When people ask “How do you become a bartender? Do you go to school?”, I tell them that what you really need to do is start working in the industry in the front of the house and work your way up from there.
Many of the bartenders I speak with have a similar story. They were not fully formed behind the bar, like a clay sculpture brought to life with Jägermeister and some citrus. They were forged in the industry, spending years learning the industry before they were placed behind the bar. There was a big shift at the Dayton Funny Bone in 2014. Their two long-standing bartenders, within months of each other, were getting ready to depart for new ventures. This meant the Funny Bone needed a new bartender that had almost a blank slate to work with. Fortunately for them, Molly Peppo was waiting in the wings.
Molly had come to the Dayton Funny Bone when it first opened in 2006. She was looking for a little extra money on the side, and serving at a comedy club was the right fit for her. As a working mom, it gave her time with her family during the week. Over time, she started to develop an interest in becoming a bartender. Before Molly made the transition, she was one of the senior servers on the staff. Her training for bartending was a slow process, and she picked up a few shifts behind the stick when one of the other bartenders was out for a night.
After years on the floor, she became a full-time bartender. Then, in rapid succession, the bar manager for the club. She went right to work on the huge task she was given, making sweeping changes to the menu. She cleaned house, switching up many of the liquors and beers that had been behind the bar for years. There was a greater focus on building the craft beer selection, knowing that many of the people coming through the doors were beer drinkers. The cocktail menu was also redeveloped over time as the old spirits flowed out and the new spirits flowed in. It was developed to handle the speed of a comedy show, which typically hits fast and early and then dies off. This wonder woman then started training a few other bartenders to build out the rest of her team.
The look of the bar has also been updated. Gone are the shelves of liquor showing off the selection. Molly preferred a clean look, and that is what she created. The craft beers of the month are displayed at the front of the bar for all to see. She is continuing to improve her craft, diving into the craft beer scene while learning more all the time about cocktails. Molly’s path to becoming a bartender was something she was used to; hard work and patience to get where she wanted to be. She built the bar she wanted to create and brought it to life.
How did you get into bartending?
After working as a server for seven years at the club, I decided to learn how to make the drinks I was selling.
What is your favorite drink to make?
This is tricky. If it’s a not crazy busy night I enjoy making cosmos or flavored martinis. However, if it’s a sold out show give me any other drink to make aside from those!!
Which drink makes you internally cringe?
I give this award to the Old Fashioned.
Do you have a favorite spirit you like to work with?
When you go out for a drink in Dayton, where is your favorite place to go?
I’d have to say any of the local breweries. I love the patrons there, the bartenders are super knowledgeable & the atmosphere is always fun.
Who is the most famous person you have served?
I’d have to say Dave Chapelle or Charlie Murphy.
What do you do when you are not bartending?
I’m out taking mini road trips to new breweries or busy being a full-time mom.
What are your favorite trends from the last year?
Possibly the usage of craft beers in some cocktails.
What advice do you want to give bartenders just getting into the business?
The adrenaline rush is crazy addictive!!
What do you love most about Dayton?
I love there are so many cool little local places to hang out right in my own backyard.
Most interesting thing you have seen from behind the bar?
Sheryl Underwood, Stand Up Comedian and co-host of “The Talk, spent $1000 on shots for a room full of her fans.
How has bartending changed in the time you have been in the industry?
I think people are finally realizing there is more to life than a Rum & Coke or a plain domestic beer.
What do you wish customers knew that helped you do your job?
When ordering a drink with no ice doesn’t mean more liquor. When a customer asks me to “hook it up” makes me do just the opposite! Trust me if you’re nice to me I will take care of you.
If you were not a bartender, what career would you be pursuing?
Becoming a nurse.