Frankfort Patch MVPs: We have been selecting professions around the village and asking readers to tell us their favorite people in those roles, so we can spotlight them.
Like most bartenders, Charlie-Ann Harrington of can whip up a drink to suit your tastes. Unlike most bartenders, though, Harrington can put together a fashionable look for you that reflects your sartorial tastes as well.
The Orland Park native and Carl Sandburg High School alumnae has been splitting her time for the past year as a bartender at Tommy Nevin's Frankfort location (she's worked for the company for four years) and as a freelance wardrobe stylist.
Behind the bar, Harrington not only serves up drinks but also is in charge of the pub's special events, which includes organizing beer dinners where customers can learn some of the finer details about the beverages their imbibing. As a wardrobe specialist, Harrington works with photographers and models to put together certain fashionable looks for photo shoots.
But don't think bartending is just a way for Harrington to make money while she waits to hit it big in the fashion industry. The Plainfield resident and graduate of New York City's Fashion Industry of Technology is just as serious about slinging drinks as she is about assembling outfit ensembles. In fact, she won Chicago's Guinness Bartending Challenge last month thanks to pouring a perfect pint.
We talked to Harrington recently about bartending and what she likes about the job.
How did you get into bartending?
HARRINGTON: When I was in school in New York City, I started bartending to make ends meet and it ended up turning out to be a great thing and something that has helped me out for the past 10 years.
What do you enjoy about bartending?
HARRINGTON: Everything I guess. It's enjoyable. It's entertaining for you as well as the customers. There's so much to know about it, too. It's almost like another language. You can never know enough about it, learning the origins of beers, who created them, how they got to the point that they did ... It's just interesting. There's so many facets to it. ... Once you start learning about it, you never want to stop.
It's kind of weird, booze and fashion. I know endless information about both. I used to put on fashion shows in New York. It's kinda like putting on the beer dinners. It's similar, highlighting the product and celebrating it. ... It's funny talking about both those things in the same conversation.
Has being a fashion specialist helped being a bartender?
HARRINGTON: Only when we have the Oscars or another awards show on at the bar. ... Then I become the Judge Judy, the final answer, for what people are wearing. "Well, this is how this could've been done better. She gets kudos for this aspect." That kinda thing. Other than that, the two don't (mix).
Do you have a signature drink?
HARRINGTON: I do. It's my Fresh Margarita. It's special because anyone can have a margarita, but because this is made with a half a lemon, a half a lime and a half an orange and using all premium ingredients, shaken and I squeeze every single piece of fruit by hand, shake it real hard and it comes out like you're on vacation.
What's the biggest misconception people have about bartending?
HARRINGTON: That this can't be a career. It can be very beneficial and make a lot of money. You can work for good companies and get a 401(k) and benefits. Even in a recession, I mean you're still doing well. They look at it more like a servant as opposed to a friend or someone who can help you.
What's the most unusual drink you were asked to make?
HARRINGTON: A prickly alligator. ... I get a lot of things, but it's so crazy to remember what's in them.
What's one thing customers don't know about you.
HARRINGTON: I think it's that I do fashion, because it's something I don't talk about. It's kinda one of those things that I'm shy about. ... That's freelance work that happens a few times a month. As opposed to this, which is my every day (job). The clients are two different spectrums.
What's your favorite time of year to bartend?
HARRINGTON: St. Paddy's Day. For me at least. ... Four years into Paddy's Day and you know how to have fun. You know how to make those lasting memories for people and remember that it only comes around once a year. You either enjoy it and conquer it, or it's going to conquer you.