If you have been out to some of the top spots around LA, odds are you are sipped a cocktail mixed by bartender Ryan Wainwright. Wainwright, who has been bartending for the last eight years, started out in 2005 with his first bar job at a small diner in Santa Cruz as a way to make a little money on the side mostly at events and concerts.
Over time he was able to rise through the ranks after returning his native Los Angeles where he was looking to learn and progress as a bartender in the newly burgeoning restaurant/bar scene, and has worked his way around the LA scene, at Terrine, Faith & Flower and most recently at the Tasting Kitchen, where he refined his skills under Justin Pike and John Coltharp.
You can now find Wainwright – who also wowed the industry as the USBG’s “Most Imaginative Bartender” – behind the bar at The Ponte, an Italian eatery by Chef Scott Conant, where he comes up with creative concoctions like The Expat, the Playa Fortuna and his riff on classics like the Mezcal Negroni and the Americano Spritz.
Now, without further ado, let’s go Drinking With Ryan Wainwright.
Drinking With Ryan Wainwright
State your name and title and where you work and where you live for the record.
Well. I'm never very good at all of this but if you are just back from Tales and in need of a little outing or if you have been chilling all week. Come by tonight and celebrate National Tequila Day or, if you are so bold, we could also take aim at celebrating my day of birth which was yesterday. Either way @cristian.dascalu and I will be at Ponte all night making some fun tequila and rum drinks for our "Drink Like Ryan" Specials Menu. 📷: the amazing @eugeneshoots
Ryan Wainwright. I am the Beverage Director for the Bombet Hospitality Group, which means I oversee The Ponte and Faith and Flowers bar programs. I live in Venice, CA.
How did you get started in the biz? What was your first hospitality job?
My first bar gig was actually at a Dead Meadow show in Big Sur. My friend is a promoter and he needed someone to man the bar. I feel in love with it. My first hospitality gig was at a restaurant called Saturn Café in Santa Cruz. I was a beer and wine pourer and milkshake maker.
What is your current go-to drink order?
Rum and Coke for sure. I know. Not something cool but when I do have a drink I am usually beat from work so I go for easy and nostalgic.
Do you drink coffee or tea? Any favorite local spots to mention, how do you drink it and how many times a day/week?
I love both coffee and tea. Turns out I love all liquids. Coffee is my personal favorite right now but I can nerd out more on tea. I am a progressive drinker. Every morning you can find me at Menotti’s in Venice having a cappuccino (I say morning but I mean about 11am). I usually will have a macchiato later in the day around 4ish, and then I will have an espresso around 7ish.
Those all depend on where I am working that day but starting my day with a cappuccino is a ritual I will never let go of. I am very fortunate to have the best coffee shop in LA right at my door step. Menotti’s is a must go, period.
What are your favorite bars in LA in the following categories:
Tiki Ti’s for sure. Favorite LA spot
This one is tough. There are so many people doing amazing things that I love to go check out but if I have to say just one, I would have to say Redbird downtown.
Hidden gems/holes in wall
Tony’s Saloon is my all-time favorite LA bar. It is literally the best spot. It’s the LA I know and love from growing up here. Another would have to be Big Bar but that is less a hidden gem since everyone knows about it. It is literally the place where everyone knows your name and there’s always something fun going on.
Best places to go on an expense account
No doubt about it, it’s Old Lightning. You can’t take photos but my eyes have seen the light.
Where do you take out-of-towners for cocktails for an “Only in LA” experience?
I always gauge my friends. Some of them I take to Tony’s and do a downtown run around. Do that. Hit up taco trucks, end up at Las Perlas drinking rare Mezcals and get home at 2am. Some people I take to Redbird for dinner and drinks and then we hit up Normandie Club or Corner Door on the way back to Venice.
It really depends on what kind of LA night they want. The really craft side, or the really old school LA side.
Angosutra Bitters, lime juice and club soda. Every time. That and maybe some Aloe Vera juice.
First time getting drunk?
Not until I was almost 25 I think. I was a good boy.
Special shout to any bartenders or drinks makers out there that you do your best to visit and you think deserve some special love?
Oh wow. I have to say that LA is full of so many people that are really pushing the game and pushing themselves. There isn’t enough space on this page to talk about everyone I am impressed by. I could not be more proud of this city I grew up in and all the people that have taken this place and made it their home.
In all things liquid and solid we are kicking some serious butt. I am so proud of this town and everyone in it that works the long hours and puts in the hard work to make this hospitality scene insane.
Spill it …. shameless plug. What are you working on right now?
Ah. The future is bright. I am working on many fun things that I am excited to share soon. There is always something happening here in LA. That’s why I love it. I’m already hard at work on The Ponte’s fall/winter menu (since those seasons are one in LA) and excited to play with the flavors and spirits of the winter in Italy; flavors such as grape, walnut, pear and pomegranate.
Social call – where can people find you?