Chris Hannah has had plenty of experience in the restaurant industry—first at Hooters and Pizza Hut, then as a line cook at Legal Seafood and Charleston Restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland. But where the charms of Pizza Hut and the back of the house in general failed to allure the young Hannah, when he stepped behind the bar, something clicked. Not only was Hannah talented, he was ambitious.
Like many of his mixing brethren, Hannah didn't go to bartending school. He had no formal culinary training. He just bought a cocktail book in 1998 and got started, landing in what turned out to be a fairly useful niche in the industry. His first bartending gig was behind the counter at Duck News Café. Hannah was just 24 years old, but his clientele ranged in age from 40 to 60, and it showed in their drinking habits, which basically emulated their parents' drinking habits, born in the cocktail's heyday. With so many assumed old-school palates to cater to, Hannah quickly became versed in cocktail classics like Stingers, Manhattans, and Gin Martinis.
Not only was he getting at the roots of cocktails, but it was during this job that Hannah also discovered that the cocktail had a life story, a kind of culinary history, one that he was in a position to share. And whether he's behind the bar at Arnaud's French 75 or assisting in the industry's definitive cocktail gathering, Tales of the Cocktail, Hannah's shaking and sharing cocktail history—and defining cocktail future—as a leader in the New Orleans mixology community.