Hot Bird's Anthony Buccellato On Beer, Booze Snobbery & Bar Design

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Chantal Martineau
Just your average architect-slash-bartender

Hot Bird may be the perfect neighborhood bar. It has great beer and whiskey selections, good music, and a big outdoor space where you can often find someone grilling sausages. In fact, the only discernible problem is that everyone seems to agree it's the perfect bar and, despite its location on a rather barren corner of Atlantic Avenue, it's regularly packed. Anthony Buccellato has been behind the bar pretty much since the start.

Were you expecting it to be so popular?

Actually, I really had no idea what I was getting into. I had been there once to check it out and thought it was a cool spot. I had no idea that it was going to be as busy as it was.

How long have you been a bartender?

On and off since I was a teenager, I guess. I started working at my father's bar. He owned a place up in Poughkeepsie, New York. I just always turned to it when I needed a cash job.

What do you do when you're not bartending?

Freelance designer. I trained as an architect and, as most people know, the economy is pretty bad for architects right now. [Bartending] is helping me reset a little bit and stay afloat while I pursue freelance work, as opposed to going back to work for a firm.

Is there much crossover between the two jobs?

In this bar, the décor has all these old woodworking tools so I'm constantly getting asked questions about that -- about the building, the materials. So, yeah, I wind up getting into a lot of conversations about the design elements of the bar.

Have you ever thought of designing a bar?

Professionally, I did a lot of museum spaces, but I've been doing a lot of smaller-scale spaces, like offices and houses. I'd love the opportunity to do some bar design.

What would you bring to it, considering your experience behind the bar?

Besides getting furniture scale and comfort of customers right, I would design a bar that's nice to work behind. That's always the worst part about bartending -- you step behind a space that nobody's thought about and it's cramped or everything's out of reach, not ergonomic. I'd make sure you have things where you need them. There would be no way to accidentally knock things that don't go together, like glass and ice.

Who's your worst type of customer?

How bad I think a customer is depends on my attitude a lot of the time. I've done this long enough and I try to give everybody an even shake because it'll throw off my whole night if I get angry at somebody. But I'll tell you, my pet peeve is when people crumple a handful of money and drop it on the bar.

Has the growing rate of booze snobbery made your life easier or harder?

We have a really good selection of booze here so we'll get people who know their liquor. They think we're a cocktail bar, which, truth is, all the bartenders here know what they're doing. We can make a fancy drink, but we're more of a beer-and-whiskey place. It can be hard when, on a Friday or Saturday night, we'll be four-deep at the bar and people are coming up and ordering Sidecars and Manhattans. I've had people watch me make a drink and tell me what I'm doing wrong -- that comes with the territory.

Location Info

Hot Bird

546 Clinton Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Category: Restaurant

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