Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.
And if that’s your thing, you have to go where Christine Kim puts the “tender” love and care in “bartender.” Christine, who currently presides most nights at Service Bar in Washington, D.C., has the uncanny memory of an elephant. She makes it a point to recall the names, faces, and preferences of her guests so to set them at ease. It’s always nice to feel like more than just a bar tab.
What do you do to create unforgettable experiences for your customers?
It’s hard to put into words how I behave during a typical shift, because I feel like I’m just being myself. I always welcome guests with a smile, a menu, and a greeting. I enjoy embracing guests into my “home.”
Our products are vehicles for making all sorts of connections. If there are different guests visiting from the same area, I introduce them. I always respectively engage with those sitting across from the bar, and if I find out that they are in D.C. from out of town, I write down a list of suggested bars and restaurants to check out that are in their wheelhouse. Nine times out of ten, they come back to tell me where they’ve been and give their feedback, which I appreciate. I like to play Sherpa with our guests.
How can you ensure that your customers enjoy themselves enough that they return?
I’m very big on getting the names of our guests and introducing myself. You eliminate that barrier of anonymity and start to establish a personal connection. Service Bar DC is a neighborhood cocktail bar, so having a relationship with our guests is extremely important to us. There are many times when guests return for a second visit and I’ll remember what they drank previously down to the order in which they imbibed.
I have a strange memory skill set that allows me to recall some of the smallest details, which in turn makes guests feel great.
Any instances when a situation was going south, but you managed to turn it into a positive for the customer?
I was interacting with a guest when a coworker who recognized her came over and interjected, saying they were going to make her a cocktail. On a check back, she told my coworker it was great.
A minute later, I looked over to see how she was doing. I could tell from her expression she did NOT want this drink. I made her the drink I initially recommended and quietly slid it in place of the old one. We joked around like nothing had happened. I never want guests to feel forced to consume something they do not want.
Give Christine’s specialty cocktail a mix.
- 1 1/2 oz. Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- 1 oz. Tamarind Honey
- 3/4 oz. Lemon
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
- Soda (to Top)
- Dehydrated Lemon (for Garnish)
Preparation: Build in tin; shake. Strain into a Collins glass; top with soda. Garnish with dehydrated lemon.
Meet Christine Kim
Chilled 100 Member, Washington, D.C.
A native of Silver Spring, Maryland, Christine Kim was first initiated into restaurant life while attending the University of Maryland at Baltimore County. It was in 2011, with a move to the District and her first bartending gig at downtown D.C.’s Lincoln Restaurant and Bar, that she embarked on what would ultimately become a lifelong love affair with the unique interplay between alcohol and hospitality.
Her affinity for high-volume, high-intensity nightlife and a gifted copy of The Craft of The Cocktail led her to join the opening crew at Farmers Fishers Bakers; and later, chef Michael Schlow’s inaugural D.C. hotspot, Tico. As a driving member of the much-celebrated 14th Street bar team, Kim graduated to opening and developing bar programs at Schlow’s successive restaurants—The Riggsby, Conosci, and Casolare—where she continued to hone not only her deft hand with a shaker tin, but also the effusively warm and inviting personality with which she continues to welcome her guests every night from behind the bar.
In 2016, Kim was featured in Zagat’s inaugural “30 under 30” for Washington, D.C. That same year, she reunited with her former colleagues from Farmers Fishers Bakers to undertake a new project: the massively acclaimed industry darling Service Bar. As lead bartender at Service Bar, ambassador for Chilled magazine, member and former council member of the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild, and member of the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild, Kim continues to develop her own mastery of the craft. On the rare evening that one might catch her on a night off, she’s liable to be found drinking champagne and on the verge of breaking out into uncontrollable dance.