I already had a full drink when I realized Lukas was mixing me another one. He was pouring different colored liquids into a pint glass and getting ready to stir them up. It is exciting to watch him work.
Most bartenders don’t think about flavors the way this guy does. Unfortunately, many bartenders don’t put the same amount of effort into drinks as Lukas does. He wants each cocktail to be a raging success.
“I got into this because I do what I like,” Lukas said as he picks bottles from the shelf for his next concoction. The lights of Last Exit were dim but one could see how intensely serious his eyes were when making that statement.
We'd been talking about doing this interview for more than a month. When I finally had the opportunity to sit down with Lukas, I knew it was going to be a good one.
The Proust Questionnaire: Lukas Smith
What’s your favorite virtue?
What do you believe is your chief characteristic as a person?
Curiosity, especially with respect to what I'm interested in. When my interest is piqued, I'm like a dog with a bone.
What’s your main fault/shortcoming?
Single-mindedness. I'll lose sight of the big picture in a heartbeat.
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
What’s your favorite qualities in the same sex?
What’s your favorite qualities in the opposite sex?
What’s a natural talent you'd like to be gifted with (that you don't have)?
I wish I could whistle.
For what fault do you have the most toleration?
For what fault do you have the least toleration?
What’s your idea of happiness?
A well-met challenge.
What’s your idea of misery?
When a female guest doesn't know when to leave.
How would you wish to die?
I'd rather not, honestly.
What is your football/baseball/basketball/college/hockey/soccer team?
What’s your favorite occupation (besides bartending)?
Teaching. I taught some at the college level and I tutored at the high school level. I preferred high school kids, generally. I'd rather have a dedicated student than a talented one, if I had to choose.
Where would you most like to live?
I would love to go back and live in Budapest.
Who’s your favorite actor/actress?
Gene Hackman. He's so under-appreciated as an actor. His role in Unforgiven might be one of my favorites of all time.
Who’s your favorite comedian?
Rodney Dangerfield. When he was younger his stand up was on fire. We always think of his older stuff but he was brilliant in his early years.
Who’s your favorite band/musician?
Right now: J. Roddy Walston & the Business. Favorite musician of all time: Sebastian Bach.
Favorite art (painting, poem, sculpture, song)?
Leonardo Da Vinci. His Ginevra de' Benci is in the National Gallery in downtown D.C. If that painting doesn't move you, I don't understand you.
What’s your favorite book?
Name your favorite hero/heroine in fiction?
Oedipus. He was just trying to do the right thing and, well . . . we know what happened there. That's the great thing about Greek tragedy, it's like: thanks for trying, but you lose.
What was your favorite subject in high school?
What was your least favorite subject in high school?
Physics. I sucked.
Name your favorite American president?
Name your favorite non-American historical figure?
Nero. He fiddled while Rome burned.
Name your favorite hero/heroine in real life?
Robert E Lee.
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Coke or Pepsi?
Cats or dogs?
Dogs. But really neither. I'm not into pets.
What do you believe is your greatest characteristic as a bartender?
How about least bad? My nose.
What is your main fault/shortcoming as a bartender?
I allow fluctuations during service and stuff like that to upset me. If we run out of something it cooks my brain.
What is your shot of choice?
Whiskey. Just whiskey. That is, if I'm not drinking Green Chartreuse.
Who is your Obi Wan Kenobi (i.e. Who taught you the most as a bartender)?
Michael Van Hassell. We worked together at a restaurant called Bischero in Athens, Georgia.
At which bar did you grow the most?
Downstairs at Marvin.
Who was your favorite customer?
Ora Nwa Buenze.
Who was your worst customer?
Anyone who asks “do you have...” and isn't asking for something good. Or anyone who asks, "can you make it strong?" Or anyone who asks for a birthday discount.
AM or PM bar shifts?
What’s your favorite beer?
What’s your favorite wine?
1989 Chateau Beaucastel Rouge. That wine changed my life. It's my Obi wan Kenobi.
What’s your favorite spirit?
Green Chartreuse. At Saint Ex, they asked me how I work there without Green Chartreuse. I said, how can I work with it.
What’s your favorite cocktail?
Pepper's old fashioned.
What is the stupidest cocktail?
Anything with "Blue" in the title. Blue motorcycle. It's so stupid it makes me angry. A Long Island Ice Tea is a close second. Also known as a "Strong" Island Ice Tea.
What is your favorite cocktail name?
The Macho Man/Glamor Girl. It's one drink with a name applied according to gender. It's not technically a cocktail, but. . . . Another favorite is the Banana Hammock.
What bar has the most unique/funny/best name?
Whatever bar name I come up with when I open a bar.
If you had to choose only one, would it be beer, wine, cocktail, or spirit?
Who’s your favorite bartender?
Frashier from Solly's.
What’s your favorite bar/restaurant (in DC)?
What’s your favorite bar/restaurant (outside of DC)?
5 & 10 in Athens, Georgia.
What side-work do you have the most toleration?
None of it.
What side-work do you have the least toleration?
I hate washing dishes. I don't mind polishing, but I fucking hate washing dishes.
Have you ever been fired from a bar job?
I was fired once. It was a super crazy bar in Athens, Georgia inside an Italian restaurant that got bought out. The owner’s wife fired me. She kind of had this perfectly shaped helmet of hair. We use to call her "Dartha Stewart." It was some Real Housewives of Atlanta kind of shit.
Note: This post has been revised since its original publication