Member Spotlight: Tyler Hudgens

    Photo Credit: Andrew Cebulka Photography

Tyler Hudgens
Job title: 
Bar Director
Chapter: Washington DC
Place of business: The Dabney
Time spent bartending: 10 years
Total time in industry: 16 years


Favorite job you ever had:
My current one. I am so lucky to love what I do and to be in a place with management and owners and coworkers and guests who support our passion and want us to be creative and successful. I’m empowered to give my team the tools they need to grow and succeed, and it is so rewarding to watch us build something together.

Tyler Hudgens Bar.jpg

Photo Credit: Andrew Cebulka Photography

Favorite Drink(s):
I’m a classics gal. I’m always down for a Manhattan (perfect, please, with orange bitters) or Negroni (3:2:2). I’m a sucker for the A La Louisiane on a cold rainy night. Recently, I’ve been drinking like it’s the 1800s: lots of apple brandy, madeira, and ciders.



Favorite Bars:
In DC? Copycat. Dram & Grain. Wicked Bloom. Red Hen. Nido. 2 Birds 1 Stone. Daikaya. All Souls. The Columbia Room promises to be wonderful when it returns.

In Charlottesville? The Alley Light, Tavola, Commonwealth.

In Richmond? Saison, The Roosevelt, Heritage, Toast.

In Baltimore? Rye.

I have a page of restaurant and bar recommendations for every city I’ve visited. I’d be happy to share it with anyone.



Where did you grow up, and what was it like there?
I’m a Navy brat, so I grew up along the coastlines of the US, often on base. I had what a lot of people would consider an idyllic 1950s style childhood: my whole neighborhood was fenced in and guarded by soldiers, so my parents never worried about me taking off to climb trees or ride bikes or wander around with my friends. Moving a lot was hard, but I’ve been so many places and met so many incredible people; I’d never trade it.



Favorite childhood memory?
Summers at my grandaddy’s house in North Carolina. Running around barefoot, picking tomatoes off of the vine and eating them whole, catching fireflies in mason jars.



What do you like best about what you do?
Making people happy.



What is the most rewarding part of your job?

See above. I’m in hospitality. That’s what my job is, first and foremost. Besides, what’s better than seeing that smile and wave and pace quickening from a guest when they see you behind the bar? Or the moment when they close their eyes mid sip because you’ve nailed their drink? I live for that.

* I wrote this answer almost 3 years ago, and I still believe it. We get to throw a killer dinner party at our restaurant every night. I love being able to build a strong team of talented people who can do that. I love that the drinks we serve are thoughtful and well crafted, that the food is delicious, and that guests are having a great time.

TH Bar 2.jpg

Photo Credit: Andrew Cebulka Photography

What do you do to relax outside of work?
Walk around DC with my Golden Retriever, Tucker. Listen to live music. Sit outside with a pitcher of (insert whatever porch drink kick I’m on) and a good book. Go out to eat at any of the city’s great restaurants.



Dream vacation:
I’d like to pick a city I’ve never visited and eat and drink my way through it. Restaurants, bars, museums, coffee shops, music venues, street art, parks. Getting lost in old places (that are new to me) is one of my favorite pastimes.



Advice you could offer to others:
Find something you like about every guest you have. Be a silver linings kind of bartender. Pursue perfection. Don’t settle for less than amazing- in a drink or in the kind of experience you give. I try to look back on a night and flip through every guest in my head and critique myself on their experience. There’s always room for improvement. Know your recipes. Stay humble. Share your knowledge.

**I wrote this answer almost 3 years ago and I still agree with it.



Who do you look up to?
My personal mentor (and teacher of non-spirit related life lessons and friend and former boss) Nick Crutchfield. My dad. My little brother, Phil. The BAR 5-day gents: Dale DeGroff. Paul Pacult. Steve Olsen. Doug Frost. Dave Wondrich. Andy Seymour. I have huge amounts of respect for Angus Winchester. All of my fearless female friends, especially including the women of Speed Rack and Girls With Bols.

Tyler Hudgens cocktail.jpg

Photo Credit: Andrew Cebulka Photography

Tell us something unusual or unique about yourself that we might not know.
I am so shy. I get stage fright during talks and seminars and competitions. Just typing about it makes me anxious.



What does the future hold for you?
I’m excited to see that I achieved most of my goals from the last time* we did this feature. The only one holding out on me now is that stubborn James Beard Award (one day!). And new goals. I want The Dabney to be a landmark bar and restaurant in Washington, DC. I want to grow our community and give back to it. I want to use our power for good, to get involved in schools and public garden spaces, to just really dig our fingers into the earth and recognize how powerful feeding people (literally and figuratively) is.

*Answers from 2013: A cocktail garden. A Charlottesville or Central VA chapter of the USBG. A bar I have ownership in. A James Beard Award.


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