Best of: bartender Jen K mixes things up at Paul’s Cocktails

Jen K started experimenting with new drink concoctions, like these specialty bloody marys, roughly two years ago after she stopped regularly working the Thursday shift. Photo by Kali Hoffman, photo editor

Jen K makes the best bloody mary’s in town, according to her and everyone else in Paul’s Cocktails at 9 am this past Sunday morning.

“See those people over there?” she said, pointing to a group in the corner of the bar. “They came down from Long Beach just to come here.”

Jen K, who likes to limit her name to “four letters,” has been working at Paul’s for eight years. Some older Chapman students might recognize her from when she used to work the Thursday night shift, but now she mostly works Sunday and Monday mornings and Tuesday nights. After she first switched shifts, she realized it was “dead” in the mornings compared to weekends, so she spent her extra time inventing and perfecting new cocktail recipes. Now, instead of dishing out “KDP’s”— a Paul’s creation and specialty — and shots of chardonnay (no joke) to students, she spends her time behind the bar making specialty creations for the regulars, off-duty police officers, night-shift workers and masonic lodge members.

Jen K, ‘Best Bartender’ at Paul’s Cocktails. Photo courtesy of Jen K

Interacting with regulars is her favorite part of the job. She knows almost everyone and they know her. I was at Paul’s the night before and saw a customer stumble out the front door but asserted that he would be back at 6 am sharp the next day just to say “Hi” to Jen.

She does miss the Thursday energy sometimes, but she said the change of pace gives her time to focus on her floral design business. Her flower arrangement skills also help her make her drinks into works of art.

Jen’s bloody mary’s are a “meal in a glass,” she said. Right now they include artisan cheese, bread, bacon, celery, olives, cucumber, dried mango coated in tajin and a spicy pickle. Sometimes she shakes up the recipe.

Last week she went “healthy” and garnished her drinks with mini heads of lettuce and alfalfa sprouts, but people tend to like the cheese and bread version better, she said. Her other specialties include peanut butter and jelly screwball shots and Jack-a-chino’s (which taste like a Yankee Candle at Christmas time and I mean that as the best possible compliment) — both popular drinks of her own invention.

Making complicated drinks is no problem for Jen. Nothing about her job bothers her, she said, except maybe when they run out of supplies. She glides around the bar with ease, but mentioned the hardest part of her job is making the popcorn.

In her free time she studies horticulture and dreams about one day retiring to upstate New York, but for now she enjoys the pace of the early-week crowd at Paul’s. She urges Chapman students to give other days besides Thursday a chance. The “stampede” of Chapman kids usually come in around 10 to 11 pm and then clear out soon after, but she thinks they are missing out on the lesser known aspects of the establishment.

“The bar is actually really rad and the locals are cool,” she said. “(Chapman students) would own the bar if they came on Mondays. Free pool, free popcorn and I can make bloody marys.”