Battle of the Bartenders: Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara vs. Mayor Gary McCarthy. Who can make better drinks?
The state legislator from Rotterdam was named the best bartender, earning nearly $100 more in tips than the Schenectady mayor. But both worked very hard, and raised a combined total of about $1,500 for local charities.
Half of the earnings went to the Schenectady Kiwanis Club, which sponsored the event. The other half went to Project Lifesaver, which assists local agencies in finding people who wander off, such as those with autism, Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome or brain injuries.
“This is what it is all about — having fun, giving back to the community and helping to make a difference,” said Heather Peterson, president of the Kiwanis Foundation.
McCarthy and Santabarbara served drinks at Johnny’s on State Street from 5 to 7 p.m. and rushed to collect the most tips and be named the best bartender.
Santabarbara ultimately won the competition, and was honored with a big black hat and bragging rights. A rematch is expected in the near future.
He arrived at Johnny’s prepared for the competition. He presented a list of specials to the bar’s patrons:
* Absolut Assemblyman — Double shot of flavored Absolut vodka
* Veto Override — Your choice of whiskey or scotch, served straight up
* Santabarbara Sour — Traditional whiskey sour meets Rotterdam pineapple goodness
* Final Draft — Your choice of a house draft beer
McCarthy didn’t come prepared with any drink specials. Instead, he served anything anybody asked for.
“Every drink is special here,” he said smiling.
People at the bar tossed tips into giant cans, either for Santabarbara or McCarthy. At its busiest time, the bar accommodated more than 50 people.
Throughout the evening, bar manager Jenna Puorto helped the two politicians make complicated drink orders.
“They’re doing really good. Angelo is a natural,” she said during the height of the competition. “I think Angelo will win. He’s young and smiling away.”
McCarthy said he dropped one bottle when he first started serving drinks, but it didn’t break.
“I only knocked down one bottle and I am generally getting all of the drink orders correct,” he said.
Puorto said she was impressed with both of their bartending skills. But they probably shouldn’t quit their day jobs, she said.
“No broken glasses and no spills,” she said. “And for not bartending before, that is pretty impressive. They’re surprisingly good at this.”
In the last 10 minutes of the event, the two competitors rushed to complete drink orders and walked their buckets around in a final attempt to collect $1 and $5 bills. Both buckets were almost filled to the top with money.
“The buckets are full of money, that’s all I know,” Santabarbara said, as McCarthy carried his bucket to the other side of the bar. “Both of us just wanted to collect a lot of tips to donate to a good cause. I’d say we were successful. Maybe we’ll do this again soon.”