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Maureen McMullen, Published February 03 2014

It's My Job: Slinging drinks and smiling big

FARGO - In the 10 years Sara Oltvedt has worked at the HoDo Lounge, the roles she’s filled have been “kind of all over the place.”

She’s been a server in the restaurant, cocktail waitress, front-of-the-house manager and, most recently, a bartender.

How did you get started here?

My dad is an artist and a longtime friend of Karen (Stoker, Hotel Donaldson owner), so it just kind of was born out of a family connection. I started a long time ago.

My dad actually has artwork in some of the rooms here, so he had been working with her during the renovation process and doing commission pieces, and then the idea just kind of came from that.

What do you like the most about your job?

I love the people. “People” is kind of a broad statement; I love our guests, I love our teammates, everybody I work with is fantastic. There’s just something about this place and the space that we’re in, where I have a smile on every time I walk through the back door to start a shift.

What drinks do people ask for the most?

A lot of our specialty cocktails. During the winter, Uncle Paul’s Spanish coffee is one of the most frequently made drinks. It’s fun because there’s fire involved, and people always like that.

Could you explain how you make it?

The cocktail comes in a champagne flute, and we take some lime juice and rim the champagne flute with it and dip it in sugar. Then, we use a little Bacardi 151, and most of the alcohol in that melts off because we use that to light the fire, which serves a dual purpose. It caramelizes the sugar on the end of the glass, and in the process of the flame, we toss in some freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg, which creates sparks. The cinnamon and nutmeg end up getting toasted.

Then, the alcohol components are Tia Maria, which is a rum-based coffee-flavored liqueur, a little bit of Cointreau, then some fresh-brewed coffee and some fresh-shaken heavy whipping cream over the top.

One of our regular guests from years ago, who passed three years ago, Uncle Paul, brought in the idea for the drink to us, so that’s why it’s called Uncle Paul’s Spanish coffee. He was very special to all of us. He left behind quite the legacy. He was an integral part of our lives for many years.

What do you think makes a good bartender?

I just think anybody with a sense of guest service, a sense of urgency. You definitely have to have people skills and be able to carry on a conversation with just about anybody and a true passion for what you do. I mean, anybody can sling a drink, but to make a true bartender I think it requires more of the personal level of service.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Maureen McMullen at (701) 235-7311