Courtney Lane has the mouth of a sailor but the eyes of a seductress. I’ve never met such a gentle giant in such a small frame who dropped as many F-bombs. She’s poised, fluid, hauntingly beautiful, and I’ve heard quite a few people refer to her as hardcore (slightly arrogant is more like it), yet she still finds a way to remain humble to a fault.
There’s never a conversation with Courtney Lane that doesn’t start off with her bombarding you with the latest ingredients she’s playing around with for an off-the-way cocktail she has in mind. The difference is that Lane (as she likes to go by) is all about execution and the endgame. There’s never just talking with Lane, no. She’s an action junkie. She’s a grenade with a brain. If she says she’s getting a new tattoo, then she gets one. If she says she’s entering a cocktail competition, then she’s probably already won it.
You wouldn’t be able to tell by her outer demeanor, or her punk rock scowl, or the thunderous roar that booms from her lower abdomen when she laughs, but she is a complete and utter bar nerd. She’s a Who’s Who of information of which bartender has worked at which bar in all of Florida, or what cocktail recipe is the latest trend. When I first met her it was the summer of 2016, I didn’t even really meet her at all. I had run into her words. She had left a scavenger hunt for me at the bar, sort of an anti-hazing ritual I surmise, as I was the new kid on the block. “You’ve found Clue #2! #3 is opposite and higher, beneath some waxed fire,” read one of the pieces of recipe paper that was left taped to a fake plant leaf. I was the new head bartender and she was on her way out, but even then, I knew I couldn’t compete with this girl. I’d affectingly call her Ink Baby as a way to break through some of her tough exterior, but even I wouldn’t try to stand toe-to-toe with her when it comes to this cocktail game. That would just be silly.
Because Lane is intense. Lane is a fire-breathing dragon. She’s like the first day of summer or a cold shower after sleeping with an ex. A living, breathing, bobbing badass who doesn’t take no for an answer or accept yes as just good enough. But if you let her tell it, none of this was intentional or part of her original plan. Like life, everything sort of just fell into place.
The Bar at 1306
COURTNEY LANE: —on another note, hey guys.
FAIR-ROSE: Today— I didn’t introduce you yet. Today’s December 10th, 2016, I’m sitting here with, what’s your full name?
COURTNEY LANE: Courtney Diane Lane.
FAIR-ROSE: Courtney Lane.
COURTNEY LANE: —go by Lane, I’ll answer to Courtney or Lane, but I’ll probably introduce myself as Lane.
FAIR-ROSE: At the time of this interview, how old are you?
COURTNEY LANE: Twenty-four years old.
FAIR-ROSE: What do you do for a living and where do you work?
COURTNEY LANE: I make drinks and I work everywhere.
FAIR-ROSE: That works.
COURTNEY LANE: I started my career a year ago, I’ve bounced around, at the moment I am an employee at Employees Only, 1306, and Wynwood Diner.
FAIR-ROSE: Courtney, tell me a little bit about yourself.
COURTNEY LANE: I make drinks and I have good times…I give good times.
FAIR-ROSE: Give me a deeper meaning, how did you get into this industry?
COURTNEY LANE: I’ve been bartending forever. When people ask me how long I’ve been bartending, I just say ever. Um, I was seventeen working as a cocktail waitress for about a weekend, it was in Gainesville, Florida, so it’s a lot of one & ones, you know, Rum & Cokes, Vodka Sodas, PBRs [Pabst Blue Ribbon] and shots of Jamo [Jameson]. Very simple, you know, cocktailing. I wouldn’t even consider it cocktailing, just literally tending bar to college students.
Then there was 2nd Street Speakeasy, also in Gainesville, I got inspired by the craft, I saw craft bartending for the first time, 2nd Street Speakeasy at the time was run by a guy named Danny, and a couple years later it got taken over by TJ Palmieri, who is an amazing bartender, one of my mentors, you know, great guy, and it’s since been closed and now he’s opening his own bar called Madrinas, I believe.
I got intrigued there but didn’t start there. I moved down to Coral Springs to cohabitate with my partner. I worked in an Italian restaurant, was the head bartender there, worked my way up, learned everything I could in that field, but I had a yearning for more, I wanted that craft taste because once I got a taste of that culinary aspect of bartending, I was engaged. I couldn’t get enough.
I worked III Points one year and I was in the artist lounge. The bar was sponsored by Absolut Elyx and it was for all the artists and press and that’s it. So no transactions, no IDs, so if you want thirty shots of this, fine. I don’t have to take any payment and everything’s free, let’s do it. I had a shit ton of fun, with it being sponsored by Absolut Elyx. Teresa Cesario, who is one of the agents for them, represented the bar, and she loved me and I loved her. She’s literally the embodiment of charisma, she pulled me aside and said, “Hey, do you want to work somewhere and make a lot of money?” I said “Of course!” So she’s very good friends of the people that own and run Craft Social Club on the beach [Miami Beach]. Family friends. At that point I didn’t know anything about Miami or the craft scene. I was taken in as a chicken, a little baby chick being taught my ways. I was brought on as an apprentice and I was apprenticing under Evan Hawkins, who’s worked everywhere, you know, the best bars, as well as John Salas and Mario Salas, they’re brothers, also fucking rock stars in the cocktail industry, I was humbled to be in their presence, let alone apprenticing under them.
And in that time I wiped my slate clean, I did not know anything, I wanted to be taught everything their way, from there I left there and with that knowledge that I literally absorbed like a sponge, I went on to help open Baby Jane, trained their staff, I worked at 1306 under Virginia King, who is also one of my mentors, people in the industry call me her Mini-Me and those are big shoes to fill, might I add, so it’s a great experience that I’m very fucking thankful to everyone that has taught me everything that they have.
From then on I worked at Wynwood Diner and I am about to be brought on to EO, I was hand selected.
FAIR-ROSE: What the hell is EO for those out there who don’t know?
COURTNEY LANE: EO is Employees Only and it’s probably…actually it’s the best job I’ve ever been offered. At Tales of the Cocktail [a culinary and cocktail festival every summer] they were voted Best Cocktail Bar in the World, they were voted Best Cocktail Selection in the World, and Best American Bar Team. So to be on their team is going to be a fucking journey and I cannot wait to get started.
FAIR-ROSE: For those out there that don’t already know about Employees Only, the original New York bar has been around, I want to say twelve years now?
COURTNEY LANE: Yeah, they opened in 2004. They got their first award in 2011 and then again in 2015.
FAIR-ROSE: This is there third location besides Singapore, so let me ask you this, EO, Employees Only is an all-boys’ club, or at least that’s what some people have said.
COURTNEY LANE: [laughing] That’s the rumor. But that’s not just EO. Bartending in general is a boys’ club.
FAIR-ROSE: Well how do you feel on two levels, 1) being hired as a female at Employees Only, which some have said is an all-boys’ club, and 2) your skill level and your skill set as far as being hired. Do you think, and be honest, do you think part of it was because you are attractive, because you are in Miami and you’re building your name, does your looks outweigh your skills at all?
COURTNEY LANE: So as I said, Employees Only, yes, it’s considered a boys’ club, based on a couple of disputes in the media within the past year but I feel like, I mean, I’m fucking stoked to be brought onto the EO team, not for the fact of my gender or my sex, however I identify, solely for the fact that it’s a fucking amazing bar and the fact that 1) I was even considered, let alone 2) to be chosen to be a part of the team, fucking stoked. The fact that I’m a woman, and one of the first women to be at the EO Miami location, I’m fucking stoked, yeah, girl power, whatever. But in the bar industry in general, yes it is a boys’ club, but I show up every day and I kick their ass, just as many of my predecessors have.
I do believe it’s not just because I have looks, I mean yes, sure, I’m an attractive girl, yes, I have great energy, and that is a big part of the job. Having that energy, being able to engage with guests, making them feel comfortable, you know, giving them an enjoyable time. But at the same time I’ve worked fucking hard to get to where I am. I’ve absorbed every piece of knowledge that I possibly could from anyone that was willing to teach me. And from that I don’t feel like when someone meets me they just see a pretty face, sure that’s an addition, but the main thing they see is my talent and my passion for my career, because bartending is not a job for me, it is very much my career. So with that being said I hope that I can be brought onto EO and, you know, learn as much as I can, wipe my memory bank clean, because I want to be taught, you know, you can’t go into these types of situations with any form of pretense.
You can’t be pretentious, you have to be humble as fuck, and that’s with any industry, but for some reason, I mean, many times, like when you walk into a bar and it’s your first day, you’re going to be sized up by your other bartenders. And it’s not based on how you look, it’s how fucking comfortable you are behind that stick. How comfortably can you pour, how comfortably, you know, you could be thrown complicated drinks or classic drinks or simple drinks, it’s all about how you present yourself, and I’ve worked on not only to learn my craft, but to learn how to interact with people, and to portray a certain line of confidence that is necessary for this industry.
FAIR-ROSE: So I feel like, there’s not only a resurgence of classic cocktails in Miami but, we’ll say globally.
COURTNEY LANE: Absolutely.
Full interview coming soon in my upcoming book I’m Not Your Baby: An Exploration into the Exploitation of Female Bartender.