Bartender Beat: Ainslea Wolfe of Warren's Inn
Ainslea Wolfe has horror stories about what happens when a drunk’s last drink at his last bar hits him while he's at her bar. She also has the kind of winning sass that you should expect at Warren’s Inn on downtown's Market Square.
Warren's—which still sports an ancient jukebox and old-school cigarette vending machine inside its charmingly grubby, dimly lit interior—is the type of bar where everbody knows your name...because you've all been there forever (or at least since 1978, when Warren Trousdale opened the first incarnation of Warren's Inn; the second was opened in 1987 shortly before Trousale passed away and his sister, Carolyn Wenglar, took over the bar to maintain her brother's legacy). A few of the bartenders have been working Warren's for over 30 years. "She’s a new generation, and she’s good," says Willie, an afternoon regular.
How long have you been bartending?
"Off and on since I could work, at 18, at first at a shitty chain, then waitressing at events, just off and on. This is the first time I’ve worked somewhere that was just a bar." Wolfe's last job was at Mongoose vs. Cobra (which isn't "just a bar," as it also serves a small food menu).
How did you get started at Warren's?
"A thing about Warren’s is that there’s no turnover. I had to wait for April [the previous daytime bartender] to have a baby! Sure enough, she worked until about a week before that baby was born."
How did Warren’s teach you how to pour?
Warren’s is well known for its strong, stiff drinks. Wolfe says she figured out her pour on shifts she spent observing other bartenders. "No one taught me, 'Here’s your count.' You just learn your own pour; it’s not something that you say."
When is it time to cut someone off?
"I feel that the rules are a little different at Warren’s [where Wolfe has been known to open the bar to a waiting regular or two.] The characters that come in during the day are very different than nighttime drinkers. Ultimately the law’s the law. Their safety is always what’s important. A lot of people take cabs here, so you keep that in mind. You keep body size in mind, you count their drinks. When you know, you know. All this stuff is on your bartender’s mind, all the time!"
Where do you drink on your days off?
"Double Trouble is my place. Voodoo Queen, Big Top, or Grand Prize."
What’s your philosophy?
"Don’t be an asshole. Manage yourself. If you’re getting maudlin, go home. Be nice to your spouse."
What’s the best thing about your bar?
"This place is one of a kind. I think everyone knows that. I worked on Thanksgiving day, and I was so worried I would have no customers. But thanks to so many regulars I had literally everything you could think of. It’s because we’re a family here!"