Crystal Gerig has three rules for successful bartending:
Fake it until you make it.
Being able to multitask is huge.
And be aware of everyone. “Make sure people are in a safe environment,” she says. “Make sure people are happy. And still take care of your work.”
Adhering to those three simple rules may be why Gerig, 28, pulled the most votes for Best Bartender in Lane County in an online Eugene Weekly poll last month. She works four days a week at Eugene’s Horsehead Bar, 99 W. Broadway.
A Seattle native, Gerig grew up in Salem and landed here ten years ago to go to Lane Community College. After school she worked various jobs — selling coffee at a bakery, for instance — before finding her way to the Horsehead, a popular downtown bar with a downhome atmosphere, three years ago.
“I knew the bouncers here,” she says. “And I was really sick of my other job.”
So for three years she’s mixed and poured drinks from Manhattans and gimlets to whiskey sours and whiskey gingers, the latter one of the most popular drinks at the Horsehead. Whiskey is said to be increasing in popularity recently, especially among middle-aged women. “Whiskey is good!” Gerig said. “I am glad that middle-aged women are finally catching on.”
The bar also, of course, sells a lot of beer — especially Pabst Blue Ribbon.
“We’re No. 1 in Oregon for selling PBR,” she says. “And we’re No. 14 in the United States!”
On her days off, Gerig is a beginning mushroom picker — “It’s nice to be outside in the fall,” she says — and an experienced artist, inspired by her grandmother, who also painted. Gerig does her own paintings in acrylic on canvas, generally with nature themes: landscapes, animals and birds.
The Horsehead is having a show of her work during March.
Running a downtown bar takes a certain finesse with the public. Gerig says she hasn’t really had any big problems with the bar’s clientele, though naturally she’s had to cut people off and occasionally ask people to leave.
“It’s pretty easy to read people,” she says. “You talk to them as humans, instead of ‘Get the fuck out!’ That never works well.”
And as for being a woman bartender, she says that’s usually an advantage with difficult drunks. “Sometimes people are more receptive to a woman telling them they’re out of line,” she says. “I can’t say it’s harder being a woman than being a man, because I’ve never been a man bartender.”
Coming up on the third anniversary of her employment at the Horsehead, she says she’s pleased to work there. “I like it,” she says. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t like it.”