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BEST BARTENDER Minneapolis 2007 - John Senkler

The nature-versus-nurture argument can't be resolved by the case of John Senkler, the young, brash drink-slinger at this St. Paul neighborhood eatery. Senkler's father, Charles, who is the co-owner of Fern's, made a career out of designing and managing bars when John was just a tyke, dragging his offspring to the job site more often than not. "I pretty much was born in a bar," 26-year-old John says now. But it's not as if the kid is just trading on the gene pool. When the Cretin grad came to Fern's seven years ago, he started as a bar back. "I was 18 or 19 years old, and I liked to come up with drinks reading bartenders' guides," Senkler recalls. Since his move to bartender, the baby-faced guy some call Johnny has become known for his wry, teasing banter with just about every regular. "You have to give shit and take it," he says. In fact, we can already hear the razzing this honor will bring. And to be fair, many bartenders or servers at Fern's could be eligible for some kind of service-industry award—it's a highly competent and personable staff. Ultimately, Senkler's faux-ego makes him the most likable and, yes, razzable staffer there. But he also possesses skills and an old-school charm that naturally drew him toward the profession. "You gotta have patience and a good sense of humor," Senkler says, while also explaining an arcane mnemonic device he uses to remember customers' names and their drinks. "You also have to like people you don't necessarily like. It's like the way a stripper can make a guy think, 'That chick really likes me.'" Pole-dance musings aside, there's also an earnestness to Johnny that makes even him wonder if he might be a lifer behind the bar—which would only be natural.
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