Drink insider invites you behind the bar to get to know some of Little Rock’s biggest names in brewing, distilling, and bartending. We ask all the awkward questions you were always afraid to ask your favorite drink maker. This time up, we chat with Hunter Jolley of Boulevard Bread Company’s Bistro and Bar in the Heights.
When did you first come to Boulevard and what is your official title?
I’ve been behind the bar since fall of 2014. I was lucky enough to start my bar training at the Capital Bar and Grill. I just came to Boulevard back in March, and look forward to my time here.
What sparked your interest in drinks/cocktails?
After working in and then eventually managing the Suite Service Department at the Capital Hotel, I became very familiar with not only the food, but the plethora of beverages served in both of the hotel’s restaurants. Seeing all those “fancy” drinks and searching through many a wine bin in the cellar set off an alarm. For the first time ever, I was fascinated by something at work. After that I knew I had to try and get behind the CBG bar and learn everything possible.
What’s your favorite spirit to work with?
I like working with them all, but tend to get a little gin happy in the summertime.
How do you name your cocktails/come up with inspiration to build them?
I’m actually awful at naming them and usually call on the help of my coworkers. This is a good thing considering my first signature cocktail was literally named after a song I used on my Myspace profile in 2005. As far as cocktail construction, I really owe my style to two ladies, Malissa Callaway and Jayni Healy. both women taught me to be fearless behind the bar and just utilize the things around me, like a forgotten liquor in the CBG’s lower cabinet or fresh herbs – and in Malissa’s case – throw some glitter in there.
What have been some highlights about working at Boulevard?
I’d honestly have to say coming into such a great “family.” The management at Boulevard is above any I’ve seen in a while. They really do care about their employees and allow for growth and freedom of expression – which is important to me behind the bar. Summer Blake has created an excellent bar setup and a stunning bar menu. Also, I couldn’t think of better cuisine to go alongside seasonal drink menus than the stuff Chef Chris McMillan is churning out of that kitchen.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future – helping with new menus, etc.?
Helping with the menu is always a possibility. The best thing about Boulevard is the fact that I can throw a new cocktail out there each shift. So, yeah, I’m hoping one of those may make it to the menu. I also think I may dip my feet into the educational pool here soon. The intro Sommelier test is something I’ve considered for a while as well as looking into Pulaski Tech’s wine and spirit education trust exams.
How do you feel about the local food/drink scene?
I love it and love being a part of it. After living in little rock for about six years, I can say I’ve seen tons of growth. The food and drink scene is booming here and I couldn’t be happier.
If you could change anything about Little Rock, what would it be?
Daiquiri stands! I grew up El Dorado, AR, and visited Louisiana almost as much as we spent time in Arkansas. I love that state’s booze laws. Give me the fanciest cocktail in the world and I’d probably still take a frozen concoction from Haynesville, LA.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m just a regular ol’ homebody to tell you the truth. That’s a big reason I love bartending, so I can force myself to get out there and be social. When I’m not at work, I’m spending time with my girlfriend, close friends or my dog. Now that it’s warming up, I look forward to boxed wine and swimming holes around Central Arkansas.
If you could travel anywhere for a good drink, where would you go?
After working at Colonial Wine and Spirits for a short time, I’d have to say fly me to the Loire Valley of Southern France. I tried some reds from there that were mostly cab franc and they were out of this world. I also discovered one of my favorite whites, Sancerre. I’d just love to learn more about that area as a whole, but that’s the wanna-be wino coming out in me.
As for cocktails, if I wanna go crazy, I’ll just head to the Pantry Crest or Big Orange Midtown. Those are my favorite places to get a drink in the area.