Drink Insider: Sebastian Yingling of Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom

Although technically born in Atlanta, Raduno’s Sebastian Yingling has lived in Little Rock off and on for nearly 18 years, and at this point, considers the capital city to be his home.

It was during college when he first cut his teeth behind the bar, as he took a job at Tia’s to help supplement his income. He immediately fell in love with the industry and the personalities that make it up.

“That was my first experience in restaurants and it was cool. It was weird and different and I didn’t know what to expect,” he remembers.

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At the time he was studying film, and even when he moved to Nashville to chase that dream, he couldn’t quite shake restaurants. When he came back to Rock City, he worked here and there, but made strides when he helped open Big Whiskey’s in the River Market, and had a chance to work with Lee Edwards.

Before Edwards was signed on with Yellow Rocket Concepts, Sebastian had the opportunity to learn a little about the craft from him.

He remembers his first attempt at making an Old Fashioned: “We get this order in and it’s a busy Friday night and it’s an Old Fashioned which I’ve never made before … I remember asking Lee what he thought, and I just remember throwing things together in a glass. Lee says, “No, no, this is not an Old Fashioned.” It was a valuable learning experience.”

That was an epiphany for Sebastian.

“At that point in time I could pour a glass of wine, pour a beer, make a vodka martini – the fact that there might be something out there called “craft cocktails” floating in the ether was huge.”

He took a break from working the bar to work retail for some time before realizing he wanted back in. He was actually applying for bartending jobs when he happened upon an almost hidden bar on Main Street, named Maduro at the time. He left his resume, and before he knew it he received a call.

It turns out, Michael Peace was planning on giving the cigar bar a facelift, and was in desperate need of bartenders. Thus, Sebastian, found himself helping open 109 & Co.

“The most important thing from 109 is what it taught me. …  I was there from the onset which was really cool.”

The first night he walked in for a shift, he was completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of bottles at the bar. If anything counts as THE quintessential learning experience, he went through it at 109.

“I thought to myself, I have so much homework to do. That’s what I did – Michael is just an amazing authority on liquor. The guy knew what all that stuff was which is amazing because if I ever had a question or anything I could ask him.”

After spending nearly a year there, the opportunity opened up for Sebastian to work at Raduno, and he took it.

“I loved Michael and what 109 was so much,” he says, but he was ready to try something different.

The neat thing about Raduno is that it’s got that neighborhood vibe. At any given moment when Sebastian is working behind the bar, he can tell you the names of those perched on the stools in front of him.

“I work in a neighborhood bar and I’m happy to serve the people there,” he says.

That’s ultimately the best fit for him, as he loves his job mainly for the customers. He adds, “Mixology is only half of it, as the rest is poetry in motion. You get to know your customers and you deliver. That’s all it really is – at the end of the day, flavors go together or they don’t.”

Watching the scene grow has been a pleasure for Sebastian, and he thinks Little Rock is on the up-and-up. “To keep going, all we need is for locals to come out, have a drink, and lend support that way,” he says.

When not working, Sebastian likes to spend time with Mongol, his dog, as well as work on motorcycles and rock climb.

If you’re in the mood for a decent conversation paired alongside a quality drink, post up to Raduno’s bar. Sebastian will take care of you, and you’ll be glad you did.

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Drink Insider: Sebastian Yingling of Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom