you about the most?

There's always politics. I'm a massive soccer fan, so I get a lot of people talking to me about soccer, and I've actually converted a few people from being fully anti-soccer to now watching. Obviously, it's more prevalent in this country on TV now, so you're able to watch. [Holliday says he's a Real Madrid fan.]

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What do you wish people talked to you about or asked you about more?

The things that I like to talk about least are politics, religion, those kinds of things. They just become contentious, and when you throw a little booze into the mix, it's not always that clever. So, I like to talk about travel, arts, movies, music.

What's the most common mistake people make when they order a drink?

Generally in couples, men will order before women or not order for the women, and it really bugs me. I'll go, "How are you guys? What can I get you to drink?" And the guy will just launch into his order, and I'll be like, "Ladies first." That's one of my peeves.

What's your best bar story?

[Holliday couldn't think of one in the moment but sent the following along by email later.] Around Christmas time, loads of patrons give us bartenders "gifts," much like doormen in NYC. So this past holiday season, a very good customer sneakily handed me, what felt like cash. Thank you, I said, slipped the gift into my pocket and went on with my night. At the end of my shift, after cashing out, I was counting my cash and remembered the cash in my pocket. I reached in and grabbed it. It turns out it was a folded receipt from Target! Had a good laugh about that!

Then a few weeks later, the customer returned and called me over, he was looking pretty sheepish, and he asked if he had given me cash. ... I admitted that he had not, but instead, a receipt. He handed over some cash and we laughed our heads off. We still laugh about it.

When you're off the clock, what do you like to do?

I read. I watch movies. I like to swim. I ride an indoor bicycle. I watch a little bit of soccer. And go out with friends a few times a week.

What are some of your favorite bars and restaurants that you haven't worked at in this area?

This is the only one I've worked at, so I like to go hang out at the bar at John Andrews [Farmhouse Restaurant]. I like Aroma [Bar & Grill], the Indian restaurant. I like Prairie Whale. I like Cafe Adam. I like Brava in Lenox.

What should people know about bartending that, if they've never been a bartender, they might not know?

Patience.

Have you ever wanted to own your own bar?

No. I'm a worker bee. I like to work.

Do you have some favorite bartenders? Are you afraid to ask them random questions about their lives? Contact Benjamin Cassidy at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter or 413-496-6251 to nominate a bartender for this monthly series. You may just find the answers you're seeking.


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