Drink with Daniel Kajdas

05:00 AM, Jul 12, 2013

Daniel Kajdas of Rochester has a passion to emulate the spirit of Cheers. (Kyle R. Schwab)/


Written By Jinelle Shengulette

Name: Daniel Kajdas

Age: 31

Bar: La Casa, Cheshire, Solera Wine Bar & Lounge

Residence: South Wedge

Did you go to college? I tried a few times, but it was never quite for me. I always felt that as long as I put the work in, I wouldn’t need the structure. Turned out I was right, thankfully. I worked for a few years as a sportswriter before following my true passion in the service industry.

How did you get into bartending? As a kid, I loved the show Cheers. Though there was little bartending actually happening on the show, I was always sort of in awe of the environment. It didn’t occur to me that you could make an honest living making jokes and slinging drinks until I was much older.

How long have you been at your bar? I’ve been at La Casa since opening day and Cheshire/Solera for nearly a year.

Assuming you frequent your bar, where would you go for drinks if the place shut down? I like going to places that are a little quieter and where I know the bartenders: places like Good Luck, where they will listen to my overly-complicated orders, and the Tap & Mallet, where I feel like family.

What’s the craziest thing that you’ve seen at your bar? Bachelorette parties never cease to amaze. But the craziest thing was when a guy asked me at Cheshire whether the eggs on the bar were cooked or raw. After I told him they were raw and we use them in drinks — has anyone been to a bar where they serve hard-boiled eggs? — he proceeded to crack one into his beer and down it in one gulp. I was so flabbergasted that I forgot to charge him for the egg.

What’s your least favorite drink to pour? I really enjoy making any drink there is or that you can come up with. My goal is to always make the best tasting version of that drink you’ve ever had. Sometimes I’ll hear bartenders — myself included, shamefully — complain about people who order Cosmos or other froufrou drinks. But it’s really not about us when you order a drink; it’s about the guest, what they like and how we can cater to their needs.

What drink do you pour
the most? Definitely margaritas, working at a Mexican restaurant. Luckily, they’ve always been a drink I adored, and we pride ourselves on using fantastic ingredients in it.

How much should I be tipping and why? Tips are such a dicey area. I always felt that people should tip within their means. I hope people don’t go broke on my account to make sure that I am “taken care of.” Kindness and mutual respect are more important to me. That being said, tips are my livelihood. At the end of the night, there’s always enough in the jar to make it worth my efforts. … It’s incredibly tacky to complain about bad tips.

What’s the quickest way to get a bartender to hate me? Being rude. Sure, we are bartenders and there is that three feet of wood separating us, but we’re human. Some people have said things to me while behind a bar that makes you wonder about their happiness or state of mind. Our job is just to brush it off or turn the situation back to something more agreeable.

What’s the quickest way to get great service? Eye contact, a smile and being well-prepared, either with your drink order or with pertinent questions that will allow the both of us to ensure you get what you like. Preparation is key. On busy nights, the last thing a bartender wants to hear when they get to a customer who we know has been waiting a while is, “I don’t know what I want. Make me something fun!”

Can you share any hangover cures? Mimosas. Sure, not exactly a cure, but OJ with a hangover can be a little harsh. You need to cut it with something.

Do you have
a full-time job? Do three part-time jobs count? My career is in this industry. There’s nothing I’d rather do than help other people have a memorable night out. Seeing someone really enjoying the work you do face-to-face is like no other feeling in the world to me.

What do you love best about your job? What’s there not to love? The people, the energy, that feeling on a busy Friday or Saturday night where your sanity is hanging on the edge of a knife. My work is my life, and my life is good.